How to dispute unfair landlord charges

If you disagree with damages claimed against your security deposit, you need to write a letter to landlord to dispute damages claimed within 7 days.

If the landlord does not refund your security deposit in full after you have given him your forwarding address, he must (within 30 days of your vacating the property) send you a letter with a list of damages.

How to dispute unfair landlord charges

Our sample letter below addresses each item diputed.

Refer to our Renters Rights page for tenant information. and our Letter to Landlord page for other sample letters.

Letter to Landlord to Dispute Damages Claimed

Your letter of damages for the following property refers:

Your letter with the list of damages dated ______________ was received by me on this date _____________.

I do not agree with the following claims made by you:

Claim of damage: ______________________________________

My reason for dispute: ___________________________________

Claim of damage: ______________________________________

My reason for dispute: ___________________________________

Claim of damage: ______________________________________

My reason for dispute: ___________________________________

The total amount which will be disputed by me is _________________

I therefore expect the security deposit to be refunded to the amount of ____________

For further discussion I can be contacted on the following telephone numbers:

As with all letters to landlord our advice is to send it by registered mail and to retain proof of mailing and copies of letters.

There is no reason for you to simply accept deductions made against your security deposit. Your Letter to Landlord to Dispute Damages Claimed may well be enough to ensure your refund.

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How to dispute unfair landlord charges


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    Find out what to do if you have one of these complaints when buying or renting a home.

    On This Page

    • Complaints About Mortgage Companies
    • Identify and Complain about Housing Discrimination
    • Landlord and Tenant Disputes

    Complaints About Mortgage Companies

    If you have a complaint against a mortgage company, try to resolve it with the company first. Several government agencies accept complaints about mortgage lenders. In some cases, you should file your complaint with more than one agency, especially at the federal and state level.

    Report a Mortgage Company for Discrimination

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforces the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. This law prohibits lenders from denying credit because of certain characteristics. File a complaint with the CFPB if a lender has denied a mortgage application because of your:

    Sex (including gender)

    Nationality or ethnicity

    Income from public assistance programs

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the Fair Housing Act. This law prohibits discrimination when you rent, buy, or secure financing for a home. Your state may also have a similar law. File a complaint with HUD and the fair housing office in your state if a mortgage company discriminated against you because of your:

    Presence of children

    File a Complaint About Mortgage Company Services

    The CFPB enforces several laws, such as the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. These laws require lenders to disclose information to homebuyers before buying and over the life of the mortgage. File a complaint with the CFPB if you have a problem with a new or existing mortgage. Examples of common mortgage complaints include:

    Applying for a mortgage

    Receiving loan estimates and closing documents

    Transferring a mortgage to another servicer

    Applying your payments correctly

    Refinancing or modifying a mortgage loan

    Misreporting mortgage account status to you or to credit reporting agencies

    Requiring private mortgage insurance

    Paying additional fees

    Report Deceptive Mortgage Practices and Scams

    The Federal Trade Commission Act is the primary statute of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It states that unfair and deceptive practices affecting commerce are unlawful. Report a mortgage company to the FTC if it makes deceptive statements, omits important facts, or takes misleading actions. Examples include:

    False statements about their ability to offer a loan

    Fees for mortgage services that aren’t provided

    Illegal tactics to collect on mortgage balances

    Identify and Complain about Housing Discrimination

    Housing discrimination happens when a housing provider acts in a way that blocks someone from renting or buying housing because of their

    • Race or color
    • Religion
    • Sex
    • National origin
    • Familial status (such as having children)
    • Disability

    A housing provider that discriminates against someone could be a landlord or a real estate management company. It could also be a lending institution like a bank or other organization that is an important part of acquiring a home.

    Housing discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination covered by the Act can take many different forms beyond just raising prices or lying about availability. For example, the Act addresses wheelchair access in some newer properties. Learn what the Fair Housing Act covers, how to complain, and how the investigation process works.

    File a Housing Discrimination Complaint

    If you think you are a victim of housing discrimination,

    • Complete and submit a Housing Discrimination Complaint Form or
    • Contact your regional HUD office

    Discrimination Against LGBT People

    The Fair Housing Act does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But discrimination against someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) may still be in violation of the Act or other state or local regulations. If you think you’ve been discriminated against for these reasons, file a complaint as described above, or email HUD at [email protected] with general questions about LGBT housing issues.

