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Case studies - Landlord threatened to keep deposit

What do you do if you’ve been renting a property and the landlord threatens to keep part of your deposit when you move out?

That was the situation faced by Hannah Fisher until Which? Legal lawyers intervened. Hannah and four other students shared a flat in central Sheffield from September 2009 to July 2010 – the first year of her psychology degree at Sheffield Hallam University. 

The students had an assured shorthold tenancy with managing agents Unite. Hannah paid a deposit of £250, which was insured through a rent deposit scheme run by the agents.

Problems

During the year, there were a few problems with the flat, including a faulty oven and a leak that soaked carpets in the sitting area. Each time the students contacted Unite they complained it was slow to respond. 

At the end of the tenancy, Hannah’s parents Mr and Mrs Fisher helped her to thoroughly clean the flat. Hannah asked for a joint inspection of the flat – something she was entitled to do under the agreement – but Unite didn’t call to arrange the meeting when it said it would.

Hannah took lots of photos to show the flat was left tidy. Two months later, Hannah was informed that £106 of her deposit was being withheld – mainly, she was told, because the property had not been left in a good state and she was being charged for cleaning and rubbish removal.

She also discovered that different charges were being made against the other students who had shared the house.

Mr Fisher sought advice from Which? Legal.

Which? Legal advice

Our lawyers explained that Hannah could challenge the deductions through the rent deposit scheme and explained how this would work. 

As a refund had been made of £144, the amount in dispute (£106) had to be paid to the rent deposit scheme – in this case mydeposits.co.uk – for them to adjudicate on the matter.

Outcome

Having received submissions from both Hannah and Unite, and photos taken by Hannah before she left, mydeposits.co.uk held that the full amount of £106 should be paid back to Hannah.  

The adjudicator stated that the burden of proof lies with the landlord to establish entitlement to any part of the tenant’s deposit and the presence of a signed check-in report is critical to any decision. The absence of this can harm the landlord’s claim, as in this case.