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Renting is a popular choice of living in the modern age. Recent data shows almost one in five, or 19 per cent, of households in the English private sector are rented.

It can be a quick and easy method to live, particularly if you move to new towns and cities. Having a good landlord, someone who is reasonable and fair, makes life even easier.

But sometimes, you may come into difficulties as renters. Landlords may wish to evict you against your will or you may come into disputes over clean-up costs.

READ MORE:‘Silly’ bus gate where 30,000+ drivers fined will be scrapped in Walsall after uproar

We asked a legal professional at the Law Society for advice about renting. Oliva Pulley-Crowther is an expert on housing law. She answers the questions below…

Law Society | Ask a Solicitor – How Do Tenancy Deposits Work?

If you are an assured shorthold tenant (as most private renters are), your landlord does not have to take a tenancy deposit. But, if they do, then they need to protect the deposit in an authorised scheme and serve you with certain “prescribed information” within thirty days.

Landlords and agents who do not may face financial sanctions and be unable to rely on a section 21 notice if they later seek repossession of the property.

How do I get my deposit back?

At the end of the tenancy, you and your landlord need to agree if the deposit will be returned in full, only partly returned or retained in full by the landlord.

If you cannot agree on the amount of deposit that your landlord needs to return, you can use the deposit scheme’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. ADR avoids the need for the parties to go to court over the issue but is voluntary.

To start ADR, you must formally request the return of the deposit from the landlord (if the deposit is in an insurance scheme) or deposit scheme administrator (if the deposit is in a custodial scheme). You will have to provide submissions to support your claim on the deposit and usually have only one chance to make them. There are time limits to make your submissions.

If either you or your landlord do not consent to ADR, then the deposit should be recovered through the courts. While ADR can take more than a month to complete, a court claim will take much longer.

My landlord says that I didn’t clean the flat to a professional standard – how do I prove how well I left the property?

Reasonable amounts of wear and tear in your home do not count as damage. Also, a landlord cannot require you to have the property professionally cleaned.

If the landlord believes that your deposit should cover cleaning or anything else, and you disagree, you need to request the return of the amount of the deposit that you believe that you should receive through the landlord or deposit scheme administrator. It is advised that you take photos and complete inventories of the condition of the property when you first take on the tenancy and when you leave the property, as you may need evidence to dispute a landlord’s claim on the deposit.

What can I do if my landlord tries to evict me but never protected my deposit?

If your landlord issues you a section 21 notice but has not protected your deposit, then the notice is invalid. Thus, your landlord cannot rely on the notice to evict you.

Also, if your landlord files a possession claim that includes a claim for rent arrears or other damages, you can file a counterclaim for failure to protect your deposit and receive damages for between one and three times the amount of the deposit (which may help to offset any amount of arrears claimed).

Even if your landlord does not file a claim against you, you can file a claim against them if they failed to protect your deposit within the time limit for doing so (although Legal Aid is not available for such claims).

Is there somewhere I can find information on my housing rights?

If you receive a possession notice or claim, contact a Law Centre or another Housing Legal Aid provider. If you need any further information about tenancy deposits or other housing rights, check out the websites of Shelter (Home – Shelter England) or Citizens Advice (Citizens Advice).

Oliva Pulley-Crowther is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales’ Housing Law Committee and is Managing Director and Senior Solicitor at Wiltshire Law centre if you are an assured shorthold tenant (as most private renters are), your landlord does not have to take a tenancy deposit. But, if they do, then they need to protect the deposit in an authorised scheme and serve you with certain “prescribed information” within thirty days.

Landlords and agents who do not may face financial sanctions and be unable to rely on a section 21 notice if they later seek repossession of the property.

How do I get my deposit back?

At the end of the tenancy, you and your landlord need to agree if the deposit will be returned in full, only partly returned or retained in full by the landlord.

If you cannot agree on the amount of deposit that your landlord needs to return, you can use the deposit scheme’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. ADR avoids the need for the parties to go to court over the issue but is voluntary.

To start ADR, you must formally request the return of the deposit from the landlord (if the deposit is in an insurance scheme) or deposit scheme administrator (if the deposit is in a custodial scheme). You will have to provide submissions to support your claim on the deposit and usually have only one chance to make them. There are time limits to make your submissions.

If either you or your landlord do not consent to ADR, then the deposit should be recovered through the courts. While ADR can take more than a month to complete, a court claim will take much longer.

My landlord says that I didn’t clean the flat to a professional standard – how do I prove how well I left the property?

Reasonable amounts of wear and tear in your home do not count as damage. Also, a landlord cannot require you to have the property professionally cleaned.

If the landlord believes that your deposit should cover cleaning or anything else, and you disagree, you need to request the return of the amount of the deposit that you believe that you should receive through the landlord or deposit scheme administrator. It is advised that you take photos and complete inventories of the condition of the property when you first take on the tenancy and when you leave the property, as you may need evidence to dispute a landlord’s claim on the deposit.

What can I do if my landlord tries to evict me but never protected my deposit?

If your landlord issues you a section 21 notice but has not protected your deposit, then the notice is invalid. Thus, your landlord cannot rely on the notice to evict you.

Also, if your landlord files a possession claim that includes a claim for rent arrears or other damages, you can file a counterclaim for failure to protect your deposit and receive damages for between one and three times the amount of the deposit (which may help to offset any amount of arrears claimed).

Even if your landlord does not file a claim against you, you can file a claim against them if they failed to protect your deposit within the time limit for doing so (although Legal Aid is not available for such claims).

Is there somewhere I can find information on my housing rights?

If you receive a possession notice or claim, contact a Law Centre or another Housing Legal Aid provider. If you need any further information about tenancy deposits or other housing rights, check out the websites of Shelter (Home – Shelter England) or Citizens Advice (Citizens Advice).

Oliva Pulley-Crowther is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales’ Housing Law Committee and is Managing Director and Senior Solicitor at Wiltshire Law Centre.



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