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Many people will borrow money from family or take out a short term loan to cover the cost of their rental deposit. This is why so many of us are keen to get our rental deposits back in full at the end of tenancies.
If you want to make sure you get your deposit back in full, follow the steps in this article. And if you feel that a landlord is trying to unfairly withhold rent, remember that you have rights too. Head to Citizens Advice to find out how to fight back when a landlord is trying to withhold your deposit.
Before signing the contracts
Getting your deposit back in full starts when you sign your tenancy agreement. If the ink has long dried on your rental agreement, you might feel like you’ve missed a step, but it’s worth considering for your next rental. Your rental agreement could hold clues that tell you how to get your rental deposit back in full.
First of all, check which deposit protection scheme your landlord is using. If they aren’t using a deposit protection scheme, you are within your rights to seek legal action. By law, every deposit has to be protected, so your landlord can’t claim they are keeping it in a savings account or similar. They also cannot use your deposit for repairs to the property.
Within 30 days of paying your deposit, you should get confirmation from your landlord about which government approved deposit protection scheme they are using. This will help to protect you in case there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy.
You should also look for unusual clauses in your rental agreement. Are you allowed to dry clothing inside? Do you have a time limit for reporting faults? Are you responsible for cleaning the exterior windows? Are you expected to keep on top of the gardening, if you’re lucky enough to have one?
These are all clues as to how the landlord expects the property to be handed back when you leave. If you move in and the garden is a mess, raise this with your landlord from the beginning of your tenancy.
During the move-in inspection
When you get the keys to your new home, you’re going to be a little bit excited. And you might be more focussed on moving in and getting settled. But hold your fire on moving anything in just yet.
It’s time to go through the house with a fine-tooth comb and mark any faults on your inventory. Don’t assume that your letting agent or landlord has done this for you. You should inspect the following and make a note on the inventory:
- Walls, ceilings and paintwork
- Doorways and door handles
- Floors, including marks, stains and worn-down patches on carpets
- Light fixtures and switches
- Window frames, including the condition of the sealant
- Condition of the furniture
- Water fixtures and drainage. Report any slow draining plug holes
- Outside the property, look for broken gutters, the state of the garden or yard and the condition of the sealant on windows.
Your inventory should already contain photographs, but make sure you take photographs as evidence of damage.
If there is a dispute over the deposit, the only evidence an independent mediator will have is the inventory. This is why it is important to complete this vital step in your tenancy agreement. Make sure you return a signed copy of your inventory to your landlord or letting agent along with any accompanying photos of the damage.
There is a common expectation that a property should be returned in the state it was received in. So if you’re not happy with the cleanliness of the property, say something at the start of your tenancy. It isn’t sufficient to say that you can leave the property in a mess because it was a mess at the beginning.
During the move-in
Be careful when moving your things into your new home. This is probably the most common time that you will do damage to the property. Using a professional moving company can help to limit damage to walls, doors and floors.
Remember that damage done to the property is your responsibility. It’s often easier to fix problems yourself before handing back the keys at the end of the tenancy. This will ensure that you can take control of the cost of repairs. If your landlord has to bring in an external company to fix something that could be repaired with a tube of Polyfilla and a lick of paint, you could end up paying a lot more.
While small cosmetic repairs are usually fine to be managed by the tenant, only carry out repairs that you are confident you can manage yourself. You could do more damage to the property by trying to fix something like a broken tap or washing machine.
During your tenancy
If you spot problems with the property throughout your tenancy, it’s important to notify the landlord as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if the issue doesn’t bother you or you think it’s petty to report it. If the small problem later becomes a big problem, you could be liable for the damage because you failed to report it.
When you hand in your notice
Check your tenancy agreement to find out how much notice you are required to give. Always give notice in writing (email is fine) and ask your landlord or letting agent to confirm receipt in writing. If they don’t confirm receipt, call and ask them to respond. If you don’t give sufficient notice, you could still be on the hook for unpaid rent long after you’ve moved out.
If you want to leave your tenancy agreement early, this may be possible but only with the agreement of your landlord. You are legally responsible for paying rent on the property until the end of your contract. If you leave before the end of your contract, your landlord could withhold your entire deposit for unpaid rent.
Preparing to move out
You’ve found a new place to live and paid yet another deposit. Now is the time to start thinking about how you will make sure you get your deposit back in full.
When you hand back the keys, landlords will ask a few questions to determine if you get your deposit back. These are:
- Is rent paid in full?
