This case concerns a ‘dispute’ over the standard of cleanliness of the property at the start and end of a tenancy – however, the dispute ultimately arose due to the agent’s failure to return the undisputed element of the deposit to the tenant.
The landlord was claiming for a professional end of tenancy deep clean.
The tenants disputed the amount of the cleaning claim as they were of the view that they should not have to pay the full cost of a professional deep clean, as the check-out report recorded that the property had been cleaned to a professional standard, but with various cleaning omissions.
The tenants accepted that they were responsible for a certain amount of cleaning at the end of the tenancy in order to return the property to the same professional standard of cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy, however agreement could not be reached as to the amount of their contribution.
During negotiations to settle the dispute, despite requests by the tenants for the return of the undisputed amount of the deposit, it was retained – in the tenants’ view, as leverage as part and parcel of the negotiations to reach agreement for the claim for cleaning.
So, what are the key points here?
Any undisputed deposit amount (after discussion and agreement with the landlord) must be returned to the tenants within ten days of their request for it to be returned.
It should not be retained to persuade a tenant to settle proposed deductions.
In this case, it was clear that had the agent returned the undisputed deposit, which represented in excess of 75% of the deposit total, to the tenants expediently, the tenants would have been inclined to have reached agreement in relation to the cleaning claim.
This would have avoided the need for referral to Alternative Dispute Resolution.
From a tenant’s perspective, acceptance of the return of the undisputed deposit amount will not in itself be deemed to be acceptance of liability in relation to any proposed deduction.
* Sandy Bastin is head of adjudication services at TDS, an approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits