What to do if a tenancy turns sour

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What to do if a tenancy turns sour

21 September 2012

Are you an attentive landlord attuned to your tenant’s needs? Do you pride yourself on maintaining good landlord-tenant relationships and keeping regular communication? And are your tenants aware of your expectations – for example, of the cleanliness of the property – before the tenancy comes to an end?

If so, then the good news is you’re nearly there. Give yourself a pat on the back. Most issues about the return of the deposit can be resolved simply by talking through the problem, without any need for formal Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

If not, don’t worry too much, but consider that you may be leaving yourself open to the possibility of a dispute arising at the end of the tenancy.

Interestingly, over the last year about 99 per cent of my|deposits members returned their tenant’s deposit without involving us – meaning only one per cent require formal ADR.  But, stats aside, a dispute is won and lost at the beginning of the tenancy, not the end, so it’s best to be prepared from the start. That’s the my|deposits mantra anyway.

The good news is that ADR is available at no additional cost to the initial protection fee. However, as a landlord you must provide evidence to justify the deductions you wish to make to the deposit.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution process

If you haven’t been able to shake hands and agree on the return of the deposit, for whatever reason, ADR is an option. Here are a few key points about ADR and what you need to know…

  • ADR is an alternative way of resolving disputes, other than by using the traditional route of the Courts.
  • It is an evidence based process, where the outcome is decided by an impartial and qualified adjudicator.
  • Both you and your tenant must submit evidence to support your claims. If you’re unsure of what kinds of evidence you might need to submit, we’ve given some examples below. You are able to upload all evidence completely online but for those of you who aren’t as web savvy, you can of course post your evidence to us.
  • All the evidence then goes to the adjudicator assigned to your case for a decision.
  • TDP schemes will need to do this within specified timescales so check the processes you are required to follow with your particular scheme.
  • Remember that the tenant has no obligation to prove their argument because in the eyes of the law the deposit remains their property unless proved otherwise. If you can’t evidence why you have a legitimate claim to all or part of the deposit the adjudicator must return the disputed amount to the tenant.

That’s it in a nutshell. With my|deposits the entire ADR service should not exceed 60 days and over the last year it’s taken us 55 days on average from start to finish.

What evidence to provide

If you’re wondering what kinds of evidence you might need to provide as part of a dispute then take a look at the below examples.

A great tip is to make sure that any evidence you hand over is relevant to the dispute and that any written submissions are clear, easy to understand and properly presented. For example, when sending in a lot of paper evidence make sure to highlight the relevant parts.

  • Tenancy Agreement – this is a necessity for all disputes as the adjudicator needs to establish the contractual obligations.
  • Check in/check out reports – signed and dated by both parties will carry more weight.
  • Inventories or schedule of condition – listing the contents and condition of the property.
  • Photos/videos – these will need to be date stamped for authenticity and signed.
  • Invoices/receipts (cleaning, dry cleaning, gardening etc) – as proof of any work or costs incurred.
  • Written correspondence.

While this may all seem a bit alien and overwhelming for the first time, keeping records and making sure you document everything in writing during the tenancy will help ensure that you are well prepared from the outset. Read our blog Deposit disputes: don’t fall at the final hurdle for a more in-depth look at preparing yourself against a dispute. 

Advice provided by 

my|deposits is a government-authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme. It is designed to enable landlords and letting agents to take and hold a deposit for the duration of the tenancy.

For more detailed guidance about ADR and further resources and advice on tenancy deposit protection can be found at

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