March 13, 2024 at 8:38 am

Landlord Tried To Steal Part Of The Deposit When She Moved Out, But She Knew The Law And Ended Up Getting A Lot More Money

by Matthew Gilligan

Source: Reddit/AITA/Unsplash/@sharonmccutcheon

Ugh…it’s another bad landlord story from Reddit…

And if you read a lot of stories on that website, you know that bad landlords are EVERYWHERE.

But the woman who wrote this story wasn’t messing around and she ended up getting some epic revenge!

Check out how she handled this precarious situation.

Landlord tries to rip me off for £400, ends up having to pay me over £6.5k.

“Last year I moved out of a house that I had rented for 5 years with no problems. I always had a good relationship with the landlord. There are 2 relevant bits of background to this story.

The rules are clear.

In the UK, where I live, the standard practice when renting a house is to sign a tenancy agreement for a year. At the end of the year, if you want to stay in the house and the landlord is happy with that, you can just do nothing and the tenancy will continue automatically until either tenant or landlord gives notice.

Alternatively you can sign a new 1-year tenancy agreement each year, which isn’t really necessary but some landlords want it. My landlord wanted me to sign a new tenancy agreement each year – fine, whatever.

So, since I rented the house for 5 years, there were 5 tenancy agreements in total.

By law the landlord was required to protect my security deposit. That meant that she had to put it into a special kind of account within 30 days of receiving it. The tenant then receives login details for the account so that they can check that it’s protected and view various info about it.

There’s a reason they do it this way.

One point of doing this is so that the deposit is held by an independent party who can mediate if the landlord and tenant disagree about any deductions – there is a dispute process that the tenant can request and which is free (for the tenant) to use.

So, I’d been living in the house for almost 5 years and I gave notice to end the tenancy, because I was buying a house. After I’d given notice, the landlord emailed me to ask if I was planning to hire a gardener to ensure that the garden would be returned to the (pretty manicured) state it was in when I moved in.

I thought this was strange, because my tenancy agreement explicitly forbade me from doing the sorts of things in the garden that would have been necessary to maintain its original state (e.g. it said that I was not allowed to lop any shrubs or bushes). So, all I’d been doing is cutting the grass and the hedge.

Basically, that clause looked like something that a landlord would include if they planned to maintain the garden themselves, except she didn’t maintain it while I was living there – in retrospect, it seems that she didn’t read her own tenancy agreement properly.

I replied to the landlord’s email about the garden. I quoted the part of the tenancy agreement that forbade me from doing certain things in the garden, and expressed my confusion. I asked her to clarify what her expectations were about the state of the garden, given what it said in the tenancy agreement.


She didn’t reply, but a couple of weeks later, I received an email from her husband/boyfriend telling me that the landlord was anxious about the garden and I should ensure that it is returned to the same state as at the start of the tenancy.

I replied to him and again asked for clarification, given the wording of the tenancy agreement. He replied saying he’d have the landlord get back to me herself, which she never did.

Without any guidance about the garden, I just did my best with it. My boyfriend, who is an experienced gardener, did the work here – I asked him just to do whatever he thought was best.

He cut back bushes and cleared loads of stuff – I spent a few hundred £££ on having garden waste removed. I knew that technically I did not need to do that, but wanted to do what I could to keep relations good between me and the landlord.

I moved out, the tenancy ended, and after not hearing anything from the landlord for a couple of weeks, and not having my deposit back, I emailed the landlord to ask about the deposit.

Here it comes…

Having ignored my queries about the garden before the end of the tenancy, she chose this moment to announce that she wanted to deduct £400 from my deposit to carry out work on the garden.

There followed a really time-wasting back-and-forth by email in which I pointed out that the terms of the tenancy agreement were incompatible with my being able to maintain the original state of the garden, and she just kept repeating that the garden was not returned to her in its original state.

In the end, I suggested that since we couldn’t agree about deductions from my deposit, we should use the independent dispute process offered by the company that was holding the deposit. That process needs to be kicked off by the landlord, so I asked her to authorise it.

She didn’t do that – instead she kept wasting my time by sending me emails trying to negotiate an amount to put the garden right, which I wasn’t going to entertain.

Meanwhile, I could not log into the account where my deposit was being held. I contacted the company and it turned out that my landlord had ‘accidentally’ input my email address incorrectly when registering the deposit … which I found very strange, because she had emailed me successfully dozens of times throughout the time I was living in the house, so she definitely knew my email address.

