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Deposit Retention


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I wonder if you can help. My previous tenants left my property in an awful state (urine, mouse infestation.... all sorts), and as such I have incurred estimates and costs well in excess of there deposit. As a matter of good will I returned a small element of their deposit to them, however this arrived torn up in the post today.

My query is this. I got a propfessional cleaner in to do the carpets and windows etc, however to keep the costs down, I did alot of the cleaning myself. The cleaning required was beyond reasonable expectation. Instead of employing a contract cleaner, I charged the tenants mimum wage (£5.05 p.h) for the time I spent cleaning. My hourly rate in my normal job is about £20 per hour, but I gave my time at a very beuget rate. Had I of got in a contractor, costs would have been alot higher.

Am I entitled to charge the tenants for my time?

Additionally, they have asked for all receipts, which I am happy to do, however, I am obviously unable to provide one for my own time, additionally, one job has yet to be done - presumably an estimate would suffice? As I understand it I am not obliged to actually get the work done prior to dealing with a deposit amd that I am required only to provide reciepts or estimates and an estimate is still a valid document? I do intend to deal with the repair, but at the moment I have another tenant in and so need to agree a convenient time to do the work.

Hope you can help - I should point out that it was never my intention to rip the tenants off - my costs were 1/3 higher than the deposit provided - I was trying to help them out!!



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Hi Plym77

Arguments over deposit disputes tend to end one of two ways. The first is that it will talk it’s way to a natural end. You still have the funds, you will debate it between you, ultimately they may get tired and give up. Problem solved.

As a letting agent, deposit disputes sometimes scare landlords and I have seen them back down right away and refund in full, despite my advice not to do this.

The second way it can go is to the County Court. I have had only one in 17 of being an agent get this far, and the judge in his wisdom split the difference between the two parties, I think both landlord and tenant felt this was some kind of result. However, what may help you is my own experience, not as an agent but as a landlord in my own right.

I own a cottage. The tenant finally left, leaving the house in a very untidy condition and leaving many damaged items. She did not meet me at pre-arranged time of check out, but later when I went back to the house, the keys were just left in the door. The house was filthy, with a serious flea infestation from her dog, part of the 6 months old carpet had been damaged by the dog and so on and so forth.

I set about putting the house right, changing the lock myself as I had not had all keys returned to me, cleaning was down by myself and the new tenant (who was desperate to get into the house, I don’t make a habit of having incoming tenants clean before they go in) who I paid some money for their assistance. I know, I’m an agent and self employed but I did not keep the receipts when available, and tradesmen / friends that acted for me were doing favours for me so receipts were not available.

The former tenants solicitors informed me that I had a duty to supply receipts and without them retention of the deposit was unlawful. The threat was “we will see you in court”.

To be honest I used this as a test and to gain experience that could be passed on to future client / landlords.

Well my summons arrived, I prepared my defence and attended court. The tenant claimed my retention of the deposit was unlawful because I did not provide receipts. I am pleased to say that they were wrong.

The judge advised us that producing receipts was not a pre-requisite of claiming from a deposit, so long as the charges were reasonable. I had listed damages and the cost to rectify each item. Cleaning was broken down to an hourly rate (as I see you have done, cleaners in my area can be anything from £8.00 per hour plus), even the damage to the carpet was shown as a calculation giving me compensatory payment only, not new for old, which you would not get.

Needles to say I won the day, I got my deductions and the tenant got the balance.

Ultimately though it is down to the judge on the day and how he reads and interprets the situation.

If it goes to court, prepare all the facts and costs, these should be sent in with your defence papers and so long as they are reasonable costs, you will be ok. The fact you have sent part of the deposit back and they have reacted in the way you describe shows the mentality of the tenants and all this goes in your favour I am sure.

If you have any questions come back to me.

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