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How to Handle Security Deposit Disputes Over a Rental

5 Mins read

Security deposit disputes are not fun to deal with, especially when you are running around setting up everything for your new place.

They can come at the worst time possible and can be a massive stressor for you as a tenant. In this article, we will look at some common disputes and what you can do to put them to rest faster.

What can cause a security deposit dispute?

High expectations or misunderstood responsibilities between you and the landlord are often the main reasons for security deposit disputes. This may lead your landlord to withhold your deposit or a part of it. 

Scenarios that can lead to a deposit deduction and a dispute include:

  • end of tenancy property damages. The cause and period of damage that occurred on the property are often a root of a dispute between tenants and landlords. Tenants can be held responsible for damage caused by them and their visitors, permanent changes to the property or damage due to neglect. When it comes to normal wear and tear, they are usually not held responsible. 
  • Property maintenance is another major reason for security deposit disputes. end of tenancy cleaning is an important detail of tenancy agreements. You will generally be expected to return the rental to a condition similar to the one from the start of your tenancy. In some cases, the landlord can be unsatisfied with the move-out cleaning that you have performed. This might lead to a deposit deduction, which you can then dispute if you are sure that you or the cleaning services have performed proper property maintenance.
  • Rent and utility bills can also be a basis for a security deposit dispute. Are you paying just the rent to your landlord or the bills, too? Your landlord might withhold a sum of your security deposit if they believe you have skipped a payment or you have not paid the entire sum for the rent or bills. In such a case, you can raise a dispute if you believe you have no payments due.

What to do if you get a security deposit dispute

You should first find out the reason for the dispute. Then you should go through the contents of your lease again. 

Did your landlord in the lease clearly define all of your tenancy and end of tenancy property and repair maintenance responsibilities?

They cannot deduct your deposit over something they did not properly mention in the requirements of your tenancy agreement. If they do so, you could easily challenge those. 

If you are sure you did everything properly, you should take steps to get your security deposit released.

Gather evidence that the deposit should be returned

This is why you need to keep a thorough library of videos and images from the start of any tenancy and throughout it. Report any issues before they escalate, keep records of any property maintenance and repair you have performed, and propose regular property inspections.

If you have informed your landlord of an issue and they chose to ignore it, the responsibility for it escalating lies with them. Issues you have caused will still come out of your pocket to fix, but even then, the landlord has to assist in providing you with the tools necessary or finding a service to complete the repairs.

Sources that you can use as evidence include:

  • Messages and emails that you have sent regarding an issue in the rental or asking for assistance in resolving one
  • Images or videos showing the state of the rental property and items, at the start, during and the end of your tenancy.
  • Any papers you have to prove paid sums for property maintenance services, rent, or bills.

Properly updated inventories and regular inspections can help resolve many possible end of tenancy disputes quicker and defend your point more efficiently.

Contact your landlord

A phone call could be enough to persuade a reasonable landlord to return your deposit in full. Tell your landlord about your evidence and that you have done everything according to the conditions in your lease. 

Listen to their side of the argument as well and consider if they have a point, too. Schedule an inspection of the rental together, so you can visit and talk through any discrepancies each side has.

Potentially you could try and seek third-party mediation services, so they can help you negotiate and find a quick and better solution to a deposit dispute. In most cases, the landlord prefers to resolve a dispute before it escalates further.

Also, tenancy deposits are usuary held by a tenancy deposit protection scheme chosen by your landlord. You could try contacting the scheme your landlord has used for securing your deposit.

If your landlord agrees to it, they could also mediate and settle your dispute without favouring either of you. Settling the dispute using this method will not cost either side anything.

When you can’t reach your landlord

If you are unable to get in touch with your landlord, keep records of all your attempts to reach them – be it phone calls, emails, visits or demand letters. If your landlord ignores you, you can use your attempts at contacting them as evidence if the case escalates further.

Send them a formal demand letter and wait if your demands will be properly addressed. You could go for a follow-up of the demand letter to have even more evidence and hopes of reaching a proper response.

Even if your landlord ignores you, government-approved schemes like MyDeposits, Tenancy Deposit Scheme, and Deposit Protection Service should be able to return your deposit.

Take legal action if necessary

If your landlord has used a non-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme, ignores you, or you can’t come to a solution, you might have to take legal action. Contact an attorney for the best course of action for your specific case.

Small claims court is a relatively quick and inexpensive solution to raise against your landlord. It also has a relatively short resolution time.

You will have to prepare any evidence proving your point regarding the dispute. You should also bring along evidence of the steps you took to resolve the problem before going to court. Be prepared that the landlord could launch counter-claims.

How to avoid security deposit disputes

There are things you can and should do to reduce the chance of security deposit disputes. 

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Keep track of your responsibilities in the tenancy agreement and follow through with them. Ask your landlord to clarify anything unclear.
  • Invite regular property inspections, keep the inventory updated, and record any repairs and communications with your landlord regarding property issues. Make your inventory, just in case.
  • Maintain a good relationship and communication with your landlord for easier problem resolution.
  • Schedule an end of tenancy inspection with your landlord. Discuss any discrepancies and deductions face-to-face before you move out. 
  • Employ the help of property repairs and maintenance services to help you with your end of tenancy cleaning if you don’t know how to do end of tenancy cleaning yourself. High-quality end of tenancy cleaning services offer re-visits if the landlord is unsatisfied with the result.

Conclusion

Deposit disputes can make your end of tenancy even more stressful. 

This is why you should always clear up your responsibilities with the landlord ahead of time, report issues and keep evidence, which will make it easier for you to conclude such disputes in your favour.

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