What you will need to do to win a deposit dispute

When it comes to deposit disputes it can be a tricky and often painful process for some landlords.

Tenants now have the right to dispute the amount that a landlord wishes to deduct from their deposit. To combat this landlords, have to be extra vigilant during tenancies and ensure that they keep up to date and be detailed when it comes to their interim inspections.

Many landlords especially those who self-manage often forget about the importance of good detailed inspections and prefer to leave the tenant to it as long as they are paying the rent. Whilst I can understand this as many landlords have very busy person lives this can cause an issue at the end of the tenancy when they wish to retain some or all of the deposit for damages.

The day comes for the tenant to move out and the landlord or agent will state what they feel is fair to deduct from the deposit (being sure to take into account fair wear and tear). The tenant then disagrees with what the landlord has to say and they are adamant that they are not responsible and they will be taking the matter to dispute. They then raise a dispute with the deposit disputes committee and the decision is now left in the hands of an impartial body to look over the evidence provided and make a decision as to who should be awarded what. The decision is then legally binding on both landlord and tenant (should a landlord wish to dispute this further the only way to do this would be to take the matter to court at their own cost).

What you need to do in order to be able to retain the maximum deposit from the tenant is ensure that you have all of your evidence to support your claim. This will mean keeping all of your receipts for any items or maintenance carried out before or during the tenancy and that means ANY receipts at all no matter how small and the larger ones are even more important.

What some landlords provide and what the dispute committee will simply not accept is the landlords or agents word that a piece of furniture or maintenance was carried out at a certain cost or that a property looked a certain way when the tenant first moved in. They will need receipts and as much information as possible. They will also require a copy of the original inventory (this must be professional, detailed and include pictures and dates) copies of inspections that have taken place throughout the tenancy (again these must have pictures and dates) and a well worded and clear document showing the breakdown of costs that the landlord wishes to retain from the tenant with every bit of evidence you can get to support your case.

Without the above your case will be lost and the dispute committee will favor the tenant. This happens very often and landlords can only see the issue through their eyes and are upset when they are not awarded what they feel they should be.

For a case to go to dispute it can also take time (often around 8 weeks) which means that in the interim the landlord has to pay for any repairs or replacements that are needed at the property so that the next tenancy can commence and you may not even receive the full amount back.

Finally, please remember that evidence is king and just like any other case being put before a jury without it you have lost before you have even started.
So my advice is:

  1. Employ a professional to create a full color picture inventory at the start of the tenancy and have the tenant sign this stating that they agree with the condition of the property
  2. Hold interim inspections at least every 12 weeks and record the state of the property, take pictures to support your findings
  3. Retain all receipts no matter how small or insignificant as proof of any maintenance or furniture purchased for the property before and during the tenancy
  4. Complete a check out at the property at the end of the tenancy with the tenant present

If you have any further questions, feel free to email me at info@jphaylettings.co.uk with the subject line Question for Sam