I recently talked about landlords and agents safeguarding tenancy deposits to ensure that each Assured Shorthold Tenancy is legally compliant. Ensuring a deposit is secured is also comforting for the tenant, as it gives them backing, should a landlord/agent not offer adequate reason for withholding some – or all – of a deposit at the end of the tenancy.
When you become a tenant, any deposit paid must be protected with one of the three Government -backed tenancy deposit schemes: the Deposit Protection Service; MyDeposits – including deposits that were held by Capita – or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
They all operate slightly differently but, in a nutshell, the deposit is secured within a scheme within 30 days of receipt and the landlord or agent has to supply all relevant information as to where the deposit is being kept with the tenant.
At the end of the tenancy, the deposit is repaid, assuming you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, don’t damage the property and pay your rent and bills. As a tenant, you have to contact the landlord or agent to request the return of your deposit.
A landlord or agent may choose to withhold some – or all – of a deposit if you owe rent, have damaged the property (beware red wine spills!) or lost or broken an item that is detailed in the inventory (this last one is particularly applicable to furnished properties)
Money from the deposit shouldn’t be retained to replace carpet that has worn out gradually over time or to repair unfixed damages that you reported during the tenancy (such as leaks). General wear and tear of the property is the Landlords responsibility, however, breakages and damage will fall on your shoulder!
As a tenant, what can you do to ensure you get your full deposit back if at all possible?
Basically, you ought to aim to leave the property in the same condition that you found it in – or better!
(I remember one tenant who left her apartment so clean that you could have eaten your dinner off the floor. When I mentioned it, she said she always liked to leave a property in the condition she would like to find one in.)
So yes, cleaning to a high standard prior to leaving is definitely a good idea.
But obviously, don’t just leave it until the 11th hour… it’s important to care for the property and keep it clean throughout the duration of your tenancy. It makes it so much easier when you move out if you’ve kept on top of things all along.
It’s also wise to repair any minor damages you may have made and touch up any paintwork.
Referring to the inventory is extremely important as it will detail what condition the property was in at the start of the tenancy so you know what standard you are working to.
Anything you can do to ensure the property is in good condition when you leave will go in your favour and can give you the best possible chance of a full deposit refund.
It’s also wise to document the condition of the property before your departure. So take some photos and even consider asking the landlord or agent to agree to and sign a check out inventory so, together, you can compile a record of the condition of walls, carpets and any furnishings, etc.
If your landlord or agent does intend to take money from your deposit, they are legally obliged to tell you why. If they don’t, you can ask them for their reasoning (preferably in writing, with evidence such as a decorator’s quote for the cost of repainting if possible).
If you don’t have any joy and/or you think you are being over charged, you can challenge them and take action to get your deposit back. That’s why the tenancy deposit schemes exist: to protect and work for all parties involved.
If you don’t receive information from your landlord or agent at the start of a tenancy with regards to the protection of your deposit, it is definitely worth chasing up for your own peace of mind further down the line.
If you are not sure whether your money has been protected or don’t know which scheme it’s in, this useful article from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau can help.