ADR Adjudication for Tenancy Deposit Disputes – Key Points and Time-frames

  • The adjudicator will start with the assumption that the tenancy deposit money belongs to you, the tenant. The landlord or letting agent must prove that their claim is legitimate
  • You have 90 days after end of a tenancy to submit a deposit dispute claim to ADR
  • When either a tenant or landlord or agent starts a tenancy deposit dispute, the other party must respond within 14 days

What if there is no Inventory/Check-In Report or Check-Out Report?

If you are sure that your landlord or estate agent has never provided you with an Inventory/Check-In Report or carried out a Check-Out Report, then the landlord is unlikely to have any evidence to justify his claim for damage to the property, unless you have agreed that you caused the damage in writing (SMS/WhatsApp/Email/etc).

There have been cases where this lack of evidence has enabled tenants to get far more of their security deposit or bond money back than they expected. It is important to draw the adjudicators attention to this fact in the correct way to ensure that you lose the least amount of your deposit.

Types of evidence that can be submitted in a Tenancy Security Deposit Dispute

The Tenancy Agreement

For every tenancy deposit deduction, the adjudicator must refer to the tenancy agreement to check it’s validity. If there are no clear clauses stating what deductions can be made from the security deposit, then it is possible for all of the landlord’s deposit deductions to be dismissed.

Inventory/Check-In Reports and Check-Out Reports

The adjudicator does not doubt the truth of these documents. If there is a claim for a deposit deduction, but this is not clear from looking at the Inventory and check-out report, then you can point this out to the adjudicator and this attempted deduction from your security deposit will likely be dismissed.

Please note, if the check-out report was done more than a couple of days after the end of the tenancy, please make sure you bring this point to the adjudicator’s attention in the correct way, as it can show to the adjudicator, that the condition of the property was not reflective of how it looked after you left (other people have come in for viewing, contractors may have stomped around).

Photographic/Video Evidence

The adjudicator may not accept this as evidence, unless there is something that can prove when they were taken. Please point out the meta-data of the photo which proves the date, or provide a witness statement if someone was there when you took the photos.

You must make it easy for the adjudicator to know what the photo shows – stating “Master Bedroom 1” and circling the part of the photo that you think is relevant is helpful, otherwise, the adjudicator may simply dismiss the evidence.

Invoices, Receipts, and Quotes

If your landlord or agent is attempting to deduct large amounts from your security deposit for certain works, such as gardening or cleaning, if you can provide a couple of quotes from local companies which offer the service at a lower price, then it can lower the amount that may be deducted from your tenant deposit. You can present this information and still claim that you do not think that the landlord has any claim for any deduction from your tenancy security deposit.

Cleaning Charges

Check if your inventory or check-in report states the cleanliness of the property. If not, please point out if the condition of the property at the end of your tenancy was as good if not better than when you came in, and that the level of cleanliness when you moved in was not reported on the inventory.

Proof of Rent Payments

If your landlord or agent is claiming you have unpaid rent, please provide bank statements and mark the rent payments in red, and mention you have done so to the adjudicator. Receipts are also acceptable.

If the landlord or letting agent has not made mention of these rent arrears lately, you should point out that this is unusual behaviour as this will add believability to your submission that the landlord or agent is fabricating or exaggerating the rent arrears to try and take the most amount of money from your security deposit.

Letting Agency Charges

If it is not in the tenancy agreement then it can’t be taken from the deposit, this should be pointed out to the adjudicator. If it is in the tenancy agreement but you believe it to be unfair (a check-in fee and check-out fee for example), then refer to the “Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977”, and the letting agency charges may be dismissed.

Witness Statements

For something to be considered as proof, it MUST contain the following:

  • The full name and address of the witness in the top left corner
  • The date the statement was made
  • A subject line, explaining what the witness statement refers to
  • A bullet-pointed, concise list of the pertinent facts
  • Named and signed at the bottom by the witness

Wear and Tear in Tenant Security Deposit Disputes between Landlord or Agent and Tenant

Here is the difference between wear and tear and damages, as defined by one of the tenant deposit protection schemes:

Ordinary wear and tear: landlord’s responsibilityDamage or Cleaning: tenant’s responsibility
Curtains faded by the sunCigarette burns in curtains or carpets
Dents in the wall where a door handle bumped itDoor off it’s hinges
A few small tack or nail holes in wallLots of picture holes or gouges in walls that require patching and painting
A rug worn thin by normal useStains in rug caused by spilt wine
Worn seals on fridge doorsBroken shelf in fridge
Bathroom mirror beginning to “de-silver” (black spots)Mirror covered with water marks and make-up
Clothes dryer that blows cold air because the thermostat has worn outDryer that no longer turns at all because it’s been over-loaded
oilet doesn’t flush right because the mechanism has worn outToilet doesn’t flush right because it’s blocked with a nappy

f you have young children or many people living in the property, please point this out to the adjudicator, as they will make a greater allowance for wear and tear.

How to Minimise Landlord or Letting Agent Deductions from your Tenancy Security Deposit when you have Caused Damage

Remedying damage

Sometimes, when you have caused damage, you can reduce the deduction from your tenancy deposit by providing proof that instead of an item being replaced, it simply needs to be made good, or a small deduction should be made from your security deposit to allow the landlord or agent to remedy the damage.

If a landlord or letting agent points out a stain on the carpet, suggest that it could simply be steam cleaned, or that it is not fair to make you pay the entire cost of replacement, and it is fairer to make a smaller deduction from your tenancy deposit than your landlord or agent is asking for.

Reducing the value of the damaged item

If something is not new, it is not fair for the cost of a new item to be taken from your tenant deposit for the landlord to replace the item with something new.

Returning to the carpet example. If the carpet might have been 7 years old when you moved in, and you were in the property for 3 years, point this out to the adjudicator, and state your belief that the life-span of the carpet was only 10 years, therefore there should be no money deducted from your security deposit.

If a bathroom has damage, ask the landlord to provide proof that it has been renovated in the last 4 years, and state your belief that a landlord should expect to update a bathroom every 4 years.

Warning – Don’t Expect the Adjudicator to Work your Tenancy Deposit Dispute Evidence out on their Own

The adjudicator is human. They will not look through an email chain or look through an entire tenancy agreement or inventory to find what you are talking about.

As a rule of thumb, for each item you are disputing you should refer to:

  1. The point in the tenancy
  2. The inventory
  3. The checkout report
  4. Any written communication as proof
  5. Photos (if applicable) with the pertinent part labelled
  6. Your reasoning for disputing the deduction from your security deposit

Other Common Misunderstandings

  • It doesn’t matter if the landlord didn’t carry out the work.
  • It doesn’t matter if the landlord or agent were terrible during your tenancy.
  • Emotional appeals don’t work. The adjudicators are trained to only look at the evidence in front of them