I have worked as a lettings Agent for over 10 years and one of the trickiest parts of the job has always been handling deposit disputes.
It’s very hard now for a Landlord to take money without good reason as all deposits must legally be registered and held in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme. The schemes are The Tenancy Dispute Service, My Deposits and Deposit Protection Service. I use the Deposit Protection service (DPS) and your landlord or agent must legally register your deposit in one of the schemes within 30 days.
If the court finds a landlord hasn’t protected a deposit, it can order the person holding the deposit to either:
• repay it to you
• pay it into a TDP scheme’s bank account within 14 days
It can also order the landlord to pay you up to 3 times the deposit within 14 days of making the order!
How do I get my full deposit back? This is a question most Tenants ask and something that always causes a bit of a stir at the end of Tenancy.
You are given an inventory at the beginning of the Tenancy, this is your guide on how to leave the property. Go through your inventory line by line ticking off what is okay and what is not, this is what an agent will do so it is a very thorough check.
Also check any clauses you have in your agreement such a carpet cleaning clauses or oven cleaning. If you are unsure ask your Agent or Landlord for your check out obligations. If you have had professional cleaning keep receipts, don’t rely on your agent of Landlords checkout, do your own. Take timed and dated photographs the day you leave and mark your own inventory. Some Tenants try to hide damage I.e. rugs over carpet burns, this will not work and it’s much better to be honest or rectify this yourself before the end of tenancy.
I am a firm believer in being fair, if you know you have caused damage the right thing to do is repair it. Some Tenants believe they have paid enough in rent and that the Landlord should just lump it, this is not a fair attitude to have. You have paid rent to live in a property which would have gained wear and tear and which the landlord would have had to maintain and keep in good repair for you. I have many landlords with just one property, and most with mortgages to pay on them so not all Landlords are rolling in it which is often the misconception from Tenants.
When you lease a car you pay for any damages, when you rent a holiday home you would have to pay for any breakages/damage so there should not be a different attitude towards landlords and rental properties.
Landlords should also play fair, I believe if a Tenant has been a great Tenant and never missed a rent payment, always been very cooperative and polite then there are areas they could be let off with if minor. Some landlords believe the property should come back to them in the same condition, this is impossible for a property that has been lived in so this must to be taken into account.
Now, we also have the landlords that just want the whole deposit, the unreasonable and greedy ones. This, I find hard to tolerate! I had a landlord that would do this on every checkout, whatever amount of deposit registered he would say to deduct full amount, with no good reason and not taking into account fair wear and tear, I ceased management of his properties!
Fair wear and tear would be light scuff marks to walls, a little wear to carpets etc, if you have moved into a property with old fixtures and fittings then the landlord cannot claim betterment so please be aware of this. Even if you have been responsible for a further stain on carpet, if these were stained on moving in or were years old anyway the landlord does not have a leg to stand on.
The House of Lords defines fair wear and tear as: ‘Reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces’ So when do natural forces become in excess of what is ‘ordinary’
The general ‘rule of thumb’ is that an item in a tenanted property will have an average lifespan of five years but an adjudicator will also take into account number of occupants, length of tenancy and quality of item in question.
Your landlord must return your deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing how much you’ll get back. If you’re in a dispute with your landlord, then your deposit will be protected in the scheme until the issue is sorted out and can take several months to arbitrate in some cases so it’s always better to try and settle outside the scheme.
If however the landlords is being very unreasonable and trying to charge you unfairly then it would be in the Tenants interested to take the amount to dispute. The schemes are in place to protect Tenants not landlords so they will work in the Tenants favour to award what is fair based on evidence provided by all parties which is assessed by a third party adjudicator.