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By Alexandra Coghlan-Forbes

Head of Adjudication, The DPS


Revealed - the most commonly misunderstood deposit protection terms

Knowing adjudication terms and phrases can make all the difference in a deposit dispute.

The DPS has been helping landlords and letting agents identify how they can improve their claims, to help them have more successful disputes, or to avoid them altogether.

After challenging customers to test their knowledge of several deposit protection terms, we throw a spotlight on where most people got it wrong.


1. Q - Who has the burden of proof in a dispute? A - The landlord

In a dispute, the landlord must provide evidence to support their claim. It’s important to remember the deposit belongs to the tenant and is only held for safekeeping by us.

If the landlord wishes to retain some or all of the deposit and the tenant disagrees, the dispute resolution process will start.

The landlord then needs to persuade the adjudicator with evidence that they’re entitled to the claim. If the evidence isn’t strong enough to prove the claim, the adjudicator has no choice but to award the deposit to the tenant.

Tip: Collecting evidence starts at the beginning of the tenancy. Watch our video on what makes a great check-in.

2. Q - When is the tenant no longer responsible for the property? A - From the date that the tenancy ends.

Tenants are no longer responsible after the tenancy ends. But what does this actually mean? It’s normally when possession of the property is returned to the landlord, but could be a later point if the tenancy agreement has not come to a lawful end.

For example, if a tenant moves out without notice or stays on after the end date on the tenancy agreement, they’re still liable for the property.

Tip: Sign up for our popular dispute webinars and get more great insights like this direct from our adjudicators.

3. Q - What constitutes a ‘professional standard of cleaning’? A - A very high standard of cleanliness.

A lot of tenancy agreements refer to a ‘professional standard of cleaning’ but what does that actually mean? Just over half of you knew that ‘professional standard’ simply means a very high standard.

It’s absolutely possible for tenants to clean to this high standard themselves and even if the landlord has paid a ‘professional’, they might not be up to scratch.

It’s also important to note that the tenant cannot be expected to clean the property to a higher standard than it was when they moved in.

Tip: Test your adjudication skills with our interactive ‘Be the adjudicator’ case studies.

4. Q - What is ‘betterment’? A - Claiming for new/expensive fixtures and fittings to replace old/cheap ones.

Betterment is when the landlord is claiming the costs of making the property better than when the tenants originally moved in. Adjudicators cannot award claims for this.

It includes the example above of expecting tenants to return the property cleaner than when they moved in, as well as for replacing old goods, fixtures or fittings with new or better equivalents, or redecorating the property to a higher standard than at the start of the tenancy.

Adjudicators take residual lifespan into account, so tenants aren’t left with the full cost of replacing 20-year-old furniture if they’ve only used it for a couple of years. Instead they’ll award an appropriate portion towards the cost of replacement.

Tip: Check out The DPS glossary for explanations of lots of deposit protection terminology.

5. Q - What is ‘adjudication’? A - An online assessment of the evidence provided by both parties in a dispute determining whether a landlord's claim is justifiable.

The number one question that people taking the test got wrong was ‘What is adjudication?’. Most thought that dispute adjudication is mediation. In fact, this isn’t the case.

The role of an adjudicator is to decide, using the proof provided by landlords and tenants, whether the tenancy agreement has been breached and if what is being claimed to put this breach right is appropriate.

Adjudicators will never visit the property so it’s the landlord’s responsibility to give an accurate picture of what has happened, and how they want to remedy it, if their claim is going to succeed.

Tip: Visit The DPS website for a step-by-step explanation of adjudication and the dispute resolution process.

Landlords and letting agents regularly tell us that dealing with disputes is by far the most frustrating part of deposit protection. The limits on what adjudicators can award for are based in law, and common to all deposit schemes.

Knowing the correct meanings to these terms, and the restrictions that guide adjudicators’ decisions, can make all the difference between winning and losing a dispute.

So now you’ve learned the top five misunderstood terms, test yourself on the rest by taking the Understanding Terms quiz.

The DPS doesn’t play around when it comes to helping our customers. Since 2007, we've been focused solely on perfecting deposit protection and delivering 10/10 service for our customers.  See how the largest supplier of deposit protection in the UK can help you.

*Alexandra Coghlan-Forbes is Head of Adjudication for The DPS


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