Dealing with Disputes and Complaints

17 January 2024

A deposit dispute will need to be dealt with in a particular way and a complaint can highlight problems or areas for improvement.

Handling them effectively will keep you within the regulations and protect your firm’s reputation.


For disputes over deposits, the parties can either go through the adjudication process attached to their relevant tenancy deposit protection scheme – all schemes have an independent dispute resolution service built in, or through the small claims court.

Where there is a deposit dispute and an agent is managing the property, the agent needs to demonstrate they have attempted to mediate between the parties before submitting the dispute to the adjudicators. When submitting the case, all parties provide evidence to the dispute resolution service who will make a decision.

Parties entering into an assured or non-Housing Act 1988 tenancy can voluntarily agree to enter into the tenancy deposit protection scheme and have the deposit protected by one of the government approved schemes.

Each of the deposit protection schemes offer a dispute resolution service by adjudication which is free to landlords and tenants. It requires landlords and tenants to submit evidence of their claim against the deposit. The decision of the adjudicator is final.

Deposit Return

Under the government-licensed schemes, any amount of deposit that is not in dispute must be returned to the tenants within 10 days of evidence of the agreement to dispose of the deposit. The amount in dispute will be allocated according to the adjudicator’s decision within 10 days of the decision.

Small Claims Court

Landlords and tenants not linked to a deposit scheme may decide to take a deposit dispute to the small claims court. Relevant documents and records are required to demonstrate and support the claim.

Complaints About Agents

If an agent is a member of a professional body they will have their own internal complaints procedure. If the complaint is not satisfied internally, it can be pursued via the professional body, a redress scheme (which covers lettings as well as estate agency) or court.

Complaints About Landlords

Although agents act on behalf of their landlord clients, they have a duty of care to tenants and therefore should investigate complaints about landlords from tenants. It is essential to establish whether the complaint is justified. Agents must advise landlords as soon as possible of the consequences of not adhering to their contractual and statutory obligations.

Complaints About Tenants

Agents should write to tenants advising them that they are in breach of the terms of their tenancy agreement and highlighting the clauses relating to the breach. An initial phone call may also help to bring the matter to the tenant’s attention. The agent should give the tenant a timescale within which to resolve the breach and a warning that, if they fail to comply, the landlord may take further action.

If a landlord is unhappy because the behaviour of a tenant puts them in breach of their tenancy agreement, they can serve notice and then, if necessary, seek compensation for losses through the small claims court.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods

A number of alternative dispute resolution methods are available, such as:

  • Arbitration
  • Mediation
  • Conciliation
  • Adjudication.

About Domus Software

This article is published by Domus Estate and Letting Agency Software.

Domus is an easy to use cloud based estate and letting agent software for estate agents to manage sales, lettings, accounting and a client portal.

Find Out More