How to minimise deposit disputes


When tenancies come to an end, there are sometimes disagreements between the tenant and the landlord regarding the return of the entire deposit. If your deposit was paid after 6th April 2007 then it will be protected by the landlord in a secure scheme and won’t be able to be touched until the end of the rental agreement.

Deposit deductions are historically proven to be the cause of friction, with 20% of tenants who lost some or all of their deposit, being left feeling that it was unreasonable. A significant 30% of tenancies end with some amount of deduction from the tenants deposit, out of which statistically 13% lose the entire amount given the tenants responsibility for dilapidations.

The most common areas for deductions from the deposit, which are covered in your tenancy, are:

  1. Cleaning
  2. Rent or outstanding utilities
  3. Broken or misplaced belongings
  4. Damage to the property

The inventory is therefore very important for both tenants and landlords. Having a detailed inventory and check out report carried out by an independent inventory clerk is the easiest way to resolve any deposit dispute. The inventory will list the contents and condition of the property and will be used as a benchmark for how the property should be returned, less fair wear and tear at the end of the tenancy.

Using the original inventory, it is important for the tenant to carry out the following checks/works before the checkout report is completed, to ensure the property is returned as it was let in the first instance:

1)    Cleaning – The most common disagreement in a deposit return is the cleanliness of the property. If the property was let as “professionally cleaned” you will be required to provide evidence of a professional clean at the end of the tenancy. Getting a reliable cleaner can be difficult, so we would recommend that you consult your letting agent for the appropriate contacts.

2)    Ensure all rent is either paid or that an agreement is in place to deduct the rent from the deposit.

3)    Replace all non-functioning light bulbs in the property.

4)    Fill and paint any holes and scratches that are considered above fair wear – it is important that the walls are not left in a “patchy” condition once painted, as deductions may be made for the loss of aesthetical value and the need accordingly to rectify this.

5)    Tidy up the garden, again using the inventory as a benchmark. It is best to plan this in advance, for if left until the last-minute weather may hamper your ability to tend to the garden properly and to the required standard.

The TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme) will not adjudicate on a deposit within the first 10 days post the end of the tenancy, however in this time your landlord or agent will make contact with you in order to open up a dialogue about any applicable deductions.

You will therefore have the opportunity to counter any deductions that you disagree with, however you will be required to provide counter evidence to disprove the checkout report findings. These should be put into writing so that the communication can be used in communications with the TDS, should this be required.

If you are still unable to reach an agreement, we would always suggest that you speak directly to the TDS, who will be able to clearly advise you as to the next steps that need to be taken.

For more information or advice on this subject, please call our Property Manager, Chris Ramsell on 01235 772299