Challenging unfair deductions from deposits

We had an amicable relationship with our previous landlord, no Christmas cards or anything, but we always paid our rent on time and he was pretty good at fixing things when they broke. So we were pretty shocked when our letting agency told us that he wanted to take £100 from our deposit for, and I quote, ‘cleaning and other things.’

I had been a little worried about getting the deposit back (I always am!) so I had gone a bit overboard with the cleaning. My husband had to stage an intervention when I started scrubbing the skirting boards with sugar soap. So we were in no doubt the place was clean!

And the ‘other things’, well, we had no idea what they could be!

We were out of pocket as we’d just paid for the damage deposit on our new place and we didn’t want to get into a lengthy dispute, but at the same time it just didn’t seem right to roll over and let him take our money!

I looked into it further on the very handy Tenancy Deposit website. I read there that ‘it is important to remember that the tenant is only obliged to return the property in the same state of cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy, after allowing for fair wear and tear.’ Luckily during our check-in, when the clerk went through the inventory on the day we picked up the keys, I pointed out to him the delightfully thick layer of builders dust covering every surface. He made a note that the flat hadn’t been cleaned properly. So already our case against the deduction was building!

I then told the letting agency we wanted to dispute the cleaning charge and also find out what the ‘other things’ were! When I chased them up for a response they said the landlord had been sending contradictory emails about the ‘other things’ so they hadn’t got to the bottom of it just yet. This filled us with hope and a couple of days later we had an email to say we would be getting out deposit back in full.

Our landlord tried to have the last word by sending a snide message complaining we had lost the keys for the windows, which we had never had in the first place, and moaning that ‘as the landlord you always seem to lose.’ We were just happy that we took him on and won!

Had he not backed down our deposit was protected by the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme so we could have opened a dispute with them. It’s law that your deposit is protected with one of the schemes. You can check to see who your deposit is protected with on Shelter’s website.

So it goes to show that the landlord doesn’t always have to win and that it’s always worth disputing unfair deductions!