How to avoid deposit disputes

From Robert Ulph on June 20, 2022

New figures show that the average tenancy deposit has exceeded £1,000 which is a significant sum and one that most tenants can ill-afford to lose. Happily, the number of disputes is seeing a decline, yet a staggering estimated £27m of deposits is being held in disputes.

I thought it would be useful to look at the issues around deposit disputes and the condition that tenants are expected to leave homes in when they move out, to ensure they are the very best position to have their deposit returned.

For properties where we provide a fully managed service the process starts at check-in, where a detailed report is produced about the condition of the property with photos to accompany the notes.

Throughout the tenancy it is important to capture any changes that are made and being as specific as possible with details will make the end of tenancy much more straightforward. For example, a tenant may ask for permission to decorate, so it is useful to document what is agreed, who should do the work and whether the colour should be returned to the original when the tenant leaves. 

With a property being managed by an agent, regular inspections should be part of the service and an Propertymark agent will carry these out as part of their terms of business. These inspections check how the property is being looked after and will highlight any jobs that need addressing – often flagging up issues before they become major problems. A good agent will always send on inspection reports with accompanying photos. 

A further advantage of an agent managing your property is they can give 24-hour maintenance support. All agents should be offering this as part of full management. This round-the-clock support could be the difference between dealing with a leaking boiler in the middle of the night or not.

Just like at check-in, it’s important that details are recorded at the end of tenancy and in final inspections. Photos again help to support this and make the end of tenancy process as straightforward as possible.

If the property and its contents have not been returned in the condition expected (allowing for wear and tear), deposit deductions may be made. Cleaning is often the main reason for deductions, along with damage, redecoration, gardening issues and missing items. Rent arrears or outstanding bills are other reasons for deposit deductions. 

There should always be a full explanation with supporting evidence of what is being deducted and why and this will go a long way to avoid dispute. Fortunately, disputes are generally rare in managed properties due to the ongoing communication, regular inspections and reports and most tenancies end without any issues, but it is important when there is a problem that a process is gone through to ensure a fair outcome is achieved.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me or the team at Pennington if you would like any further information on this or anything else on the local property market.