The Fixer: Tenancy deposit dispute

The Fixer logoHave you been left out of pocket due to poor service or sharp practice? Do you have a money problem that won't go away?

It can seem impossible to get a fair result when you are battling a large, faceless organisation alone. But never fear! The AOL Money Fixer is here to help.

This week she offers advice for a former tenant who disputes the money her ex-landlord and letting agent wants to subtract from the deposit she paid to rent his flat.

Dear Fixer,
My husband and I recently managed to buy our own place after years of trying to get on the housing ladder.

However, we are having real issues with our old letting agents not giving us a fair amount of our deposit back. We feel we are definitely victims of some sharp practice.

We rented a two-bed flat for five and a half years. During that time, we had a great relationship with our landlord as we were very good tenants who always paid our rent on time and never quibbled.

The flat was only partially decorated once the whole time we were there and so there was a fair amount of wear and tear. When we moved out we got the oven and rest of the flat professionally cleaned and I thought overall they did a pretty good job.

When it came to the checkout with the Inventory Clerk, we also thought it went well and she approved of us leaving a nice note for the new tenants with information on when the bins are taken out, latest meter readings, our contact details and notes on which keys were for which locks.

To our surprise, however, the check out document was incredibly harsh and they wanted to deduct almost a third of our deposit for cleaning.

They are trying to charge £260, which even if you pay £20 an hour would mean 13 hours cleaning. It was a two-bed flat and you could never spend that much time cleaning an eight-bed house let alone a two-bed flat!

We feel we are being scammed on a number of levels, especially as the letting agents won't answer our questions about hourly rates for the cleaning.

Please advise us how we can get our money back.
M Rogers, Kent

Dear Mrs Rogers,
Having contacted your former letting agent, I can confirm that your deposit of £900 was protected by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme or TDS (as all tenancy deposits are now required to be by law).

Consequently, as you have already tried and failed to come to an agreement on the amount to be subtracted from your deposit, the next step is to register the dispute with the Tenancy Deposit Service Dispute Service, a not-for-profit organisation that resolves deposit disputes between landlords and tenants.

To do this, you should first complete the online Dispute Application form on the organisation's website.

There are guidance notes on the site to help you do this, but if you need any further information, you can also call the contact centre on 0845 226 7837.

You will then need to send in copies of any documents - such as the invoice for the professional cleaning you had done - that can be used as evidence to support your case.

Malcolm Harrison at the TDS said: "This is a very common dispute. In fact, about 50% of all the disputes we deal with involve cleaning costs. But whatever the dispute is about, the more evidence you can supply, the quicker it should be resolved and the more likely you are to get your money back."

There is no charge to you for this service, which should take no more than 28 days from the point at which it has received the evidence from both you and your former landlord/letting agent.

Good luck!
The Fixer

Whatever your financial problem, write to themoneyfixer@aim.com and The AOL Money Fixer will get on the case.
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