Deposit Disputes

Fri 14 Jul 2017

Have you ever thought that you have left a rental property in perfect condition only to find that your landlord disagrees, and intends to make a claim against your deposit for damage done?  You are convinced that the damage is simply wear and tear and your landlord is equally certain that you have not looked after their property properly.  You find yourself at loggerheads with your landlord, and the deposit that you were relying on to be returned, to help you into your new home, suddenly seems at risk.

As letting agents this is one of the hardest things we have to deal with, opinions of what is acceptable or not can vary dramatically between the two parties and lead to widely differing ideas of how much of the deposit is needed to redress any damage which may have occurred. 

While reasonable wear and tear is not a reason for claiming against the deposit, tenants are expected to look after the property they are renting and maintain it to the same standard as it was when they moved in.  A recent tenant survey carried out by The Bardon Group (Homelet) investigated the reasons why tenants’ deposits were withheld, with some very interesting results.  The main reasons are listed below:

Cleaning 39.1%

Re-decorating costs 19.3%

No Reason from landlord 18.7%

Damage to Landlords fixtures and fittings 16.1%

Carpet Damage 13.1%

State of Garden 10.2%

Disagreements about these issues can lead to anger and frustration on both sides, particularly if the landlord and tenant are dealing directly with each other, without a property management company to help them.  Luckily, as property agents, we have long established practices and systems to ensure that these situations are dealt with as fairly as possible.  A detailed inventory and photographs are taken when the tenancy begins and these can then be compared with similar photos on the tenant’s exit.  Quarterly property inspections and reports ensure that any damage is spotted quickly and the tenant is given plenty of opportunities to put problems right in advance of their departure.  Tenants with pets are particularly at risk and must ensure that the property has been suitably treated before they leave.  After the tenant vacates the agent will assess the property and inform the landlord of any work needed above and beyond normal wear and tear. The landlord will decide which of these remedial works should be done and the agent will obtain competitive quotes for this.  These amounts will be claimed against the deposit before the remainder is returned.

If a tenant is unhappy with the amount to be deducted they have the security of making use of the Alternative Dispute Resolution service (ADR), a deposit protection scheme, which will assess all the evidence and make a ruling about the amount that needs to be withheld.  In this way both the landlord’s and the tenant’s rights are defended and a resolution which is fair to both parties can be reached.

At Millerson Lettings we find that the vast majority of cases which are taken to the ADR conclude that the proposed deductions from the deposit are fair.   This is because our experience and systems ensure that we will only recommend repairs that are really necessary.  It is much easier for us to be objective when assessing the property than it is for either the landlord or the tenant, and both parties generally appreciate having a neutral agent to act as ‘middle-man’ in the negotiations.

Moving home is always a stressful experience for everyone involved, but by employing an experienced agent some of the potential pitfalls and points of disagreement can be avoided.


By Nikki Miles, Manager of Millerson North Cornwall Lettings