Tenancy deposits – fair deductions

Q: I’ve moved out of my rental property and my landlord has said she wants to make big deductions from my deposit. What can I do?

A: As a tenant, you have certain obligations which will be outlined in your tenancy agreement. This includes treating the property well, reporting any damage or maintenance required, and having the property cleaned to a professional standard at the end of the tenancy.

If you fail to meet these obligations, your landlord is within their right to propose deductions from your deposit, but these do need to be realistic and the amount being claimed needs to reflect the genuine cost of any works. For example, if you’ve failed to report damp and, at the end of the tenancy, it has worsened and created a bigger bill for the landlord, it is reasonable for them to claim against it.

Key replacement is another item which is usually chargeable. I’ve seen a case where a tenant lost a set of keys and, once this was discovered, the lock to the building’s front door had to be replaced as it was deemed a security risk. She therefore had to reimburse the landlord nearly £1,200 for the cost of issuing replacement keys to all residents in the building.

There are ways to prevent potential disputes and one option is to make sure that the property has an up to date inventory. Be sure to pay for a professional check-in and check-out, where an independent inventory clerk documents the condition of the property and items at the start of the tenancy and then cross checks it at the end. The cost is usually split 50:50 between landlord and tenant. You will then have a clear record of any damage and the inventory clerk can make an independent assessment of what they deem to be ‘fair wear and tear’ versus chargeable damage.

However, if your landlord is claiming more than what you believe is fair, you can still challenge them. This should firstly be done via your landlord, but, if you can’t reach an agreement, you should contact the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) who will assess your case. The full process should be outlined in your tenancy agreement and it will confirm how long the landlord has to notify you of deductions.

Do be fair in your challenge though. The more factual you are in addressing each point, the better. At the end of the day, it’s in both parties’ interests to draw a line under the tenancy and for you to get your deposit back.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email info@sourcingproperty.co.uk or tweet her @joeccles.