In 2016 it was reported that 72 per cent of tenants said they struggled to get back the money they felt they were owed from their deposit, while around 59 per cent of tenants didn’t get any of their deposit back. But according to this study, only 20 per cent of tenants actually expect this loss. Below are some tips on how to avoid falling into the deposit-losing 59 per cent (something we’d all like to avoid);
1. Actually read your tenancy agreement before signing
The amount of tenants that are caught out by clauses contained in contracts which they should have been aware of at the start of their tenancy is ridiculous, as is the amount of time I have had to spend quoting clauses back to tenants that they agreed to (without understanding) years before. Before your tenancy starts, make sure you go through in detail the clauses you are going to be legally held to. If there is a clause in the agreement saying you will have to pay for a professional clean at the end of the tenancy or you have to clean the windows every second Wednesday at 3:15pm, and you don’t think that is particularly fair; question them, speak to your agent or landlord. You are not going to lose the property just because you query a clause or two.
Tip: clauses that are in the main body of the standard agreement will generally be fair and balanced (unless the law overrides this), however specially negotiated clauses, normally found at the end of your agreement should have been agreed with you specifically and are open to negotiation. Do not agree to something without considering it as you will be held to it at the end of the tenancy and the excuse of “well who actually reads a tenancy agreement though” will not wash.
2. When moving into a property, check it off against the inventory
When you move into a property, you will be provided with an inventory and told to check through the property and give amendments within a certain amount of days of the start of your tenancy, another tip; DO THIS! It only takes an hour or two but go around with the inventory and check that everything that is written there is correct, and if it’s not, write it down. Then return this annotated copy to your agents and request it is saved on file (and get a copy back for your own records). Take your own dated photographs if necessary, these will be useful at the end of the tenancy. Don’t just whack the inventory in a drawer and forget about it, to become enraged in a years’ time that it is not correct and you didn’t seize the opportunity to correct it when you had it. Again, the line ‘but when I moved in the inventory said this wasn’t broken but it actually was broken’ will not wash.
3. Don’t wreck it!
This isn’t actually as obvious as it sounds but the most common reasons landlords give for refusing to give back deposits are:
- Stains on the carpet
- Chipped paint or damaged wallpaper
- Broken or damaged furniture
- Broken or damaged windows
This could be anything from a few scratches here and there, to rock star levels of smash up. So be on your guard and be careful in the property. If you do break something, own up and pay to have it fixed. Don’t think it won’t be noticed when you move out as it will and you have much more control if you source your own costs of repair.
4. Before moving out, review the cleanliness and condition
A few weeks before you move out, dig out afore-mentioned ‘drawer-dwelling-inventory-report’ and review the condition and cleanliness as noted in it, against the condition and cleanliness now.
If something is noted as being clean on the inventory, you will need to return it in the same way or face the possibility of losing your deposit. Don’t forget about carpets, curtains (if present) and ovens, disputes about oven cleaning cause property managers a right old headache. This works similarly with condition of the property but a landlord must take into account fair wear and tear (see below for more info on this). If something is damaged, then YOU will be responsible for the costs of repair, if something is missing, then YOU will be responsible for the costs of replacement. If you have made marks on the walls, or repainted in bright orange, your landlord could hold you to the costs of putting it back to how it was. Pay special attention to how the cleanliness is detailed on the inventory, there is a difference between domestic cleanliness and professional cleanliness, if your inventory says the property was professionally cleaned before the tenancy began, chances are you will have to return it professionally cleaned or suffer the consequences.
Go through the inventory report with a fine tooth comb and make sure when you hand your keys back, the property is looking exactly the same or better if the property wasn’t in a good condition to begin with. However, this can be subjective, so whip out the trusty Kodak again, take dated photographs and keep a record of all receipts for cleaning, damage repairs and replacing items you may have undertaken.
5. Know the difference between ‘damage’ and ‘wear and tear’
There is a fine line between what is considered ‘wear and tear’ and what is considered ‘damage’. An example of ‘wear and tear’ would be faded curtains, worn carpets and scuffs and scrapes. A landlord must take into account the number of occupants and the length of tenancy as a 6-month tenancy with a single occupant would generate much less wear and tear than a 6 year tenancy with a family of five. If a case were referred to independent adjudication with a deposit protection scheme, then they would take this into account too. However, wear and tear is different to damage and it is important you are aware of this, worn carpets would be wear and tear but burn marks are damage. A scuff on a wall is wear and tear, but a hole is damage.
Furthermore, cleanliness will never be taken into account as wear and tear, if a property is provided in a clean condition, it must be returned in a clean condition. Condensation is also generally your responsibility and you will need to have the area free of mould and surface moisture before handing your keys in. See previous blog for more info on this.
6. Be open to negotiation
Should you receive your landlords claims and be unhappy with them, rather than jumping to the ‘they are not having any of my deposit’ phase straight away, review the differences between your inventory vs check out report and consider the claims. Perhaps seek your own quotes for any costs they have provided. Always remember that it is better to try to negotiate with your landlord rather than going straight to the dispute scheme. As soon as you refer your case, you lose any bargaining power and the adjudicator will make an assessment based on the evidence provided and release your money accordingly. If they find in your landlord’s favour, you could lose your deposit entirely and have no come back. If you try to negotiate (so your landlord wants £150 for cleaning, offer £75 and see what they say) then you could still end up receiving some of your deposit back rather than none.
Only if you are certain the evidence is in your favour and your landlord is gaining betterment from your deposit should you consider a deposit scheme referral.
As always, get in touch should you have any queries.
Angharad Trueman – Operations Manager