Tenancy deposit disputes are becoming more common nowadays, and both tenants and landlords are raising issues equally – 51% of disputes are lodged by tenants while the other half are reported by landlords. However, in terms of getting back the deposits, data shows that the tenants have better chances.

All these findings are laid out in a compulsory tenancy deposit protection evaluation by Tenancy Deposit Scheme chief executive Steve Harriott, which came out five years after it was first implemented in Wales and England.

According to the government-backed tenancy deposit scheme Deposit Protection Service, approximately 66,768 tenancy deposits have been disputed since 2018.

In terms of dispute awards or compensation, since 2018 around £10,680,453 has been given to landlords while tenants have received approximately £16,058,532. It is also vital to note that landlords have had to limit their deposit requests to five weeks for new tenants or renewed tenancies. However, for tenancies with an annual rent of £50,000 or more, the time period is extended to six weeks.

What is a tenancy deposit?

A tenancy deposit is required of tenants before they commence their tenancy on a private rented property. Also known as a security deposit, it is vital for landlords, especially when they need to cover tenant costs including property damage like thermostats and rent arrears.

The deposit is the tenants’ property, so at the end of the tenancy, landlords are required to return the money to them, unless there is reasonable (and legal) cause to hold or deduct a particular amount from it.

To protect tenants’ deposits, landlords are required by law to register them with any of the government-authorised protection schemes. This applies most especially to tenants with assured shorthold tenancies, which is usually the case for most private renters.

The three protection scheme providers are DPS or Deposit Protection Service, TDS or Tenancy Deposit Scheme, and mydeposits. Landlords have the freedom to choose which scheme to register the deposits with. Each of these protection schemes offer a custodial scheme and an insurance scheme.

In a custodial scheme, the landlords register the deposit into any of the schemes right after receiving the money. The money is kept in the scheme until the end of the tenancy, and provided that there is no property damage or other similar issues, the landlords will refund or return tenants’ deposit.

In an insurance tenancy deposit scheme, landlords are allowed to keep the deposit throughout the tenancy.

Landlords who do not return the deposit when the tenancy ends can be reported to the scheme provider. The scheme will ask landlords to pay the disputed tenancy deposit amount. Likewise, the scheme will give landlords a free tenancy dispute deposit protection compensation or an alternative resolution service.

Protect yourself from landlords who do not return deposits

If you are a private rental tenant, you can protect yourself from rogue landlords who have no intention of returning tenancy deposits.

1. Verify if your deposit is in any of the tenancy deposit schemes.

Tenancy deposit scheme providers offer a resolution service for free, and you can use this to resolve disputes that may possibly happen at the end of your tenancy. However, you cannot avail of this service if your landlord did not register your deposit with any of the schemes. Your landlord has 30 days after the start of your tenancy to secure your deposit. If your landlord does not notify you after the given period, you can file a claim against them.

Check if your deposit is protected by going to any of the three government-approved providers’ websites.

2. Evidence is important.

As soon as you move into your new rented home, start documenting everything – fixtures with wear and tear, damaged areas, mold, and even stained carpets all that is not good for home decor. Take photos of cracks in walls, pipe leaks, and damaged locks. All of these will serve as evidence when you decide to file a claim against your landlord.

Documenting everything will also protect you from rogue landlord tactics, such as deducting an amount from your deposit because they found a stain on the living room carpet. Show the evidence to the landlord to prove that the stain has been there since the first day of your tenancy.

3. Check-in and check-out inventories are essential.

Always request your landlord for a check-in inventory before moving in and check-out before you leave the property. You can use the inventories as proof of the property’s condition when you moved in and at check-out when your landlord holds or deducts from your deposit.

Keep in mind that you are responsible for “fair wear and tear,” and your landlord should know this. They cannot deduct your deposit because the carpet in the living room looks worn.

4. Deep clean the property before leaving.

It is always a good idea to deep clean the property before you leave it. Pay attention to hidden areas and corners, and damp. All furniture and fixtures must be thoroughly cleaned.

5. File a tenancy deposit protection compensation claim.

Find a team of experienced solicitors who are experts at tenancy deposit laws and issues. They can help you through the gruelling process of tenancy deposit claims. The best ones, such as Tenancy Deposit Claims, offer a no-win-no-fee guarantee, no upfront payments, and are authorised and regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority. Get in touch with these tenancy deposit experts and increase your chances of getting the deposit refund you deserve.