Remember way back last year when you were signing your contract and had to hand over a huge lump sum as a security against your accommodation? Well pretty soon, you should be getting it back… depending on the condition of your property anyway!
The basics of deposits
Deposits are generally the equivalent of 4-6 weeks’ worth of rent, and must be paid by each individual tenant. The government has recognised the issues with landlords returning deposits, so following the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) in 2007, landlords have to protect deposits in one of three authorised schemes – of which yours will be in one. The purpose of these is that there is an involvement of an impartial third party to fairly settle any potential disputes, should they arise.
Upon departure of the property, landlords are only legally able to hold your deposit for thirty days before returning (unless there are any issues, which will be resolved by the TDS).
4 Top Tips on Getting Your Deposit Back
Whether you want to ensure you have your deposit returned this summer; or would like to know how to go about this in advance for the next academic year; these steps are vital to follow.
• Always get a receipt
This goes without saying, and every landlord and letting agent should do this without question; but once you’ve handed your deposit over, make sure you get a receipt clearly stating the amount you have paid to avoid any arguments about this later. The landlord’s name and address should also be visible, enabling you to contact them when needed.
• Conduct an in-depth inventory
Once you’ve moved in, most landlords will arrange a time for all tenants to look around the property, noting down the condition of every item. The landlord will then double-check and confirm everything, and there should be a copy for both themselves and you. An inventory is a hugely important document in ensuring you get your deposit back, so make sure you scrutinise everything and go into detail about the notable condition – don’t just say ‘mould on the wall’; specify size and whereabouts on the wall. If you spot something else after you’ve confirmed the inventory, email your landlord/letting agent, keeping a record of the date you sent it.
• Take pictures
When you first move into the property, take pictures of each room regardless of whether the landlord requests this. This will further back up claims on the inventory, as there is physical proof of the condition, should landlords try to blame you for something that isn’t your fault. Take it from me, this definitely works – when I first moved into my room, the walls were dirty and marked, when they had promised it would be repainted. Not a big issue, but I didn’t want them to charge me for it at the end of the tenancy. We’d agreed with the landlord that they wouldn’t repaint in exchange for the understanding that it was the previous tenant who had made the marks; but not trusting them, we also took a series of close up pictures. Sure enough, come June, they wanted to charge me £30 for repainting the walls. After sending over the pictures, they agreed to drop the charges – so it really does work.
• Note all repair requests
It’s not exactly unheard of that landlords don’t answer their calls or follow up requests of repairs, so it’s extremely important that you keep a record of when you contacted them, so you can prove when the incident took place so you don’t get charged for this. Again, I’ve had previous experience of this when renting a property – in April, our landlord had visited our property for an inspection and had said it was one of the ‘cleanest student houses she had seen!’ (I was more than a bit surprised). One week later, we found rats in our kitchen. Following multiple emails and calls to the landlord who promised she’d ‘sort it’, nothing was done; and sure enough, upon our departure, charges included a £125 exterminator bill to be split between the six of us. Again, these charges were dropped after I had forwarded all the emails I sent, and the results of the inspection a week before.
If landlords try to claim money off you for something you haven’t done, don’t be afraid to query this – sending them the inventory, images and repair requests are all proof in backing up your point.
Of course, not all landlords are after your money – most are very professional and will refund your deposit if there aren’t any issues – and some students do damage the property, and should rightly have the charges deducted from their deposit. Just make sure you are clued up about all things deposits, so you set yourself the best chance possible of having your deposit returned back to you!
Written by Elle Pollicott