Revealed: the most common reason for landlords to keep tenants' deposits

Landlords are often confused about what they can - and cannot- claim for against a tenants’ deposit. However, help is at hand as the main reason why landlords refuse to give tenants back their deposit has been revealed.

The results follow Arla Propertymark’s survey of its letting agent members, asking for the most common reasons why tenants don’t receive their deposits back. Arla Propertymark are the industry group representing the lettings industry.

Leaving a property dirty or messy topped the rankings, according to the research.

This was followed by a lack of maintenance - such as an overgrown garden - damage to the property and its contents, and unpaid rent at the end of a tenancy.

Other reasons that were ranked less highly included unwanted personal belongings left behind, keys not being returned, and unpaid bills at the end of a tenancy.

Here are most common reasons why landlords refuse to return tenant deposits in full.

1. Leaving a property dirty

In total, nine out of 10 surveyed lettings agents said this was the reason for deposits not being returned to tenants - by far the highest of all reasons mentioned.

In most cases, properties are professionally cleaned at the beginning of a tenancy - and while tenants are not required to use a professional cleaning company when they vacate the property, landlords can expect the same level of cleanliness as documented in the inventory at the start of the agreement.

Landlords are advised by Arla Propertymark to take photographic evidence at the beginning and end of the tenancy agreement to support their claim for money back from the deposit.

2. Lack of maintenance

While there are allowances for general wear and tear, tenants are still expected to maintain a property they’re renting. This includes keeping gardens in the same state they were in when a tenant moved in.

The research suggested that 44 per cent of letting agents claimed that a lack of maintenance is why deposits were not returned.

3. Damage to the property and its contents

Tenants are often tempted to stick their own photos on the wall or hang their own pictures. But the direct damage this can cause is cited as another reason for holding back a deposit according to 39 per cent of letting agents.

4. Unpaid rent

Deposits cannot be returned until all rent arrears are paid - and unpaid rent is the reason why tenants do not get their deposits back according to 31 per cent of letting agents.

Sally Lawson, president of Arla Propertymark, advised tenants: “The general rule is to leave it as you found it.”

It means landlords should consider flagging up anything that is not as it was at the start of the tenancy during the deposit negotiations with their tenant.

The results in full

Reason for not returning a full deposit Percentage of agents who mentioned it
Lack of sufficient cleanliness 88%
Lack of maintenance (i.e. overgrown gardens) 44%
Direct damage to the property and its contents 39%
Unpaid rent at the end of the tenancy 31%
Damage due to carelessness and lack of maintenance 29%
Unwanted personal belongings left behind 12%
Keys not returned at the end of tenancy 2%
Unpaid bills at the end of the tenancy 2%
Pest infestation 2%

What would lead you to keeping a tenants’ deposit? Let us know below.

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