Points to prove when retaining a deposit

Paying for damage to a buy to let home is one of the major sources of friction between landlords and tenants.

Landlords have a right to retain all or part of the tenants deposit to cover the cost of cleaning, repair or placement – but only if the damage is more than fair wear and tear.

To make a successful claim to retain the deposit, the landlord needs to know what points to prove:

  • Show that the damage is not fair wear and tear. Broken furniture, burn marks and holes in doors or walls fall outside the definition, but worn carpet or scuffs to the paintwork are acceptable.
  • Show the damage happened after the tenant moved in – this comes down to taking a comprehensive inventory with video or photographs cataloguing the state of the property. Always take the inventory with each tenant and make sure they sign for a copy and verify the record is accurate.
  • Show the damage was there before the tenant moved out – so check the property with the tenants when they pack up to go.
  • Cost the repair – Get written estimates for the cost of cleaning, repair or replacement.

Other evidence could include a copy of the tenancy agreement including any clause about who pays for damage to the property or statements from witnesses who saw the incident.

Package the evidence with a brief report outlining the circumstances in a brief, matter-of-fact way without any opinion to the tenancy deposit scheme adjudicator.

Don’t package a two-hour inventory video – just extract the minute or so concerning the place where the damage was found.

Don’t forget to ask the adjudicator for suitable compensation and put a value on the amount – like ‘£50 for cleaning grease marks off the living room sofa’ and make sure the cleaner’s invoice is attached.