    Landlord and Tenant Disputes

    As a tenant, if you pay to rent a home or an apartment, you may at some point have a dispute with the landlord or management company. Often disputes are about the conditions of the building, essential services, rent increases, or your right to stay. It’s best to come to an agreement directly with the landlord or manager. Make sure you get everything in writing. And if you and the landlord can’t agree, you can turn to outside help.

    Getting Help for a Dispute with a Landlord

    Laws about the rights of tenants and landlords are almost always handled at the state level. Find help from your state with this directory of state-level agencies and resources for tenants. Results differ for each state, but you may find:

    You may eventually decide that you need help from a lawyer. See if you qualify for free legal aid from a non-profit organization.
    Direct complaints about housing discrimination or landlords who receive assistance from the federal government to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Before There’s a Problem

    It’s best to avoid a dispute if possible.

    Understand your lease completely.

    Keep all correspondence between you and your landlord.

    Communicate problems early on and in writing, noting date and time of phone calls.

    Keep proof of rent and deposits paid.

    Do you have a question?

    Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They’ll get you the answer or let you know where to find it.

    Last Updated: February 16, 2021

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    USAGov is the Official Guide to Government Information and Services

    This is a legal document.

    Your letter is making a statement concerning your legal position in terms of charges by your business.

    Make sure that the contents of your letter are strictly accurate, and that your charges have been properly notified to the other party beforehand.

    Important note: If the other party has received incorrect information regarding current charges or costs from your end, you may be at fault.

    In theory, if you supply information regarding a transaction which is incorrect, for whatever reason, you’re misrepresenting the terms of the transaction.

    Always check to make sure your client hasn’t been misinformed concerning charges or transaction terms by any information supplied by you or your staff.

    (It sometimes happens that people are supplied with old fee lists, etc. If so, you may want to consider investigating the client’s problems, assuming the client was acting in good faith at the time of the transaction.)

    It will be noted in this example that the client is being given a chance to supply information which supports their claim.

    Your Reference
    Our Reference

    Dispute of charges

    I refer to your letter / email of (date) disputing charges for (description of goods or services).

    This dispute appears to be a result of a misunderstanding.

    To the best of our knowledge, the charges incurred are based on the correct scale of fees at the time of the transaction.

    We do not generally make exceptions in billing procedures.

    However, in the interests of ensuring you were correctly informed regarding our charges, it is requested you provide us with a copy of any fee schedule or other information supplied by this firm supporting your estimate of costs.

    Please be advised that in the absence of any supporting documentation of your claim, we cannot make any change to our billing for these goods / services.

    Please contact me on the above phone number or email, if you wish to discuss this matter directly, or require any explanation of this procedure.


    Optional text

    Information you have provided indicates that your expected charges are based on an old fee schedule.

    Please advise:

    In view of the fact that you were obviously given out of date charges, we are prepared to consider modification of our charges on supply of this information.

    Please note:

    • This text is intended for advisory and guideline purposes only.
    • Any business letter can become a legal document, so check your content properly before issuing.
    • Any executable or statutorily defined document should be checked for compliance with legal requirements, and you should seek legal advice regarding its contents.

    by Jason Ostendorf
    June 18, 2012

    A good landlord is a blessing, but a bad one can really cause you financial damage and a lower quality of life. Landlords have used ambiguous leases and a lack of knowledge of tenant rights to extort a lot of money from their tenants for repairs. They may even threaten to report you to collections if you don’t pay up, which will affect your next tenant screening negatively. Here’s what you can do to effectively prevent or dispute an unfair charge from your landlord.

    Know Your Rights

    First, you need to know your rights as a tenant. These rights vary from state to state, and few tenants ever do the necessary research to learn about them. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a website where you can learn about the tenant rights of your state. It will instruct you on what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant.

    Once you’re familiar with these, next you’ll want to examine your lease carefully for loopholes that violate these laws. If you can conclusively prove that a portion of your lease is invalid, you may be able to get out of paying the fees your landlord is demanding. Consult with your lawyer to get a sure answer if you’re unclear about any portion of your lease or tenant laws. Many states have a hotline that you can call for free legal advice about landlord-tenant disputes.

