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Published on : July 20, 2021 09:45

Common causes of deposit disputes and how to resolve them

Every landlord wants a tenancy to end as stress-free as possible, and avoiding post-tenancy disputes as much as possible. There are however a number of reasons why post-tenancy disputes occur, and deposits are one of the largest contributors. So what are the largest issues surrounding deposit disputes, and how can they be resolved?

Deposits are a security measure for landlords in the circumstances of tenants not meeting their obligations in line with a tenancy. Whilst it contributes to financial peace of mind for landlords in the event of a tenancy turning sour, the returning of a deposit can cause unrest in what has otherwise been an amicable and pleasant tenancy. As Edward Mellor strive to ensure each and every tenancy is concluded as positively as possible, we work with landlords and tenants closely to mitigate the need for deposit disputes where possible.

The key to avoiding a deposit dispute in the first place is to craft and sustain a long-lasting, healthy tenancy. The happier your tenants are, the more likely they are to treat your property with the love and care it deserves.

Research carried out by Ome indicates that 30 per cent of deposit disputes originate from no communication, with no reason given.


Cleanliness is one of the most common reasons tenants anticipate they may not receive their deposit back. No landlord or prospective tenant wants to walk into a property filled with bin bags of abandoned clothes, discarded furnishings or general waste. An untidy property can be costly to clean from both a time and financial perspective, relative to doing it yourself or hiring a professional cleaner.

How can I mitigate a deposit dispute relating to cleanliness?

Tenancy agreements should highlight that tenants need to leave the property in a clean and presentable condition. Not only does it save you time from having to clean the property or bring in professional cleaners, but it means that your property is immediately presentable for a re-let. A tidy home is a desirable home, and a clutter-free property will let much quicker.

Property damage

Another large contribution to deposit disputes originates from damage to a property. Whilst small repairs can easily be covered by a deposit, widespread or extensive damage isn’t always going to be paid for through this form of security. Unsettled tenants who aren’t happy in a property are the ones more likely

How can I mitigate a deposit dispute relating to property damage?

Again, highlighting the need for tenants to leave the property in a presentable condition in the tenancy agreement is a great foundation. During the tenancy, regular inspections will allow for you to be able to monitor the condition of the property and ensure your tenants are treating it with the respect and care your investment deserves.

General wear and tear isn’t necessarily going to be the fault of a tenant, so considerations need to be made when carrying out a thorough check-out report at the end of the tenancy.

Proactively responding to maintenance issues and requests will also help keep your property in good shape, as well as keeping your tenants happy (which Edward Mellor know all too well is the crucial component to building a long-lasting tenancy). Communication is always key, but more so when it comes to ensuring your property is kept in a desirable condition and ultimately, requires minimal work during a re-let.

Poor decoration

Your tenants will be at their happiest when they feel at home. Living in a property that feels soulless or devoid of character, including a lack of personal touch, can lead to tenants making requests to do their own decorating. Not everyone has similar tastes when it comes to style, however, or are quite as proficient in decorating as they might believe they are. This can ultimately lead to decoration that can be offputting to prospective new tenants, or even handiwork that looks and feels cheap (which can also be offputting to any potential candidates during a re-let).

How can I mitigate a deposit dispute relating to decoration?
Simply outline your stance on decoration right at the start, whether you’re happy for a selection of colours from a neutral palette, or opposed to the concept outright. If you are happy for a tenant to carry out an element of redecoration to your property, ask to see evidence of their prior work should they wish to conduct them, or offer to provide your own trusted decorator to conduct the work. Further outlining of expectations relating to any decorative modifications, including the hanging of frames, should be put into the tenancy agreement.

Missing/damaged items

As a landlord, the preference of whether you opt to let your property furnished or unfurnished is entirely up to you; each method has their own benefits regardless of which you choose. Furnishing a property, whether from top to bottom or just providing white goods, means that your tenant should treat them with the same respect they are expected to do so for the property. Damaged, or even missing/stolen items are the subject of four per cent of all deposit disputes.

How can I mitigate a deposit dispute relating to missing or damaged items?

An extensive photographic inventory prior to a move-in will give you the best form of security when it comes to disputing a deposit relating to items. However, to avoid the hassle altogether, outlining the expectations relating to what is and isn’t included with the property in the advert and tenancy agreement is crucial. Opting to let a property unfurnished will totally mitigate the concern for damaged or missing items, but it’s worth noting that letting a property furnished can sometimes have the edge in minimising the void periods.

Rent arrears

Rent arrears are very much a landlord’s worst fear, yet they aren’t one of the largest contributors to deposit disputes. Unpaid rent can surpass the amount a lodged deposit equates to if not kept on top of.

How can I mitigate a deposit dispute relating to rent arrears?

There are a number of steps a landlord can take to ensure the rent is paid, including affordability and income checks during the crucial referencing stage. Documenting rental payment amounts and dates, as well as any agreed payment plans that aren’t in line with the standard expectations, are important. You also have options for landlord insurance and rent protection that can assist should a tenant fall behind on their rental payments or refuse to pay outright.

Conclusively, the benefits of establishing a sturdy, happy, healthy relationship with your tenants will help to mitigate the need for any deposit disputes. Tenants who feel happy in your home and are communicated to proactively and amicably are more likely to treat your property with the respect and care it deserves, pay rent on a time, and have their deposit returned to them fairly at the end of a tenancy without the need for any disputes.

Having a managing agent like Edward Mellor to look after your property can ensure every step of a tenancy is and your property is accurately documented, which gives you the best peace of mind should a deposit dispute need to be made.

For more information on how to future-proof yourself and your properties against needing to face deposit disputes, our property management team would be more than happy to have a chat with you on 0161 443 4777.

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