CASE STUDY

Inaccurate rent charged

Investigation finds maladministration in the landlord’s decision not to take any responsibility for a tenant’s rent arrears caused by incorrect information which it had provided

Ms I’s tenancy agreement stated that the rent for the property was £106.52 per week. However, for the two years following the start of the tenancy, the landlord charged Ms I significantly less rent. The rent statements and notices of increase served by the landlord reflected the lower level of rent rather than that detailed in the tenancy agreement.

After two years, the landlord sent a new notice of rent increase stating that an error had been identified and it applied the rent as set out in the tenancy agreement for the previous two years, debiting her rent account £2,162.88. The landlord warned Ms I that a Notice of Seeking Possession could be served if she didn’t clear the arrears immediately or reach an arrangement to clear them. When responding to Ms I’s complaint about its handling of the account, the landlord did not identify any failure in its service and later served a Notice Seeking Possession. Following conclusion of the landlord’s complaints procedure, Ms I brought the complaint to the Ombudsman.

Outcome:

We carried out a formal investigation into the complaint and determined that there had been maladministration in the landlord’s administration of the rent account. We found that the landlord had provided Ms I with inaccurate information for two years and had unreasonably refused to accept any responsibility for these mistakes. It had failed to consider any distress that the sizeable and unexpected demand for payment had caused. The landlord had also missed several opportunities to resolve the complaint through its procedure.

We considered that it was reasonable for Ms I to have relied on the landlord’s statements and letters when maintaining her rent account. We ordered compensation of £2,162.88 to be paid to Ms I and for the landlord to send Ms I a written apology for the distress and inconvenience caused by its handling of the account.