You’ve reached the end of your tenancy but you haven’t been able to agree how the deposit should be returned. To help you break the deadlock, our free Dispute Resolution Service is here to help.

How the dispute resolution process works

The dispute resolution process is straightforward. If both parties have agreed to use the Dispute Resolution Service:

  1. Landlords must submit evidence in support of their claim and tenants provide evidence supporting their position. We won’t request specific items of evidence so make sure you send everything relevant to your claim.
  2. We send the evidence to an independent, impartial adjudicator.
  3. The adjudicator reviews the evidence and decides how the deposit will be repaid.
  4. We send the adjudicator’s decision to both parties.

For custodial deposits, both parties have 14 days from starting the adjudication process to submit their evidence. Once they’ve received the evidence, the adjudicator then has 28 days to provide a decision. This means the process can take up to six weeks, although it’s often quicker.

For Insured Scheme deposits, the process is slightly different as explained in these guides.

It can help for landlords and tenants to talk to each other about the claim, even while the dispute is in progress as you can still reach an agreement with each other before the adjudicator makes their decision. Once the adjudicator has decided how to award the disputed funds, their decision is final and binding.

If either party decides they don’t want to use our free Dispute Resolution Service, the dispute will have to be resolved through the courts which can be costly and time consuming.

Dispute resolution – how long does it take?

No one likes to find themselves facing a deposit dispute. Often the fastest way to resolve a dispute is for landlords and tenants to talk to each other and come to a fair and reasonable agreement on how the deposit should be shared.

In some instances, despite your best efforts, you may reach a stalemate. If you find yourself in this situation, our Dispute Resolution Service is there to help you. Disputes can take a lot longer to resolve than finding an agreement directly with your tenant, and to help you understand why dispute resolution takes the time it does, we’ve laid out all the steps in our handy infographic timeline. Users of the service do need to be aware that disputes often last for the full duration below, though it’s worth bearing in mind that our adjudicators do resolve many disputes more quickly than this.

Day 1 Your claim formally enters dispute. We email instructions to the landlords and tenants to collate and submit evidence. Both parties have 14 calendar days from the date of this email to submit their evidence. We won’t request specific items of evidence so make sure you submit everything relevant to your claim.
Day 15 All evidence from the landlord and tenants must be submitted by this date.
Day 16 Our disputes team needs up to seven calendar days to carry out the pre-adjudication assessment of all evidence. If they identify a problem with the evidence, they may contact you or your tenants for clarification, which can delay us in sending the dispute to an adjudicator.
Day 23 The dispute is sent to an adjudicator who then has up to 28 calendar days to review all the evidence submitted against the claim and reach a decision on how the deposit will be repaid. Adjudicators can reach a decision more quickly but often need the full 28 days.
Day 51 The adjudicator reaches their decision and communicates the result to us.
Day 53 Our disputes team sends details of the adjudicator’s decision to the landlord and tenants. It then takes a further 3-5 working days following the decision for any payments to be completed.


In some circumstances, as mentioned above, these timings could be extended. Most often this occurs when a query arises regarding the evidence or the claim itself, either during the pre-adjudication assessment or the main adjudication. It’s worth remembering though, that if you can’t reach agreement, and either of you decide not to use our free dispute resolution service, the only alternative is to take your claim to the courts, which can be a long and costly process.

Submitting evidence for a dispute

Disputes often fail because a vital piece of evidence is missing, or our procedures haven’t been followed. We want to make sure genuine claims are successful. Following this guidance when submitting your evidence for a Custodial deposit dispute will help you avoid common mistakes.

For Insured deposit disputes, please follow the guidance here.

  • Please don’t send us evidence until we have confirmed that your case is officially in dispute, and we’ve sent you an email asking you to submit your evidence. We won’t be able to accept it and you’ll need to submit it again.

  • If you have evidence such as photographs and documents, upload them via your online account before your submission deadline. We don’t accept evidence by email. You can read more about the online evidence upload process here.

  • The maximum you can upload in one submission is 40mb. You can upload as many times as you need if you have lots of evidence, but large data files can slow down the upload process so try to limit the size of your evidence where possible.

  • Adjudicators need to be able to read and interpret the evidence you send. If original documents are in colour, please send us colour copies rather than black and white if possible.  Make sure scanned, photocopied or reproduced documents can be clearly read by an adjudicator, especially where they contain photographs.

    Speaking of photographs please send colour images rather than black and white as it’s a more accurate portrayal of the truth. Adjudicators need clarity and legibility to make a decision so don’t make it hard for them to see what you see.

  • Don’t rely on website links, for example retailers’ websites showing costs of replacement items, in your evidence. These may be changed by the website owner before the adjudicator receives the evidence, leaving a gap in the information you’ve provided. A simple screenshot of the web page you’re referencing is a better, more reliable option.

  • Once your evidence has successfully uploaded, you will be able to see what you’ve submitted online via your account. You can view this during the evidence gathering window and after the submission deadline has passed.

    After you’ve uploaded your evidence, we won’t contact you until the adjudicator has reached their decision. The only exception to this is if we need to ask you a question about the evidence you’ve submitted.

  • If there’s a reason why you can’t provide submit your evidence online, we will accept evidence by post, though this isn’t recommended.

    • If you need to send paper evidence, send copies rather than original documents as won’t be able to return them to you once the adjudicator has made their decision.
    • Similarly, if you have evidence on CD or USB devices, we can’t return these either so please make sure you retain a back-up copy of your data.
    • If you do post any evidence to us, we recommend that you use recorded delivery so you have proof of the date it was posted and delivered.

What makes good evidence?

Common types of claims, and the evidence that best supports them

Learn More