This article has been written in response to a landlord query: “The pipes in my property froze and burst over winter. Can I deduct the cost of repairs from my tenant’s deposit?”

It is important for landlords to check thoroughly their properties before winter to avoid potential problems that can be brought on by colder weather. Before letting out a property it may also be worth considering protective measures such as insulating or covering exposed pipes as well as servicing the boiler to avoid it suddenly breaking down. Other important winter checks include checking the garden for overhanging branches or trees that could cause damage in the event of high winds or snow; making sure guttering is clear; checking window seals as well as ensuring drains are clear as overflowing water could freeze and become hazardous.

When agents or landlords are doing inspections, it is worth noting down any problems that your tenant mentions, even just in conversation. You should then follow up later with an email so that it is documented as you cannot prove verbal conversations or agreements in the event of a dispute.

It is also important that tenants report any maintenance problems such as burst or faulty pipes promptly so that action can be taken to avoid any further damage. The tenant should also take reasonable steps to prevent frost damage occurring to pipes provided they were adequately insulated at the start of the tenancy.

The tenant is generally liable for the cost of repairs where the need for them can be attributed to either the tenant’s failure to comply with the obligations set out in their tenancy agreement or where the need for repair is due to the fault or negligence of the tenant, their household or visitors. However, if the tenant reports a problem such as a burst pipe as soon as it occurs they cannot be held responsible for the repair costs. Conversely, if they fail to report an obvious problem, which costs more to rectify as a result, they may be liable for those increased costs.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; we offer both insured and custodial protection. We also provide fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

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