It’s no secret that deposits can cause a great deal of stress for both tenants and landlords. For a tenant, in particular, anticipating the return of their deposit is like preparing to go to battle. It’s notorious for creating fierce disputes, which can sometimes wind tenants and landlords up in a small claims court. 

To help address the grey areas on what’s reasonable or just down-right extreme, HomeHero’s here to shed light on what your landlord can and can’t do when it comes to the return of your deposit. 

Your landlord can’t fail to protect your deposit 

As of April 2007, landlords must put tenants’ deposits in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy. Landlords need do this within 30-days of receiving the deposit and provide you with details of the scheme. 

So, let’s fast-forward to the end of your tenancy. You’ve received details of your amended deposit, but you’re not happy with the deductions. After you’ve challenged your landlord to no avail, you want to take further action. But the route you choose depends on whether your landlord protected your deposit.

If your landlord has failed to do this, you may be entitled to claim compensation for up to three times the amount. As this negligence would be illegal, this is usually an easy win for most tenants in a small claims court. 

If your landlord has protected your deposit, this process is different. You’ll need to use your scheme’s ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ (ADR) service. It’s free, easy to use and alternative to taking your landlord to court. 

Your landlord can’t make illegitimate deductions 

When your tenancy ends, you must request your deposit back from your landlord. If they are to deduct from your deposit, they should respond with a list of the reasonings behind each one. 

Once received, the deductions need to be legitimised. Both a landlord and a tenant can achieve this in one of three ways: 

  • When the tenant agrees to the deductions, preferably in writing.
  • A dispute has been resolved.
  • The court has ordered it. 

Unless one of the above is signed, sealed, and delivered, your landlord cannot deduct money from your deposit.

Your landlord can make reasonable deductions 

Of course, there is an abundance of legitimate reasons why your landlord can deduct money off your deposit. They will outline your responsibilities in the tenancy agreement, which can be referred to when justifying the deductions. 

The most common reasons behind deposit deductions are:

  • Unpaid rent or bills at the end of the tenancy
  • Stolen or missing belongings that were purchased by the landlord
  • Lack of sufficient hygiene at the end of the tenancy
  • Unwanted belongings left in the property

You can also face deposit deductions if you’ve directly or indirectly damaged the property. Examples of direct damage are:

  • Broken furniture as a result of improper use/negligence – i.e. standing on a coffee table and smashing it.
  • Cigarette burns or stains to carpets or upholstery 
  • Damaged walls due to hanging up pictures, posters, or decoration. 

Indirect damage refers to damages made by a tenant’s lack of proper care or maintenance. For example: 

  • Failing to heat the property sufficiently and the pipes freeze and burst.
  • Going away for the weekend and leaving a window open during a heavy rainstorm. 
  • Forgetting to turn the taps off and it causes a leak.

As a tenant, you’ll also be liable for any damages you failed to report — even if the landlord should’ve been responsible for it. So, make sure you act fast and get any damage reports in writing!

Your landlord can’t make unreasonable deductions

On the other side of the coin, your landlord cannot make unreasonable deductions. For example, they can’t withhold your money for things that are their responsibility or for ‘reasonable wear and tear’. This includes:

  • Replacing an old, worn-out carpet with a new one. 
  • Repairing for damages that they failed to act on, for example, a leak that you informed them on which further damaged the property. 
  • Repainting any old, chipped paint which has worsened over time. 
  • Maintenance work on any appliances, utility systems or the property’s structure and exterior that you didn’t cause. 

Our advice is to know your rights, responsibilities and record absolutely everything in written and photographic form. 

Your Landlord can’t refuse to return it 

Lastly, your landlord cannot refuse to return your deposit. After agreeing to the amended deposit, your landlord needs to return it within 10-days. 

If they’ve gone radio silent, then you should write to them and request the deposit back. If this fails, then you’ll need to use the ADR service. 

Ideally, you’ll make your claim within 3-months of moving out by filling out a form. You’ll need photographic evidence, copies of inventories, receipts, and written evidence of damage reports. The ADR service should get back with a verdict within 10-days. 

If your landlord refuses to use the ADR service or correspond with you, then you need to start court action. To get a court order, you’ll need your landlord’s name and address which they should’ve given you at the beginning of the tenancy.

So, there we have it. There’s no denying that the race to win your deposit back can be full of hurdles. But by studying the tenancy agreement, understanding your rights, and fulfilling your responsibilities, be rest assured that your landlord will return it.

Time for another? Head to our Property section for more useful articles.

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