Resolution case study - Frozen pipes

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

We look at a recent case and break it down. Our Lead Adjudicator, Emma Louka helps you to understand our approach which in this case is related to frozen pipes.

Deposit details

Deposit                              £1225.00

Unresolved amount           £569.00

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What happened?

The tenant said:

  • they went to visit family for Christmas, but it was only meant to be for ten days
  • they got the flu so did not come back when they were supposed to and ended up being away for about three weeks
  • they did not receive any letters from the agent about turning the water off
  • while they did not let the landlord or agent know they were sick, the fact that the pipe froze and then caused the damage it did was due to the weather and was not due to anything they did
  • the landlord should be claiming for these costs from their insurance company and not the deposit


The agent responded, saying:

  • the tenant was sent both a letter and an email to turn the water stop cock off and leave the heating on if going away for Christmas
  • the tenant did not let them know the property was going to be empty
  • the heating was left switched off and the water stop cock was not shut off
  • due to extremely cold weather, a pipe froze and then burst, flooding the property
  • the carpet and wood floor were extensively damaged and the washing machine was damaged and unrepairable
  • excess water had to be drained from the property, and it had to be de-humidified. The washing machine had to be replaced

What evidence was provided?

Tenancy agreement, emails, photographs, invoices, check-in report, checkout report


What was decided and why?

  1. The tenancy agreement clause made it clear that the tenant was responsible for telling the agent if they were leaving the property empty for more than 14 days in the winter
  2. The agreement also details the tenant’s responsibility for heating the property appropriately
  3. The agent provided an additional service by advising all tenants, by email, what to do if leaving the property empty over the Christmas period, which was time and date stamped, and included how to turn off the stop cock
  4. While the tenant may have fallen ill, they were still responsible for looking after the property and could have emailed or called the agent/landlord to tell them that the property would be empty for longer than planned
  5. The damage that was caused was found to be due to the tenant’s omissions
  6. The invoices and photographs provided showed the extent of the damage caused and the work needed to make good
  7. The full amount claimed was found to be reasonable because:
    1. reasonable wear and tear had been applied for the replacement washing machine and flooring
    2. the landlord was entitled to claim the full cost of the labour and humidifier needed to dry out the property and repair the pipework

How can you avoid this happening in future?

If a tenant does not advise an agent/landlord that they are not using the property for a considerable length of time over the winter when pipes can freeze, it is difficult to prevent this kind of damage, however here are some tips:

  • Make sure your tenancy agreement clauses are clear on heating the property adequately and what to do if the property is going to be empty for more than 14 days, particularly in the winter
  • It is a great idea to highlight these points before the Christmas break and this will be good evidence if there are any subsequent problems
  • Have good photographs from check-in and any periodic inspections (where possible) to show the condition of the property at that point, so differences can be clearly seen
  • Invoices that are well detailed for what work has been done will help with negotiation and any resolution that may follow (estimates should also provide a detailed breakdown)
  • Landlords should make sure their insurance is up to date as the damage can be costly and tenants’ deposits may not cover all the damage

Total Landlord, also powered by Total Property, has created a comprehensive guide packed with advice for agents, landlords and tenants on how to avoid burst pipes in your rental property 

Making sure you have comprehensive landlord insurance in place will provide peace of mind that you are protected if your property is damaged by a burst pipe. If you are a mydeposits member, you can receive an exclusive discount of 15% off landlord insurance with Total Landlord