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Deposits

If you signed an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (you probably did, they’re pretty common but it’s worth double checking) and you paid a deposit, by law it must be protected in a government backed deposit scheme.

What Can My Landlord Deduct From My Deposit?
Your landlord is entitled to deduct money from your deposit to cover any loss to the landlord which is specified in your contract. This usually accounts for things such as unpaid rent, the cost of cleaning and the cost of damage to the property or furniture and furnishings.

What Can’t My Landlord Deduct From My Deposit?
Your landlord cannot deduct money for unpaid bills (unless the bills were included within the rent) they would need to provide your forwarding address to the utility company instead, they cannot deduct money to penalise you for a breach of contract unless the breach caused chargeable damage to the property, furniture or furnishings and they cannot charge you for an item that has naturally reached the end of its life. This means that they must take into account fair wear and tear when charging for damage to the property, furniture and furnishings.

How do I Know if my Deposit Deduction Should be Subject to Fair Wear and Tear?
Fair wear and tear takes into account the lifespan of an item when calculating the cost of repair or replacement. In basic terms, it means that if the item has been used previously you can’t be charged the full amount for a brand new one because the landlord/previous tenants have had use out of it, and the value will not be equal to that of a new item. You can only be charged what it is worth.

It also means that if the item has reached the end of its life and is in need of replacing because of this rather than damage, you probably shouldn’t be charged anything. The condition of the property and its furnishings should have been recorded in an inventory when you moved in (and preferably pictures too!). This should help you work out whether the difference between then and now is fair wear and tear from normal use rather than damage.

What you will be charged will, of course, depend on the details of the situation and the lifespan of the property/item so you can’t just say to your landlord that other tenants used it before you so you aren’t paying for it.

I Haven’t Heard Anything from My Landlord about My Deposit
If you have allowed your landlord a couple of weeks to get in contact with you regarding your deposit and you still haven’t heard anything from them about it, you should consider contacting them. Preferably via email as this will mean you have a record of your conversation with them.

Just remember, if it’s a large landlord with a lot of student properties everyone will have moved out at the same time and they will have a lot of deposits to deal with. This could mean it takes a little while for them to process everything, so please be patient.

My Landlord Won’t Give Me My Deposit Back
If your landlord is looking to keep all or part of your deposit, they should have provided you with a breakdown of what the money is being used for and copies of invoices or receipts. If they haven’t, ask for them as it’s difficult to argue that the costs are unreasonable if you don’t know what your money is being used for!

If you know what the landlord is looking to use the money for and they are able to use the deposit to cover the costs but do not agree, the first thing you should do is contact them in writing (email is fine) with your reasons and any evidence you have (this is where the photographs of when you moved in and out, along with your inventory come in useful).

Hopefully, after speaking to the landlord, you can come to a mutual agreement. If not, your option is to use the free alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service offered by the provider that protects your deposit. You will need to contact them and let them know you would like to use the service, and provide them with as much information and evidence as possible. There is often a time limit within which you can raise a dispute which varies between providers. If you don’t agree with your landlord, make sure you don’t miss out by waiting too long. You will also need to bear in mind that you and your landlord will need to accept their decision as final.

What If My Landlord Will Not Use the Alternative Dispute Resolution Service?
If you are not able to persuade your landlord to use the ADR, your option would be to take them to the small claims court. This is where the process gets more complicated, but hopefully you shouldn’t need to go this far.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are considering taking your landlord to court over your deposit, you may wish to contact the Student Advice Centre for advice and information.

What If I Don’t Think My Deposit Was Protected?
If you signed an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, your deposit must be protected in a government backed tenancy deposit scheme. If you have checked with all of the providers (see below), preferably over the telephone as to locate it online you must have all of the details exactly right, and you cannot locate your deposit, you have a couple of options to consider.

You are able to claim between 1 and 3 times the value of the deposit in compensation, but the final amount can only be decided by a court and will depend on the situation. If you are considering taking your landlord to court regarding an unprotected tenancy deposit, make sure you speak to the Student Advice Centre about the risks and process.

If you are not looking to take your landlord to court, you can contact your landlord to ask for the return of your deposit and explain that you are aware that your deposit is not protected. Your landlord may not wish to go to court, so you may find that your deposit is returned to you.

The providers are:

Level 3, Students' Union Building, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TG
Tel: 0114 2226058, Email: smartmove@sheffield.ac.uk

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