Renting a home normally involves paying a deposit of four to six weeks rent before you move into the property.
Landlords should place all deposits in a Government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme and provide written proof of this at the start of your contract.
If they want to take cash from this pot, for example, if there’s some damage to the property at the end of the contract or unpaid bills, they’ll need evidence to support their claim.
Yet while you should be protected from losing your deposit unless it’s a reasonable claim, plenty of renters still find hitches when it comes to having the cash returned.
We’ve offered some tips to help…
1. Ensure your deposit is protected
If you’re signing up for an Assured Short hold Tenancy (AST). it’s a legal requirement that your deposit is held in a tenancy deposit scheme.
Make sure you know which scheme is being used, how to claim your deposit back and what to do if there’s a dispute.
In England and Wales your deposit can be held in the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and Tenancy Deposit Schemes. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate schemes.
Under these, landlords have 30 days to return your deposit after you leave the property, or may face paying a financial penalty.
2. Take pictures – and check the inventory
If you’re signing up for an Assured Short hold Tenancy (AST) it’s a legal requirement that your deposit is held in a tenancy deposit scheme.
The agent or landlord should undertake a thorough inventory when you move into the property, listing everything that’s there and its condition.
Make sure you check this carefully and agree with what’s written, as this is typically what’s used as evidence in the event of a deposit being partially or fully withheld.
3. Keep hold of all documents
Until your deposit is returned, make sure you retain any documents you’re given at the start of the tenancy or accrue during your stay.
This includes the tenancy agreement, inventory, any photos of the property (date-stamped), and correspondence with your landlord/agent.
You never know when a dispute might arise, and you need a particular document as evidence.
4. Raise any concerns with the agent/landlord
Don’t delay if there’s a problem during your tenancy, such as the oven breaking, or you notice damage to fixtures or fittings. Report this to your agent, or landlord and keep a record of any communication.
Even if there’s a minor issue, such as the toaster breaking, it’s worth telling your landlord so they can replace it and you don’t end up forking out at the end of the tenancy.
5. Dispute fair wear and tear
Remember that a landlord can’t hold on to your deposit for fair wear and tear, for example, faded paint, minor scuffs on the walls, or dirty curtains.
Money can only be deducted for actual damage, such as broken furniture or a failure to pay rent.
If you face a dispute over this, contact your tenancy deposit scheme (TDS).
6. Sort any damage before moving out
If it’s straightforward to do so, fixing any damage caused during your tenancy before moving out is recommended. This way you can shop around for a deal, make sure you’re not overcharged, and that there aren’t any nasty surprises.
For example, it is likely to be cheaper to remove a carpet stain before to you leave than to have costs deducted from your deposit.
Note that apart from reasonable wear and tear, you are legally obliged to return the property as you found it.
7. Look after the property
Keeping up with general upkeep during your tenancy is one of the major ways to ensure you get your full deposit returned.
This means keeping it clean and ventilated, clearing outstanding bills, and being mindful of its condition.
8. Taking things further
If you believe your deposit has been retained unfairly, then what recourse do you have?
Your first course of action is to communicate clearly and concisely with your landlord stating why you disagree with the decision.
Mistakes do happen and neither party may be in possession of the full facts. For example, there could have been a bill you’ve forgotten to pay, or the landlord may have missed something from the initial itinerary and docked your deposit as result.
If you can come to an agreement, even if that’s a compromise, you can resolve the issue and move on. But if you reach an impasse, then you can turn to an independent body for a resolution.
All reputable agents should be members of one of three redress schemes, the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services, and the Property Redress Scheme.