Resolution case study - damage due to cannabis and lock change

We offer an independent and impartial resolution service for landlords, agents and tenants who are unable to reach an agreement on distributing the deposit when the tenancy ends.

We look at a recent case and break it down. Our Resolution Department Lead, Suzy Hershman helps you to understand our approach.

Deposit details

Deposit                              £2,650

unresolved amount             £2,650

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What happened?

The tenant said:

  • the property was not in good condition when they moved in and was well overdue for a complete renovation
  • some of the windows were boarded up to keep in the heat as there was a constant draught
  • the keys were not returned, and they accept responsibility for replacing the keys but not the cost of a full lock change


The agent responded, saying: 

  • the property was in a reasonable condition when the tenants moved in, although they accept that many areas were due to be updated, including the décor and flooring after the tenancy ended
  • the check-out report clearly refers to a distinct smell and remnants of plants being grown in rooms where the windows had been boarded up, suggesting the property had been used to grow cannabis
  • the check-out report also recorded alterations, including holes in the ceiling from wires and nails being inserted, along with screw holes in the walls, ceilings, floorboards, doors and window frames, and the reception door was missing
  • while the tenant agreed to dates and times for periodic inspections, the tenant never allowed access over the two-year tenancy
  • the tenants did not return the keys and the landlord was concerned, in case the tenants returned so had no choice and had to change the lock


What evidence was provided?

Tenancy agreement, check-in report, check-out report, estimates, invoices, emails


What was decided and why?

  1. Lock replacement

The comparison of the check-in and check-out reports shows the keys handed to the tenant at the start, which were not returned when they left.

As the tenant is responsible for returning all the keys when they leave, the landlord is entitled to secure the property and the tenant is responsible for reasonable costs towards lock replacement.

As the content inside the property suggested illegal activity took place during the tenancy, the £220.00 invoice for new front and rear door locks, including keys, was found reasonable and awarded in full.


  1. Property condition

Items needing removal, cleaning and damage were all highlighted as needed, by comparing the check-in and check-out reports:

  • There was compost and soil, plastic pots and sheeting left behind as well as a freezer, mattress and general rubbish, none of which were there at the start. A detailed invoice for £250 was awarded in full
  • While the property was dusty with some limescale at the start of the tenancy, the standard of cleanliness was extremely poor on check-out. As fair wear and tear does not apply to cleaning and the £320 invoice for a full clean was reduced slightly to account for the standard of cleaning at the start, the amount claimed was awarded in full (£288)
  • Damage and the repairs required included replacing windows, repairing the lounge ceiling plasterboard, floorboards, removing screw holes and reinstalling the lounge doors. The alterations made by the tenant and the resulting damage caused was found to be the tenant’s responsibility. The invoices for this work totalled £2450 and, making some allowance for the starting condition and wear and tear, £1960 was awarded.
    (As the adjudicator was limited to awarding a maximum of the total deposit and amount disputed, this specific part of the award was limited to £1892).


In summary the full deposit was awarded to the landlord.

Key takeaway points

  • Maintaining a good relationship with tenants is important to make sure that when an inspection is due, they will allow access
  • If tenants continue to deny access on more than one occasion, consider if this could be a red flag and requires more investigation, such as: when does the gas safety inspection need to be done for someone else to have access or do you have friendly neighbours and can ask them if they have any concerns
  • Landlords in a similar situation always have the option of taking independent legal advice to consider the best option of pursuing a tenant, especially if the costs to make good considerably exceed the deposit


For more information on how to avoid a cannabis factory in your property, Total Landlord, also powered by Total Property, has written a comprehensive guide, ‘The growing threat of cannabis cultivation for landlords’.