The key to successful deposit disputes - getting your paperwork right

By Natalie Deakin

A man at his laptop attempting to solve his deposit disputes

Solving deposit disputes: get your paperwork right

Since the introduction of the Deposit Protection Scheme, we’ve been involved in a number of disputes between landlord and tenant. If we’ve learned one thing, its that to be successful in a deposit dispute, make sure you dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

From our experience, a successful deposit dispute is heavily dependent on getting your paperwork right. If you’ve got the right documents in place and there happens to be damage at the end of the tenancy, this will be your best chance of being successful with your claim.

Protect yourself from deposit disputes before the tenancy begins

There are 3 important documents that must be produced and acknowledged by the tenant which include:

  • A tenancy agreement
  • An inventory and schedule of condition
  • The deposit prescribed information

You must also ensure that:

The tenancy agreement

The tenancy agreement forms the foundation of the tenancy. It lists the standard terms, such as rent amount, deposit, start date, term and any specific conditions.

It is important to note that you can add in your own conditions, however, these conditions cannot contradict tenancy law. As an example, you cannot insert a clause to say that the landlord is allowed access to the property without giving 24 hours prior written notice.

When drafting the agreement, it is important to consider the property and areas that may cause concern at the end of the tenancy. If the property has an open fireplace, set your expectations at the beginning of the tenancy and insert a clause regarding the tenant’s responsibilities such as:

To keep any chimney(s) swept as often as reasonably necessary, where the Property has a chimney that serves an open fire or solid fuel appliance. Where used regularly, the chimney(s) should be swept annually.

Other areas where you may want to add in specific conditions are swimming pools, septic tanks, gardens, TV aerials, loft spaces or pre-payment meters.

If you add in these specific conditions at the start, any deposit disputes you carry out are far more likely to be successful.

We can help you with drafting a full proof agreement.

Inventories are key to deposit disputes

We’ve written quite a few articles on the importance of the inventory however, I will reiterate that without a signed inventory, you will lose 99.9% of disputes should they be escalated to an Alternative Dispute Service (ADS).

There seems to be a misconception that you should only do an inventory when you have a fully furnished property. This is simply not the case. You should have an inventory on all rented properties. The inventory lists everything in the property from floor to ceiling. The schedule of condition states what condition each of the items is in.

Flipping back to the tenancy agreement – it should have a standard clause along the lines of the tenant returning the property in the condition that it was in at the start of the agreement. So naturally, if there is no document to evidence what condition the property was at the beginning, how can the arbitrator determine the scope of damages at the end? Therefore, you will require an inventory and schedule of condition.

You can draft your own or to be full proof, we can send out a professional and accredited inventory clerk.

The deposit prescribed information

This is more of an administrative formality however, it is as important as the aforementioned documents.

If you do not serve the correct deposit information at the start of the agreement, not only will you not be able to make a successful claim, the tenant may be within their rights to make a counterclaim for 3 times the deposit amount!

For landlords that opt for our Guaranteed Rent and Rent on Time packages, we take care of any legal proceedings and paperwork for you.

If you would like to discuss any of our services for landlords, please contact us on 0333 577 888.

About Natalie Deakin

Natalie DeakinNatalie joined LettingaProperty.com in 2014 and as the team has grown, through her knowledge and experience, Natalie has progressed to the role of Assistant Lettings Manager. Natalie’s team oversees every online transaction from property advertising, tenant referencing, tenancy renewals through to assisting in deposit disputes and rent arrears. Natalie keeps our landlord legalities in check.

2 Comments

    November 10, 2019 REPLY

    We have had a nightmare with the DPS.
    They have said our agent didn’t include our tenancy agreement with our claim for part of our deposit.
    We have made three complaints against their actions but still a dead end.
    They have now changed the wording in their adjudicator final decision and it now seems to favour the tenant, although they should be impartial.
    Is there anything further we can do please.

      Natalie Deakin
      November 14, 2019 REPLY

      Hi there Mr and Mrs Baker,
      Thank you for reaching out. From your comment, it seems as though you have been through a dispute and the correct evidence was not submitted. If your letting agent is acting on behalf of you, they should have submitted all evidence for you – including a fully signed and legally compliant tenancy agreement. If the final decision has already been made, then the DPS are unable to reconsider the decision as the money will have already been distributed to whichever party. This is something you may need to take up with your letting agent as it may be a failure of due diligence on their part.

      Hope this helps?
      Natalie

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