So you’ve been waiting for your deposit to come back and you get a letter from the landlord saying that they’re making deductions from it, and you think that these deductions are inaccurate or unfair. These deductions might be for damage, cleaning or other costs.
Is there anything you can do? Yes! The deposit is your money until the landlord can show that they have the right to make deductions. In order to do this, the landlord must prove:A. That the item that they are billing you for actually exists (e.g. by providing photographs);
So here’s what to do:
1. Reply to the landlord (in writing – e-mail is fine) politely saying that you don’t agree with the deductions and asking them to either re-consider or provide evidence, e.g photographs or contractor’s invoice, if they haven’t satisfied one of items A-C above. Ask them to respond within a certain timescale, say 10 working days.
2. If the landlord doesn’t re-consider the deductions or offer you satisfactory evidence, or simply ignores you, then lodge a dispute with the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme protecting your deposit. There are three, namely:
You should have been informed as to which one is protecting your deposit when (or shortly after) you first paid it – sometimes it’s mentioned in / attached to the contract, sometimes you’re given a separate deposit protection certificate, sometimes you get an e-mail – you can however check if it’s protected & by whom via the Shelter website.
Lodging a dispute with a TDP scheme simply involves filling in a form (usually online, but with some of the schemes you can print & return a paper version if you prefer) and sending it in to the applicable scheme along with a copy of your tenancy agreement and any evidence if applicable (e.g. inventory / check-in report showing that the defect you’re being charged for was already present when you moved in). You may also be asked to attach a copy of your correspondence with the landlord. The form will explain what & how to attach to your dispute claim.
Don’t worry too much if you don’t have any physical evidence; it’s difficult to prove a negative and the burden of proof is mostly on the landlord to prove that you owe what they’re saying you owe). If however you do have any supporting evidence then do make sure that you attach it to your dispute claim – the scheme won’t request further evidence after you’ve submitted it and will assess the case based solely on the evidence that you & the landlord initially send in.
In your dispute form, be sure to refer to any evidence that you have submitted and crucially point out which of points A, B & C above the landlord has failed to satisfy. Read through your form & attached documents / evidence to make sure it’s correct before submitting it.
3. Once you’ve lodged a dispute, the TDP scheme will write to the landlord to request their side of the story / evidence to satisfy criteria A, B or C above. The scheme will then assess the case, generally using the above criteria, as an independent adjudicator. When they’re assessed your case they will inform you & the landlord of their decision and return to you your deposit (minus any deductions to which you have agreed or that the scheme feels are justified).
Things to remember:
If you have any questions about lodging a dispute or you like help, guidance or representation in dealing with your landlord or lodging a dispute, contact Student Welfare. You can also find lots more information about lodging a dispute on your deposit protection scheme’s website.
You only have up to three months after the end of the tenancy to lodge a dispute with a TDP scheme – don’t delay and don’t let the landlord stall you beyond this time limit.
If your landlord is Unipol accredited and does not return your deposit or give written details of why it hasn’t been returned / what deductions they intend to make within 28 days of the end of the tenancy, lodge a complaint with Unipol. Again you can ask Student Welfare for help with this if you wish.