METRO - URGENT - Landlords refusing to return tenant deposits

Journalist: Sarah Davidson, Freelance

ended 02. August 2022

I’m writing up a case study – details below for metro on a VERY tight deadline. Would propertymark be able to comment please? Basically – how big a problem is this, what should tenants do in this situation - etc

Deadline for me to file is 12 today so I really need written comment ASAP! Sorry for the ridiculously short notice!!

Aaron, a 28-year-old marketing executive living in East London, rented with a friend and the pair decided to move further out of the capital

•             he had £1607 tied up in his deposit scheme, however when it came to get the deposit back there was difficulties with the landlord who was determined to claw back money for trivial, and incorrect issues - which put severe delays on Aaron getting his deposit back. Examples included claiming light bulbs were either missing or broken (which they weren't), and charging for re-decorating for streaky paint - which existed when they started their tenancy

•             another issue is landlords are faceless in this process. Aaron dealt with a third-party (in this case the estate agent) when negotiating the return of his deposit and it could be 3/4 days before he'd get a response - adding to the delays in getting the money returned

•             in an ultra-competitive rental market, offers need to be put on immediately after viewings but because of the insecurity over the return of the deposit - Aaron and his housemate missed out on flats

•             the situation also caused tension between Aaron and his housemate. His housemate was willing to bow to pressure from the landlord and sacrifice a chunk of his deposit just to move, but Aaron wasn't in the position to do that and wanted to fight to recover as much as possible

 

This sort of aggressive behaviour from landlords amid a cost-of-living crisis is having a serious impact on renters, it's causing stress during the moving and deposit process, and ultimately it can lead to people not moving home altogether.

 

5 responses from the Newspage community

In my experience of dealing with landlords and property investors, the vast majority want to make renting a pleasant experience and are not out to rip anyone off. Unfortunately, like most things in life, a very small percentage are bad apples. My advice to new rental tenants would be read contracts/AST's very carefully and understand what terms you are signing up to. Secondly, take pictures of everything when you move in and everything again when you move out. This gives you evidence when requesting your deposit back.
There are real problems for tennants in the rental sector and unfortunately Aaron's story is a common one. The truth is that the letting agents work on behalf of the landlord and not the tenant, which is why service can be far from acceptable. The Tenancy Depsit Scheme does offer some protection but the timely return of the deposit can be an issue.
As a former tenant and now a landlord, I have had a tenant cause carnage and had to use their deposit to clean up the damage they caused. So I can see both sides of it. If better checks were conducted on the date of moving in, during tenancy and leaving, then this would not be happening quite as frequently as it does. General wear and tear is expected by most landlords, whereas others can be unnecessary pains in the proverbial. The same as some tenants take care of the property as if it was their own and others just couldn't give a damn. This issue will never be truly resolved, due to communication deficiencies and a lack of ownership form all parties. Remember, there are three sides to every story, yours, theirs and the truth.
I would say that you really need to be clear on what is in a contract to try and avoid these situations. I have had situations where a tenant has caused serious damage to floors etc. and you cannot claim as it's classed as typical wear and tear. I think check-in and check-out reports need all parties in attendance to avoid these situations for both tenants and landlords, as I'm sure the current system is failing everybody, as your story alludes to in this instance.
"Landlords may try to hinder deposit payouts but it is rare and doomed to failure after the Tenant Fees Act. Landlords are legally required to protect any tenancy deposits taken, also known as security deposits, in a government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme. Tenants will get their deposit back minus provable damage above expected 'wear and tear. If a landlord fails to protect the deposit in an independent scheme, which also has an avenue for dispute resolution, tenants can often claim up to three times the deposit via the court. Failing to secure a deposit also invalidates Section 21 eviction notices. Landlords may act unreasonably with deposit deductions but are not the arbiter but a 3rd party scheme is. This can cause delays in getting the deposit back but makes it fair for tenants.