At the end of a tenancy, you and the tenant, or a representative such as an independent check-out clerk, should attend the property and create a checkout report to confirm the condition of the property. After this happens, in most cases, you can reach an agreement on how the deposit should be returned and it’s repaid without any problem. However, if you can’t agree, then we operate a free Dispute Resolution Service to decide how the deposit should be divided fairly.

What is dispute resolution?

It’s a free service for resolving deposit disputes between landlords or letting agents and tenants at the end of the tenancy. All three deposit protection providers offer this service, as an alternative to using the courts.

The burden of proof

The dispute resolution process is straightforward, you or the landlord need to submit evidence in support of your claim. Remember, you have to prove that you have a legitimate claim - the tenant has no obligation to prove their position. The tenants will provide their own evidence in response to the claim submitted by you. It’s then sent to an independent, impartial adjudicator, who reviews the evidence and decides how the deposit will be repaid.

In some cases, the adjudicator may decide that the case would be better dealt with through a formal court process. For example, a case involving police.

How long does the dispute resolution process take?

Each deposit protection scheme has their own timescales for the process, and you should check those of your scheme to make sure you meet the deadlines required for evidence submission and response. In rare circumstances adjudicators may ask for further evidence or clarification on a particular matter from either party outside these deadlines, but this is unusual.

Preparing for a dispute

A common problem is that many landlords claim for the full deposit, instead of asking for an amount that’s fair. Adjudicators will only award what they think is a reasonable amount to landlords.

Have you and your tenant discussed the dispute?

Many disputes can be resolved before the adjudication stage by simply talking to tenants to see if you can reach an agreement. Even if you’ve already started the dispute process you can still negotiate an agreement before the adjudicator has made their decision, so it can be worth keeping the communication going.