Co-tenants – who is entitled to the deposit?

Q.  My wife and I have been renting a property for the last couple of years but sadly our relationship has broken down and we are divorcing. I moved out of the property a few months ago leaving my ex to meet the last few rent payments while the tenancy notice period played out. To be fair I had paid the rent payments in full for the past twenty months previously anyway. Now the tenancy has ended we are trying to get the deposit back and my wife wants the whole amount credited to her given I left her in the lurch for the rent the last couple of months, however my augment is that I paid the deposit in full in the first place and always paid the rent. Surely the agent is liable to return the deposit to whoever paid it initially at the commencement of the tenancy?

A.  Sadly relationship breakdowns can cause an awful lot of bad feeling and resentment and whilst I can see both sides we must take the TDS (Tenancy Deposit Schemes) advise when it relates to such matters. The TDS is there to resolve disputes between Tenants and Landlords, they will not entertain a dispute between tenants themselves at all not even when it relates to who the deposit should be released to. Unfortunately, just because you were the one that paid the deposit in full initially it doesn’t mean that the full amount is automatically returned to you by default. Assuming you signed a joint tenancy agreement it makes you both joint and severally liable, which means that before the agent can release the deposit you must both come to an agreement between yourselves with respect to how it is split and until you are able to get on the same page and do this the agent has no choice but to retain the deposit in the scheme. Given how fractious things are between you I am assuming the agent is contacting you both separately to discuss the way forward? Considering the circumstances I believe the fairest solution is to agree a 50/50 split that way you can quit arguing and move on with your separate lives. Once agreed the agent will need to get you both to sign a ‘Deposit release form’. Once they are in receipt of this signed by both parties however you decide to share the split the agent can then release the deposit.

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