How to recover deposit from a difficult landlord

Recover deposit from difficult landlord
OK, you are ready to move out, you’ve cleaned everything, hired the carpet-cleaning machine which has done a really great job; you’ve painted over the little bits which needed painting over (magnolia, of course). You’ve replaced everything that needed to be replaced and have left the place even a little bit better than when you started the tenancy. The keys have been handed back to the letting agent, and now it is just a matter of waiting a couple of days for you to recover deposit from your landlord. Bizarrely though, no money appears and when you phone the letting agent to ask what is happening with your deposit – they inform you that the landlord has decided to deduct £300 for various things – none of which make any sense to you?

Many of us have had experiences similar to the one above at some point or another when it comes to getting our deposits back from landlords.

Here are 10 tips to have a quick look over to help you get your money back from a landlord should you be experiencing such difficulties when moving home.

  1. It may or may not be too late at this point but inviting the landlord round before leaving the property is a very good idea. Make it clear to them that the reason for doing so is to make sure that both parties are happy with the property before vacating the premises.
  1. Speak with your landlord. It may or may not resolve the situation but it is a good idea to at least try to solve it verbally (and calmly!), over the phone or in person. Explain to them that you feel you have done everything that complies with what was expected of you/your contractual agreement but you cannot see how this money can be owing. Ask them to justify the deductions they are making. They may shed light on information you didn’t have? If not, you may at least feel you are definite about your claim to have your deposit returned in full.
  1. Consider the meaning of ‘wear and tear’. Though not always easy to define, one working definition from my|deposits states that it is important to consider whether an item has been damaged or worn out through natural use or negligence. It may be worth bringing this up in the case that you feel and any damage/wear and tear has indeed occurred naturally. It may be that you can assure the landlord that this is the case.
  1. Use photographs. In this day of high-tech mobile phones, most people have access to a good quality camera. Take pictures of the property before you leave. Ideally, you should have taken pics on moving in as well so that you have as much evidence as possible. Providing you have taken photographs when you moved in you will be able to prove to the landlord (or Deposit Protection Service) that a certain mark or stain was already on the carpet when you moved in or that chipped mantelpiece in question was already chipped on your arrival to the property!
  1. Use an inventory. Again, you probably will have filled out one of these when you moved in. If you have you will most likely have made comments next to any items if they were already damaged in any way. It is a very good idea to check this – if the items that the landlord is disputing were already marked as damaged on your arrival you have solid evidence to make your case with.
  1. Get in touch with DPS (the Deposit Protection Scheme). Providing your deposit was held with them (in most cases landlords have to protect your deposit in this way). If you haven’t been able to resolve the issue with the landlord this may be the best way to go. The DPS offers a Dispute resolution service. Both you and your landlord are asked to submit evidence as to why you feel you should get your deposit back. The evidence is then looked at by an adjudicator who can take up to 28 days to make a decision.
  1. Another possibility is to speak to the landlord about a compromise. This may be a good route for you to take if neither yourself nor your landlord wants to go down the road of the arbitration process – is there some middle ground to be found?
  1. Consider court action. If you have tried several avenues without success yet still believe the landlord’s actions are wrong you could consider court action. The charity Shelter states that this should be the last resort and a formal letter called a letter before action should be sent prior to this. A template letter before action can be found on the Shelter website – https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/tenancy_deposits/how_to_get_your_tenancy_deposit_back
  1. Check if your local council offers a support service for dealing with rogue landlords (more information about rogue landlords can be found here). For example, South Gloucestershire offers advice for tenants on a number of issues such as – illegal eviction, harassment from the landlord, if you are having problems with your rent or your landlord will not do repairs – as well as problems with your deposit.
  1. Contact other tenants. Does the landlord have other tenants? If so, are you able to contact them? If you feel that this may be a case of persistent unethical behaviour by your landlord perhaps others are experiencing the same issue. If this is the case there is always the local press – that said, it is usually best to solve issues amicably. A quick reminder of living a life ‘glass half full’ may be good – sometimes a little bit of loss is just part of life. You can still be joyful about the prospect of your new home. Remember, smiling is always important!