    Keep a Paper Trail

    Since you may end up in a court of law if you dispute your charges, it’s very important for you document everything as thoroughly as possible. Take photos of the damage from multiple angles, with date and time stamps if possible. It’s good to do this when you first move into a new home or apartment. Keep records of all correspondence, and don’t agree to anything verbally with your landlord. Also, keep your tone professional and polite, even if your landlord is being a demon. If you go to court, the tone of your letters will be taken into consideration by the judge.

    Remember that the landlord owns your property because he or she wants to make a profit from it. By staying aware of the appropriate laws, and sending polite, yet firm, letters stating your rights and the laws that back them up, you may be able to get them to drop their charges. If you can show that litigation is going to cost them more than the cost of the repairs, they may back off.

    Also, landlords are required to keep detailed records of all repairs and cleaning costs. If you’re charge a generic “cleaning” fee when you move out, request an itemized list detailing what they did and how much it cost. If they refuse to do that, then you’ve got a pretty good case. Your state may also require them to keep the invoices of the people they hired to clean your apartment. Ask for those as well if that’s applicable. If they can legitimately show that you owe something, but are trying to take advantage of repairs that are normal wear and tear, own up to the stuff you owe and dispute the rest. Showing that you’re reasonable will go a long way before a small-claims judge.

    Seek Legal Advice

    If you do all the above, and your landlord still won’t back down, get some legal advice and don’t be afraid to sue. It’s a last resort, but if you have a strong case then it may be worth it. Make sure that you’re suing the right person though! Many property owners hire out property management firms to take care of a property. If an individual manager isn’t doing what they’re told, you may want to talk with the company they work for first. If a lawsuit is necessary, you’ll need to sue the firm and the actual owner to recover any damages. You’ll likely have to go through arbitration or mediation first. Also, ask your lawyer if there are any organizations that might pay your court fees.

    Most landlords want to have a good relationship with their tenants. A tenant that stays in a home means money is coming in for the landlord. Still, there are plenty of greedy landlords out there who will try to take every last bit of cash they can from you. Learn your rights and make sure your landlord knows you’re familiar with the law. Keep calm and polite no matter how much they make you angry or frustrated, and you’ll be well on your way to saving yourself a lot of cash.

    For more information, check out FidelisAM, a US based company providing tenant and resident screening services.

    If you found this article informative, and would like more free legal insights, then don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Twitter using the buttons below.

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    how to dispute landlord charges?

    Hello! Got a questions here about landlord-tenant dispute for
    non-rental related charges.

    We moved into a commercial space in a mall 2 years ago and have been
    excellent tenants. Never missed 1 payment. We moved out and broker our
    lease early. The landlord allowed this but we had to forfeit our
    security deposit of $5,000. No problem.

    I got a bill yesterday from the landlord for $4,000 in “reapairs”.
    Some of the “repairs” are rediculously overprice. For example, putting
    a new wallplat on a light switch (ten cents) was billed as $150.
    Putting on a new toilet seat ($20) was billed as $500. In addition,
    when we moved into the place it was totally trashed and we had to put
    in new carpet, paint the walls, etc. which cost us $15,000. Most of
    the repair charges he is hitting us with are for cleaning or repairing
    the items we had to buy and put into the place to begin with because
    the place was such a dump!

    Now if we formally dispute this bill with the landlord can he still
    send a collection agency after us while it is disputed (that is what he
    is threatening)?

    What usually happens with this stuff? It seems to go to court will cost
    as much as what he is asking.

    Any opinions on the course of action we should take from here besides
    disputing in writing?

    You can complain about your landlord if they’re doing something wrong or you’re unhappy with their behaviour, for example if:

    • they aren’t doing repairs they’re responsible for
    • they’re harassing you, for example by entering your home without your permission
    • they discriminate against you, for example by charging you a higher rent or deposit than other tenants because of your nationality, race, age or sex

    It’s best to speak to your landlord first to solve your problem. If this doesn’t help there are other steps you can take to complain.

    If you have an emergency situation for example, you’re being illegally evicted or threatened with violence you should call the police straightaway.

    Don’t be afraid to make a complaint – you shouldn’t have to put up with a bad service. The law is there to help you.

    Your landlord can’t just end your tenancy because you’ve made a complaint – but they might try, especially if you’ve got an assured shorthold tenancy. Talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re worried about being evicted for making a complaint.