She was in a tough place.

Without being able to log in, I was unable to officially dispute any deductions she was proposing. There is a window of 3 months after the end of the tenancy when you can dispute any deductions, after that you either take what the landlord is willing to return or go to court.

Apparently (according to Justice for Tenants, who I contacted for advice) it’s relatively common for unscrupulous landlords to register their tenants’ details incorrectly in an attempt to make it harder for them to recover their deposits in the timeframe available for disputes.

I had a long back-and-forth with the deposit company, after which I finally gained access to my deposit account. When I got into it, I looked at the info and noticed that the landlord had not protected my deposit until the day after I gave her notice to end the tenancy.

There are laws about this stuff!

That meant she protected my deposit well after the 30-day deadline by which she was supposed to do it by law. There are penalties for landlords that fail to comply with the laws around tenancy deposits: if they break the rules and the tenant takes them to court, they have to return the full deposit PLUS between 1 and 3 times the amount of the deposit as compensation.

Also, they are not allowed to make any deductions from a tenant’s deposit if they haven’t complied with the law.

I emailed the landlady a bit more firmly than I had previously (things had been cordial but increasingly frosty). I pointed out that she could not make any deductions from my deposit because she had not complied with the law.

She responded by sending me quite a tantrummy, insulting email and authorising the return of my full deposit. So, yay for the deposit back, but what a jerk insulting me when I hadn’t done anything wrong.

I was ****** off by the fact that she tried to rip me off and wasted hours and hours of my time trying to sort this out. Not to mention the stress – just seeing an email from her land in my inbox caused my stomach to flip by this point.

This is when things started to get a bit more exciting. As I said above, landlords who don’t comply with the law around tenancy deposits have to pay between 1 and 3 times the value of the deposit in compensation, plus return the full deposit, if they get taken to court.

Laws were broken!

The documentation from the tenancy deposit scheme proved that she had broken the law. I’d already had my deposit back, but it was clear that if I took her to court, I would receive a minimum of that amount again.

Except, of course, I didn’t have just the one tenancy agreement with her. As I already mentioned, she had insisted on my signing a new tenancy agreement every year.


So, I’d had 5 tenancy agreements in total. I spent a few hours checking the law and going through old emails and documentation, and it turned out that she had failed to protect my deposit correctly in all of the 5 tenancies I had with her. I had a ton of documentation to prove that.

That meant that, if I took her to court, I stood to receive a minimum of not 1 but 5 times the amount of my original deposit (over £6.5k).

It would cost me a couple of hundred £ to take her to court, and I was 100% willing to do that – in fact, at this point I was relishing that prospect. In order to take her to court, I first had to send her a ‘letter before action’ in which I set out my complaint against her and gave her an opportunity to make an offer to avoid going to court.

I had a barrister friend who was helping me out at this point with advice, for free. The landlord replied to my letter quite dismissively, basically saying that it was ‘clearly’ just an admin error that caused her to fail to protect my deposit correctly every year for 5 years (lol), and accusing me of being motivated by a ‘windfall’.

I replied by email, correcting her various mistaken assumptions and repeating the need for her to make an offer in order to avoid court. After a while she replied and offered me £4000. I told her that the minimum I would accept was a little over £6.5k (I forget the exact figure) since that was the minimum I would stand to get in court.

She agreed, with certain conditions attached – perhaps conditions that she thought I might not be able to fulfil (things like sending her copies of all the documentation relating to the deposit for previous years’ tenancies) but which I was able to do immediately.

I tried to tell ya!

When the money landed in my bank account, I emailed her to explain that I would have dropped my complaint against her immediately had she at any point offered a sincere apology (which was true, at least up until that final email where she insulted me).

I also said that I hoped she would deal more fairly and reasonably with future tenants. She didn’t reply.

I hope that I will never again be a tenant, but having spent many years being jerked around by bad landlords and letting agents, it was satisfying to end my renting days with such a satisfying and profitable middle finger.”

Check out how people reacted to this story.

One individual said the landlord deserved it.

Source: Reddit/AITA

This reader was a big fan of this story.

Source: Reddit/AITA

Another Reddit user shared their own story.

Source: Reddit/AITA

This person offered some advice.

Source: Reddit/AITA

Another person said they wish it worked this way in America…

Source: Reddit/AITA

Down with bad landlords!


Want to read another story where somebody got satisfying revenge? Check out this post about a woman who tracked down a contractor who tried to vanish without a trace.