Newly released data shows precisely what subjects lead to deposit disputes - and a long-standing issue is in the number one spot.
Cleaning remains the primary cause of disputes; of cases submitted to The Dispute Service in 2019-2020, this was cited in 42 per cent of cases.
Next up with damage to the property (41 per cent) closely followed by the need for redecoration (39 per cent).
Then came gardening problems (23 per cent) and rent arrears (14 per cent).
The data also reveals that in recent years, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of disputes being raised by tenants rather than landlords.
In the year to March 2020 - the latest data available - this rose to 74 per cent, compared to 67.4 per cent in the previous year.
However, in total there were 34,993 disputes in the year to March 2020, down from 35,513 the previous year.
The drop in disputes occurred despite a rise in the number of tenancy deposits in England and Wales at the end of March 2020, which reached 4.1m, up from 3.9m in 2019.
Paul Oxley, managing director of PropTech firm Decorus for Sage, comments: “According to the TDS, many tenants claim that the cleanliness of the property at the start of the tenancy was not clear, or that the tenancy agreement did not make clear what was expected of them. So it is vital that landlords have a proper inventory prepared and do a thorough check-in and check-out, so they have the right proof of condition at the start and end of a new tenancy agreement.”
He advises landlords to conduct thorough check-in and check-outs at the start and end of the tenancy, including photographs and videos plus written descriptions to show the condition of the property and its contents.
Decorus for Sage has outlined what it calls “some common mistakes” which increase the risk of a deposit dispute:
- "Landlords make the mistake in thinking that inventories can be heavily comprised of photography and video. Completely photographic or filmed inventories without a complete written accompanying report are almost useless."
- "There is no need to photograph every single corner of the property as this is simply a waste of time - stick to the important things. Films and photographs alone will be of little use in a dispute when an adjudicator is trying to find hard evidence of a particular area."
- "Many landlords do not carry out a thorough and full check-in and check-out of the property at which the tenant was present. Landlords and agents who don’t have this available when they go to court, have little chance of winning the case."
- "Often there is no correspondence with the tenant that is documented and no receipts are kept for the deductions on the deposit eg cleaning and repairs."