This post was written by an external contributor. Here, Benjamin Parr tells you how to ensure you leave your rented house/apartment with your deposit in tact.
I fondly recall the days when the phrase ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ sounded like a foreign language to me. Given house prices in 2017, renting is the norm for those of us in our twenties, and it probably will be for a long time.
Unfortunately, whether you’re a student renting your first flat after living in halls or a young graduate moving to a new city, there are some landlords and lettings agents who see your inexperience as a way of turning your deposit into an extra income.
You might be lucky, but it’s always worth being prepared. After all, you don’t want to lose hundreds of pounds for no reason. With that in mind, here are some tips that might just get you your full deposit back.
Follow the money!
Remember that huge deposit you paid your landlord before moving in and then forgot about? What happens to this money is incredibly important. Once you’ve sent the landlord your deposit, they have 30 days to put it in one of three government approved schemes. For England and Wales, the schemes are: Deposit Protection Service, Tenancy Deposit Scheme or MyDeposits.
Not sure which scheme your landlord has put it in? This is the easy bit. Your landlord is legally obliged to give you this information in writing, along with leaflets explaining how the scheme works. From this, you can easily check with the deposit scheme directly to make sure your deposit is safe. The best part? If the landlord doesn’t do these things, then they must pay you compensation of up to three times the value of your deposit!
Stay calm, and carry out a proper inspection
Moving into a new house is by no means a stress-free job, but amid the chaos remember to carry out a proper inspection, collecting evidence as you do so. Take photos of everything. I mean everything. If there’s an off-putting stain inside the toilet bowl, then photograph it. This will show the state of the house you moved into. These photos can be used as evidence to show that you didn’t take a sledge hammer to the kitchen wall, it already had that gaping hole in it.
Even more importantly than photos, is the inventory. If you’re not given one, make one. This document is often done by someone independent of you and your landlord, but sometimes it’ll be your landlord that makes it.
It should detail the contents and condition of the property at the point of you moving in. Read it carefully, make sure it is detailed, accurate and includes what’s wrong with the property as well as what’s right with it. Whatever you do, don’t sign it if you don’t want to be held to it later. This document is considered stronger evidence than photos in a dispute, so it can put you in a tight spot if you don’t read it carefully!
Don’t let the landlord get away with anything
This tip is a little cynical, but also very useful. As well as complying with your duties as a tenant, it is also worth noting down any obligations the landlord doesn’t fulfil during your time living there. This could be as simple as the landlord turning up at your house without giving you the minimum 24 hours’ notice. Alternatively, it could be that they’re refusing to fix your overflowing shower or leaking ceiling.
Note down dates and make sure you don’t delete any emails. Reminding your landlord of these slip ups if they try to seize a chunk of your deposit can help to remind them they’re not perfect either. It can also be used as part of your evidence in a dispute. Of course, if you’re lucky with your landlord, you’ll never have you use it!
Clean up before you clear out
There are few things in life more stressful than moving into a new house. In my experience, moving out is one of them. Not only do you have to emotionally blackmail all your friends into helping you lug your belongings into an overfilled car, but you also need to make sure you’re leaving the house in a near perfect state.
When you moved in a year ago, how will you know that you’re leaving it as you found it? This is where I refer you to the photos you took when you moved in! Clean and arrange everything to the standard shown in them and that’s all the landlords can reasonably demand. If the previous tenants had Blu Tack stains on the walls, then it’s not your responsibility to have the house redecorated. Finally, take photos of everything to show the state of the place, making these as detailed as possible.
Dispute it if you refute it
Sometimes you can be perfect tenants, but that stain on the living room wall that’s been there for ten years is starting to bug your landlord, so they deduct £250 from your deposit to pay for redecorations. You know you’ve done nothing wrong, but what can you do?
The absolute worst thing you can do is just accept it. It’s your right to get that money back, and if you can’t negotiate with your landlord for them to return it, then it’s time to inform your deposit scheme that you wish to open a dispute.
Surprisingly, this isn’t complicated and it doesn’t involve courts and expensive lawyers. In fact, it’s absolutely free and all done through whichever deposit scheme you’re using. There is plenty of information provided on the schemes’ websites to make it easy. The process usually just involves you writing why the landlord’s proposed deductions are unfair and uploading some photos or emails as evidence – all of which you’ll have to hand if you’ve been following this guide. An independent adjudicator will then decide who’s in the right and, hopefully, return you your money back. Good luck!