What a tenant can do should their landlord not return their deposit

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Most tenants who sign an assured shorthold tenancy will be asked to pay a deposit which the landlord is then legally obliged to put in a recognised scheme, in order to protect it.

Failure of a landlord to do this will see them facing legal action and hefty fines as a result.

The idea of a tenancy deposit protection scheme is to protect both the tenant and the landlord should there be a dispute when a tenancy ends. The disputes are generally over non-payment of rent or to help pay for repairs to the property.

Landlord is withholding my deposit

Some landlords may decide to withhold part of the deposit and this could be seen as unlawful deductions - a landlord can only make reasonable deductions.

It should also be noted, and this is an issue regularly highlighted on Property 192, that a landlord cannot make a claim on the deposit for damage that can be described as 'fair wear and tear'. That is to say that if a tenant lives in a property for long enough, then a landlord should expect to be replacing various furnishings and items as a result.

Unfortunately, there has been no strict legal definition of the term 'fair wear and tear' which means that landlords may end up out of pocket by having to replace items like carpets or furniture.

Unlawful deductions from a tenant’s deposit

However, some landlords may make unlawful deductions from a deposit to pay for unpaid electricity, gas or water bills. These are not the landlord's responsibility and it's up to a utility company to chase the tenant for these bills.

Landlords are also not entitled to deduct money for the costs they incur in re-letting a property such as paying for agency and advertising fees. However, should a tenant leave a property before their tenancy formally ends then a landlord may be entitled to claim for some of these costs.

Essentially, a landlord can only keep part of a deposit for a financial loss they incur that is the responsibility of the tenant.

Landlord not returning deposit

This means that a landlord can make reasonable deductions to pay for damage, cleaning or unpaid rent.

It's important to understand that a landlord must return the balance of the deposit after these deductions have been made.

This situation also highlights the fact that an inventory is crucial when a tenant moves in so that there's evidence of the state and condition of any furnishings and of the property itself.

The answer to 'What a tenant can do should their landlord not return their deposit' is actually quite straightforward - they must raise a dispute with the organisation that the landlord says is protecting the deposit.

Raise a deposit dispute

By law, a landlord must tell the tenant where their deposit is being held and provide contact information for the company holding the funds as well as information about any potential dispute.

Failure to comply with this part of the law will see the landlord facing court action.

Once the organisation receives a dispute notice they will then keep hold of the deposit and try to resolve the dispute amicably.

Tenants whose deposit has not been registered with an approved scheme will have to take immediate legal advice in order to get their deposit returned safely.

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