    Speak to your landlord

    You can often get your problem solved quickly by speaking to your landlord first. Explain what you’re unhappy about and ask them to sort out the problem.

    Take someone with you for support when you speak to your landlord if you feel it will help you. If you don’t want to speak to them face to face or on the phone you could email.

    Before discussing the problem you should:

    note down everything you want to say – you can refer to your notes during your conversation or put them in an email

  • Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to discuss the situation – they can check your legal rights and help you speak to your landlord
  • You can find your landlord’s name and contact details (including their address) on your tenancy agreement or your rent book. Ask your landlord or their agent for example, a family member that manages the property for the details if you can’t find them. They have to give them to you.

    Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help if you can’t get your landlord’s contact details.

    If speaking to your landlord doesn’t help

    There are steps you can take to complain if your problem isn’t solved by speaking to or emailing your landlord.

    Step 1: make a formal complaint

    You can make a formal complaint by writing a letter to your landlord.

    Explain your problem and what you want them to do to solve it. Tell them what rights you have and what you think they should have done.

    Talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice to find out what rights you have. For example they can tell you if your landlord has do certain repairs or help you check if you’ve been discriminated against.

    Make sure your complaint letter is clear and includes evidence.

    You should include in your letter:

    what you’re complaining about

    what you want them to do about the problem

    dates and times the problem took place

    details of any conversations with your landlord and what they agreed to do

    copies of any letters or emails between you and your landlord

    photographs – for example showing damage or disrepair, particularly if the problem gets worse over time

    receipts for things you’ve had to pay for because of the problem – for example laundry bills if your washing machine broke down

  • a note from your doctor (if possible) – if the problem has affected your health or safety
  • Step 2: complain to your local council

    Your local council can only help with complaints about:

    • repairs that cause a risk to your health and safety not being done (e.g faulty electrical wiring not being fixed)
    • illegal eviction
    • harassment
    • dishonest or unfair trading behaviour

    If you complain about repairs not being done

    Your council should contact you and your landlord to discuss the problem and explain the law if you complain about repairs not being done. They can inspect your home and order your landlord to do the repairs.

    If you complain about being harassed or illegally evicted

    Your local council can investigate if you complain about harassment or illegal eviction. They can tell your landlord to stop harassing you. They also have the power to tell them to stop the illegal eviction. If your landlord ignores their advice they can be taken to court.

    If you complain about your landlord being dishonest or unfair

    You should ask for your problem to be looked at by the Trading Standards team at the council who deal with all complaints about dishonest and unfair trading.

    Your landlord can be given a warning or fine if they’ve broken the law by acting dishonestly or unfairly.

    Acting dishonestly or unfairly could mean not telling you the property has damp or about their charges for example.

    Complain by writing a letter. Explain your problem and the steps you’ve taken to try to solve it with your landlord. Include a copy of the letter you sent to your landlord.

    Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help making a complaint.

    If you still can’t get your problem fixed

    If your landlord still doesn’t sort out your problem after you’ve tried all the steps or if the council can’t help, you might be able to take court action. Taking court action is expensive, make sure it’s the right option for you.

    You might take court action, for example if:

    Get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before taking court action. An adviser can help you look at all your options for dealing with your problem. They can also tell you if you might be able to get help with legal costs.

    Making an Effective Complaint

    Effective complaints about problems with Service Charges will do two things:

    • Provide good grounds for claiming that some kind of error in management of the building, calculation of the service charge, consultation or invoicing, has occurred.
    • Include a credible statement of how this error has had a detrimental effect on them as leaseholder.

    Leaseholders who attempt to dispute their service charges on a ‘technicality’ (something which hasn’t really caused them any real loss) are less likely to successfully dispute their service charge. Service charge practitioners working for landlords are unlikely to respond well to these types of complaints. Tribunals and Courts can also take a dim view of these. Put simply, a complaint has a much greater chance of succeeding if it’s a genuine one.

    It is not advisable for any leaseholder, not matter how sure they feel that their landlord is in the wrong, to go straight to a Court or Tribunal. In the first instance, they should try to discuss the matter directly with their landlord. The reason for this is twofold: firstly, they may well be able avoid unnecessary legal costs for all concerned, and importantly for themselves (leaseholders can end up being penalised if they too hasty in taking legal action); secondly, discussions with a landlord can be enormously helpful to a leaseholder who is attempting a build a case against their landlord.

