A builder broke a window in my rental. Can the landlord make me pay for it?
Landlord is obliged to return a full deposit if there’s proof of communication
The best course of action to take first is to provide proof to the agent of exactly when you notified the landlord of the window becoming cracked due to the builder’s work. Photograph: Getty Images
Q. I have been renting a small house for the last two years, but the lease is now up, and I have found somewhere more convenient to stay. I have been paying a hefty rent and made sure to leave the house in good order. However, there was damage to a window which was caused by a builder in the house next door spraying pebbles, one of which cracked the glass. This happened a few months back and I let the landlord know immediately. He didn’t do anything about fixing the window, but his agent has sent me a letter to say that he is deducting the cost of repairs to the window from my deposit. Can he do this?
A. Based on the limited amount of information given in the question, the simple answer is no, your landlord and/or their agent cannot withhold your deposit in these circumstances.
In saying that, the best course of action to take first is to provide proof to the agent of exactly when you notified the landlord of the window becoming cracked due to the builder’s work. This should be in the form of a copy of an email you sent the landlord on the matter and/or a text. If it was a simple phone call, you will need to try to recall the exact date to the best of your ability. Under the terms of your lease, it would oblige you to notify the landlord of this sort of thing, so you did the right thing at the time the window got cracked.
If, after providing this evidence to the landlord and/or their agent, they continue to refuse to refund your full deposit (they are obliged to return the deposit in a timely fashion once you have provided the above proof of communication) and subject to it not being in connection to any other matter (for example, excessive wear and tear), you have a right under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to make an application for mediation or adjudication through the Residential Tenancy Board to have a case heard on “deposit retention”.
By doing this, you will have an independent adjudicator appointed to hear the case, who will make a final report and Determination Order on the deposit retention claim, having heard and reviewed both the tenant’s and landlord’s evidence. During an adjudication hearing, both parties have an opportunity to give their side of the story backed up by the appropriate evidence. The weight and credibility of this evidence from both sides will be looked at very carefully by the adjudicator in question and hence the Determination Order will be reflective of their findings. If you are very confident that you did notify the landlord about the cracked window, then you should have a very good chance of having a positive outcome for yourself.
It does take time to have these hearings processed and the landlord has the right to appeal the outcome if he or she is not happy. That can go to a tribunal and you might be in for a wait to get your deposit back if the landlord does not co-operate.
Marcus O’Connor is a chartered surveyor estate agent and property manager and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland www.scsi.ie