- Is the property clean?
- Is there damage to the property?
- Are bills paid in full, or transferred to your new address?
The easiest way to make sure your property is sufficiently cleaned is to hire a professional cleaning company. A professional cleaner will know what is required for an end of tenancy clean and will be able to identify problem areas. You might never think to clean the shower head or the extraction fan vents, so this could save you from losing your deposit.
Look for a company that offers a deposit return guarantee. This means that if your deposit is withheld due to cleanliness, you’ll get your cleaning fee back.
If you decide to clean the property yourself, follow this cleaning checklist to make sure you leave the property in good condition. When you are done cleaning the property, make sure you take photographs before you leave. This will protect you against being blamed for damage done to the property after you’ve handed back the keys. Add a timestamp to the photographs so that you have additional proof.
Paying final bills
Before you move out, remember to move all relevant utilities to your new address. You should also take photographs of your meter readings so you can get an accurate end of tenancy bill from your utility companies.
Some landlords will wait until you can provide proof that all bills have been moved to your new property. You may need to send copies of your final bills to your landlord before they will release your deposit.
FAQ About Rental Deposits
Do you always get your deposit back?
If you have paid all rent and bills, you haven’t damaged the property or furnishings and the property is clean when you give it back, you should get your full deposit back.
How long does a landlord have to repay my deposit?
Your landlord is obliged to pay back your deposit within 10 days of both parties agreeing how much should be returned. If your landlord decides they would like to withhold part of your deposit, you can request that the undisputed part of the deposit is released pending the outcome of the decision.
If you cannot reach a satisfactory agreement on how much deposit should be withheld, or if you believe you are entitled to your full deposit back, you can use the free dispute resolution service offered by all deposit protection schemes. You can find details how how to raise a dispute here:
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Deposit Protection Service
If your deposit was help by Capita, you should contact MyDeposits using the link above.
Are carpet stains normal wear and tear?
If you have spilt something on the carpet that has left a stain, or if you have burned the carpet with a cigarette you could be liable for replacing the carpet. But you shouldn’t be charged for a carpet that has simply worn down over time.
Are marks on the wall normal wear and tear?
The severity of the marks will determine if this is fair wear and tear or damage. If you have lived in the property for a long time and the paintwork wasn’t fresh when you moved in, you shouldn’t be charged for a few marks on the walls. But if you have only been in the property a short time and the walls were freshly painted when you moved in, you could be liable.
Your landlord can’t make you pay for painting an entire room if the mark is small and isolated to a small spot. In this case, your landlord might ask you to pay for a percentage of the full bill.
What is fair wear and tear?
The definition of wear and tear is often disputed, but in general, landlords need to consider the following factors:
- The length of the tenancy. If you lived in a property for 6 years, you can expect greater wear and tear than if you were only in the property for 6 months.
- The number of occupants and their ages. The more people there are living in the property, the more wear and tear you can expect to see at the end of a tenancy. A house shared by 6 young professionals will see more wear and tear than a single occupant. And families with young children will have more wear and tear than an elderly couple.
- Condition of the property. New build homes tend to be of a lower quality than conversions, so you may see more wear and tear from similar usage. Low-quality fixtures such as flooring may need to be replaced more often, and this shouldn’t be at the expense of the tenant.
- The severity of the damage. There is a huge difference between wear and tear and actual damage. While you are liable for damage, you shouldn’t be liable for reasonable wear and tear.
- Prevention. Remember that your landlord is ultimately responsible for the condition of the property. Landlords are not allowed to let a property fall into disrepair and then use your deposit to pay for the renovations. Scheduled maintenance and upgrades can help to prevent the need for completely redecorating a property between tenants.
Can my landlord keep my security deposit for painting?
This is an interesting one. While you may think you have improved the appearance of the property, your landlord might disagree, and this could lead to you being charged for repainting. If you want to paint your property you should always get permission from your landlord first. They might agree, under the condition that you paint the property a neutral colour at the end of your tenancy.
Unless you are planning to be in the property for a long time, it’s usually better to leave the walls alone. If you damage the carpets while painting, you could be liable for a lot more than just the colour of the walls.
If the landlord decides to charge you for repainting the property, always ask to see quotes from the decorators to confirm you aren’t being overcharged. You should also only pay for the portion that is directly related to any changes you have made. For example, if you painted one bedroom red, you shouldn’t be charged for repainting all of the bedrooms or the entire house.