    All disputes are different, and different landlords have different approaches to dealing with disputes, nonetheless we advise leaseholders to always follow our simple three step process when disputing their Service Charge bills.

    Step 1: Write to Your Landlord

    Put something in writing to your landlord.

    Letters, and e-mails, are very important in the process of disputing a service charge. The ability to write a good letter may mean the difference between winning and losing a dispute.

    A good letter will be grammatical and stick to the point. Emotional outbursts in letters, particularly in the form of wild allegations, tend to detract from the effectiveness of a letter as a whole. Short simple sentences and short paragraphs work best. A straightforward way to structure a letter is:

    • First paragraph sets out what part or parts of the service charge are cause for concern.
    • Second paragraph lists the reasons, in summary, why the leaseholder is concerned with these parts of the service charge.
    • Following paragraphs deal, in turn, with each reason for disputing the charge. You need to put in references to the law, the lease and any evidence you have. Without references to the lease or the law you have not given any kind of legal reason for disputing the charge.
    • Final paragraphs to state how these problems have had a negative effect on you as a leaseholder. At this stage, perhaps right at the end, you can briefly state how it has made you feel emotionally. More reputable landlords place value on providing a good customer experience.

    Step 2: Make a Formal Complaint

    If you don’t receive a satisfactory reply from your landlord, you should write again as a formal complaint. Many large landlords, and the managing agents they sometimes employ, have a formal complaints procedure. Formal complaints are often to dealt with by more knowledge staff with a greater desire to resolve disputes than perhaps the person who answers the first letter.

    Most complaints procedures have a number of stages, as a general rule we advise leaseholders to follow the complaints procedure right to the final stage before taking any further action. Sometimes it can be helpful for Leaseholders to also contact their local councillor or MP to write on their behalf.

    Step 3: Apply to a First Tier Tribunal

    If after completing the complaints procedure (if there is one) a leaseholder remains dissatisfied then they can consider making an application to a First Tier Tribunal (FTT). These bodies, formerly known as Leasehold Valuation Tribunals, are a type of less formal court. Landlords and leaseholders often represent themselves, although if a complex legal issue is in dispute a competent barrister will tend to do a better job of representation. Tribunal hearings typically involve a panel of three persons adjudicating, usually a lawyer, a surveyor and a ‘lay’ person. Hearings can last anything from an hour or two up to several days.

    First Tier Tribunals have the power to make decision on a wide range of service charge issues. Section 27 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 says:

    1) An application may be made to a leasehold valuation tribunal for a determination whether a service charge is payable and, if it is, as to—

    (a) the person by whom it is payable,

    (b) the person to whom it is payable,

    (c) the amount which is payable,

    (d) the date at or by which it is payable, and

    (e) the manner in which it is payable.

    (2)Subsection (1) applies whether or not any payment has been made.

    The only situations where a leaseholder is not permitted to apply to an FTT is where they have already admitted that the service charge is properly due, the same service charge has been or will be the subject of a separate Tribunal or Court case, or an agreement has previously been reached in arbitration. In addition to these restrictions, leaseholders may have difficulties in making an Application if their landlord is in administration. The law protects companies and individuals who have been declared bankrupt from having to contest certain types of legal claims.

    Before embarking on any kind of legal action, it would be wise for the leaseholder to consider what it will cost them. The application fee itself is relatively low, and some people on benefits may be eligible for a waiver of the fee. As of April 2014 the fees were (Source:

    FTTs do have the authority to award costs to a landlord if a leaseholder makes an application with ‘has no merit’ or the leaseholder is acting very unreasonably. This happens very rarely, however, leaseholders should think carefully before making an application as there is a danger that they may end up footing the bill for the landlord’s barristers as the Landlord may be able to recharge their legal costs as service or administration costs. Leaseholders, on the other hand, are very unlikely to be able to recover any costs they incur in hiring lawyers or commissioning surveyor’s reports. For this reasons, leaseholders may benefit from talking to their neighbours (who may have same problem) about making a joint application to share the cost, share information and provide support to each other during the process. There is no legal limit to the number of people who can apply together so long as they are all subject to the same service charge.