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A tenant asks: What to do when letting agents are difficult about your deposit ?

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last updated: 20 Jun 2016 report a problem


A tenant asked us:


We were renting through a letting agent who were acting on behalf of the private landlord. This was an AST. We asked to be present during the inventory check out and they refused this and said it wasn’t necessary.

(1)Is this legal? Do we not have the right to be there?

They came back to us and asked us to clean it because it was dusty (ludicrous!), so we obliged politely. They didn’t contact us again. So, a week after this I contacted them and they said they were trying to contact the landlord in regards to our deposit which is held by the DPS.

I allowed them the weekend and all of yesterday and then phoned them to see why we hadn’t heard. They said they still can’t get hold of the landlord for ‘permission to release the deposit’ and think he might be on holiday. They said they couldn’t do anything until they’d heard from him.

(2)Is this correct? What if he (the landlord) has gone away for several weeks?

On top of this I asked for a copy of the inventory check out report for our records and they said they didn’t give them out and we didn’t need one as if anything else was wrong they’d have told us.

Surely this isn’t correct? Should they provide us with one? (3)Is there a law about how quickly they have to get back to us by?

As they are a big, well known letting agent we have sort of felt we have to accept what they’ve said, but it doesn’t seem right and is definitely rubbish customer service. Any help would be great, thank you. – J.Knight

(edited for grammar and clarity, numbers added for easier following of the questions)

(1) Is the tenant’s presence necessary for a valid move in/out inventory report ? Can the letting agent refuse to provide a copy of the inventory report to the tenant ?

Typically, it’s great to have the tenant present on every inventory report, both check in and check out. It gives both sides a chance to contribute for a better overall inventory. The better the inventory, the better are everybody’s rights protected.

However, the landlord or letting agent do not actually NEED the tenant on spot to prepare the report. They have to supply a copy to the tenant and if they haven’t, the tenant can request it at any time.

To be perfectly valid, the inventory report needs to be signed by both the landlord (or letting agent) and the tenant.

With regards to the second part of the question, the letting agent can refuse to give you the inventory, but then the inventory they have made loses its validity in the courts. If any dispute arises about the tenancy deposit, or another matter that would require the inventory reports, the letting agent cannot prove that their inventory sheet is true to the facts, without your approval.

This is true for both the move in report and the move out report.

Remember that the tenancy deposit is a legal property of the tenant. If the landlord or letting agent wants to deduct any sum, they HAVE TO PROVE you’re guilty of whatever action. You are innocent by default, unless proven otherwise.

What you could have done, as a protective measured, but didn’t (but is totally a great idea in your situation), is to make your own move in and move out inventory reports. Whenever you feel like the inventory report is inaccurate, or the landlord / letting agent might try to pull a trick using the report, you should prepare your own to mitigate that possibility.

You could complete your own inventory and add descriptions to each damaged item and a photo, so your inventory is thorough and complete. Then you can get somebody as a witness in the property and have them sign the report you’ve made.

Finally, you can send a copy to your landlord or letting agent and ask them to approve it and sign the report. If they do, you’ve solved your problem. If they don’t your inventory is the better one and you have the email proving you tried to get them to agree. Thus, you have a better evidence in court, plus, a witness to back you up.

(2) Is your deposit stuck in limbo if you cannot get in hold of your landlord ?

No. Technically, the letting agent may be right about their position. Since the letting agent acts on behalf of the landlord, they cannot, or rather would not make decisions that might get the landlord upset and fire them. Potentially, if the landlord wants to make deductions, and the letting agent already released the money, it would be next to impossible for them to chase you down through the courts. They’d be pissed, and the letting agent is going to take the fault.

In regards to such a situation, it’s understandable that they wouldn’t release the deposit without the landlord’s approval. On the other hand, they can just act like it and try to stall out the game for whatever reason.

YOU (the tenant) on the other hand can do something about it. When the tenancy ends, you have to write a request to your landlord or letting agent and ask for your deposit to be returned. Then, they have a 10 day period to reply and either open a discussion about any deductions, or return your deposit.

When those 10 days have expired, you can contact your deposit protection scheme, in this case the DPS, and ask to receive your deposit on the grounds that your landlord cannot be reached.

You will be required to supply all communication with the letting agents regarding the inventories and deposit protection, prove that you made all reasonable attempts to reach your landlord. This is where your own inventory would have made a huge difference, but you’ll have to do without.

Provided you’ve been an exemplary tenant, and, have not broken the tenancy agreement, and, given the poor handling of the inventory report, they will most likely return your deposit in full.

Afterwards, they will handle the matter with the landlord.

(3)Is there a law about how quickly the landlord has to get back to you regarding the return of your deposit ?

Yes. After the tenancy ends, you have to write them a letter and request the return of your deposit.

The landlord has 10 days to respond and send you a detailed list of deductions they want to make of your deposit. These deductions need to be based on the tenancy inventories and have to be reasonable and account for natural wear and tear.

You can then reply with your own proof and try to settle the dispute before referring to an external adjudicator.

When landlord and tenant cannot settle the deposit dispute on their own, they can ask the tenancy deposit scheme to appoint an impartial adjudicator. Deposit protection companies offer a free Alternative Dispute Resolution for tenants and landlords. When the ADR has reviewed the case, they will come out with a solution that respects the law and the rights of each party.

If you’re still not satisfied, you can go and pursue your landlord in the courts.

Finally, no matter who your landlord and letting agent is – small time or huge corporation, you should not take their words for the truth all the time. Even big companies make mistakes, or worse, disregard reasonable practices. If your letting agent is a reputable company, you can make a complaint at their website or office. Seek the assistance of a higher link in the chain and see if they cannot solve the matter internally.

For more information on your deposit and tenancy inventories, check out our dedicated guides:

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