Ask TDS: "Can my landlord keep my deposit to cover the cost of redecoration, and then not do it?"

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; we offer both insured and custodial protection. We also provide fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the deductions from the tenancy deposits that we protect. This article has been written in response to a tenant's query: "Can my landlord keep my deposit to cover the cost of redecoration, and then not do it?"


Why might a landlord be awarded part or all of a disputed deposit?

It is unfortunate that a minority of tenancies do not end well. When the tenancy ends, tenants will often want their deposits back in full but a landlord may make a claim against their deposit for loss of value, damage, or to cover costs of work needing to be done to the property. As both parties feel their claim is valid, this can lead to a dispute – where a third party such as Tenancy Deposit Scheme can be asked to make a decision based on the facts and evidence available.

One of the most common reasons for disputes is cleaning, or lack thereof. Today, we will look at redecoration which is involved in 32% of all disputes. “Fair wear and tear” is a term that you will often hear, but its definition can be hard to pin down. Essentially, it means that while a landlord can’t expect the carpet to be in perfect condition after 3 years, they can expect it not to have been damaged or aged beyond what would normally happen.

The difficulty arises then, how do we know what is normal? In order to protect themselves, landlords should take a very thorough inventory. The written word is key, and while pictures of every item are useful supplementary evidence, they can seldom replace a good written inventory. Including the date of purchase, and even the receipt, can ensure that the adjudicator can clearly see the value and age of the item before the tenant moved in.

Deposit protection

Does the landlord have to spend the award to fix the issue? 

Let’s look at what happens when the adjudication is made in the landlord’s favour. If the adjudicator agrees that, for example, the tenant has damaged a carpet and makes an award of £300 to the landlord, do they have to use the money awarded to replace the carpet?

A tenant may complain that they were charged for redecoration, or the replacement of something (carpet, or curtains for example) yet when they revisited the property with new tenants there, they realised the landlord had not replaced the item they were charged for! Despite tenants perhaps feeling this is unfair, it is the landlord’s choice as to whether they use any awarded money to fix/replace the item.

Disputed money will be awarded to the landlord to remedy a loss, and should be considered as a compensatory amount. The landlord may have decided to accept a lower rent rather than spend the money on replacing the carpet or accepted that the property may be more difficult to let. Regardless of the motivation, the landlord is under no obligation to spend the money making good the damage.


Not all cases are as clear cut. Deductions for cleaning, or redecorating can be hard to prove without clear and comprehensive check-in and check-out reports. TDS advises that these are always in place and where disputes do arise, the best way in which tenants and landlords resolve issues is to communicate clearly and often.

Liked this article? Share it with your friends and colleagues! If you want to read more like this, you can view our recent blog post ‘The 12 Tips of Christmas’ for more useful tenancy tips for landlords.


Posted by Zoe Knighton on 18 January 2017

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