UPAD recently caught up with Head of Dispute Resolution, Suzy Hershman, from deposit protection scheme, mydeposits, to find out more on about deposit disputes and making deductions to the tenant’s deposit...
“I’ve been resolving deposit disputes for over 7 years and here’s some insight to help landlords avoid formal deposit disputes at the end of tenancy, from negotiation during the tenancy through to creating robust, quality evidence that supports your claim to the deposit.”
Make Sure you Outline What You Can Claim For
The circumstances where all or part of the deposit can be withheld should be clearly explained in the Tenancy Agreement. Make sure it’s signed by both you and your tenant at the start of the tenancy and always ensure that the terms are fair and reasonable. In a broad sense you can claim deposit deductions for:
- Outstanding rent
- General Maintenance
- Repairs and damage to the property beyond what is deemed to be fair wear and tear
What is Evidence and How is it Used?
Remember, the law is clear, the deposit is the tenant’s money and they can expect it back at the tenancy end, so you need to provide evidence to support your claim to keeping all/part of the deposit money. An independent adjudicator will review all the evidence and make a decision based on what’s been provided.
For example, it’s up to you as the landlord to prove that there is a valid reason for a carpet clean because of a wine stain, so evidence you should provide should include a check in inventory and a comparable check out report that details the stain, photographs to visualise it, cleaning receipts and quotes from other cleaners that prove what you paid, and claim on the deposit, are both fair and proportionate.
Understand What You Can’t Claim For
In the event of a deposit dispute, there are certain things you can’t claim for, these include:
- More than the deposit amount- The Scheme’s is limited resolving disputes up to the protected deposit amount, so if you want to claim more then you need to use the Court.
- Costs related to the preparation of a dispute- It’s not possible to claim for any time you spend gathering and submitting evidence to the dispute process.
- Betterment- You can only claim for an amount that would put the property back in the same, and not better condition than it was originally.
- Fair wear and tear– You must take into account the length of the tenancy, the age and quality of items/areas, its condition at the start and the number and type of occupants.
Suzy’s Tips on Avoiding Common Errors
In some instances, landlord losing disputes due to a lack of robust and relevant evidence. Make sure you provide detail and an explanation that establishes the breach and shows the loss. To be successful make sure you avoid these common errors:
- Failure to produce comparative inventories.
- Failure to create robust inventories.
- Presenting invoices which are not sufficiently detailed to show the work undertaken or are not evidently on a like for like basis.
- Failure to understand, and make allowance for, betterment and fair wear and tear.
To find out more read Suzy’s guide on Rules for Claiming on Deposit Deductions in the mydeposits Resource Centre.
To find out more on tenancy deposit protection and how to protect your deposit, quickly and legally, visit www.mydeposits.co.uk.
Will Deposit Disputes Soon be a Thing of the Past?
As of October 2017, there is the very real possibility that deposit disputes could soon be a thing of the past. There are a number of companies in the marketplace who are now pioneering "deposit free renting." This doesn't exactly mean the tenant wouldn't pay a deposit, only that they wouldn't pay a one-off deposit. Instead, they would pay a monthly "insurance" payment which would cover the landlord for unpaid rent and damage at the end of the tenancy.
You can read more about "deposit free renting" in this Guardian article, and look out for some upcoming Upad research into what landlords and tenants think about this initiative.