WHO'S right when tenants say they've left a place clean at the end of a tenancy and the landlord claims it's dirty?

Different ideas about acceptable standards of cleanliness turned out to be the number one cause for dispute in the 12 months since the Tenancy Deposit Scheme was introduced in May last year.

Complaints over cleaning haven't been the sole cause for deposits being withheld.

Lawrence Greenberg, chief executive of the deposit scheme, said: "As well as opinions differing over what is clean or not, we are most often called upon to adjudicate on the costs of small amounts of damage where redecoration is needed.

"Also damage caused by pets, especially when they have not been specifically allowed under the terms of the tenancy agreement is often a bone of contention."

Gardens are another area where judgements differ.

Untidy gardens are sometimes blamed on the elements.

Whether nature is the cause or the patch looks a mess due to too little muscle power by the tenants has also been referred to TDS to resolve.

More than 80 disputes have been tackled by the arbitration scheme since it was launched and a further 40 are on-going.

The values at stake have ranged from £70 to £12,000.

"The causes of the disputes are all broadly similar," says Greenberg.

"It is just that sometimes the sums involved vary from small to large."

The new route to justice for tenants and landlords is backed by the three professional bodies whose members are involved with the rental market: the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the National Association of Estate Agents and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The organisers believe the initiative can be a great help to students. "Deposit problems can often make it difficult for students and many other young people to move on as the amounts involved in a withheld deposit can be substantial," say the TDS team.

Money owed is returned within five working days once a decision is made and a hearing takes no more than ten days after a case is referred.

The organisers stress: "Use of the scheme benefits landlords too as it requires all rent to be paid up-to-date before independent dispute resolution can be used.

"This is expected to help abolish the culture of withholding the final rental payment for fear of a deposit being retained unfairly."