Deposits can be withheld by landlords for only a handful of reasons. Broadly, these are:
- Unpaid rent
- Damage to the property or items
- Missing items
- Unauthorised changes to the property
So, getting your deposit back in full is essentially a case of ensuring you fulfil your obligations as a tenant as set out in the tenancy agreement, paying your rent in full and on time and using common sense to take good care of your landlord’s property. Put simply, leave the property in the same condition as you found it. And by ‘same condition’, we mean as it was described and photographed in the check-in inventory. It can also be a good idea to take photographs of the property when you leave, showing the condition it was left in – even if a check-out inventory is undertaken. If you have damaged the property in any way, or are in arrears with your rent, you should expect at least some of your deposit to be deducted. However, there is a process both you and your landlord need to follow…
Deposit return process
At the end of your tenancy, you should request your deposit be returned by contacting either your landlord or letting agent. Your landlord, or the agent on their behalf, will then respond outlining any deductions they wish to make and the reasons why alongside evidence of damage or unpaid rent, for example. In order for your landlord to make a deduction you either have to agree, or there has to be a dispute resolution or a court order authorising it.
Things your landlord cannot deduct for
Fair wear and tear in a rental property is potentially a term you’ve heard before. What it means is your landlord can’t deduct from your deposit for damage to items or the property that has occurred through normal use over time. A good example would be a worn carpet that has deteriorated naturally through use during a tenancy, or scuff marks on a wall. If a carpet has a burn mark from your hair straighteners, however, that would be classed as damage. Your landlord also cannot deduct for damage caused by a repair they failed to fix. So, if you informed them of a leak during your tenancy and this was not fixed, causing more damage, they shouldn’t deduct from your deposit.
Tenancy deposit scheme dispute service
Your landlord must have placed your tenancy deposit into one of three government-approved deposit protection schemes when you started your tenancy. If they failed to do so within 30 days of your tenancy starting, you can take them to court to claim your deposit back in full – as well as up to three times the deposit amount in compensation. The three tenancy deposit protection schemes also provide a resolution service for landlords and tenants in the event of a dispute. If you do not agree with any deductions your landlord wishes to make, approach the scheme provider with whom your deposit is registered.
Time limit for tenancy deposit returns
As part of the rules within tenancy deposit protection, your landlord must return your deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing how much will be returned, or the verdict of any resolution process.
9 things to do during your tenancy
The best way to ensure a hassle-free return of your deposit is to play fair during your tenancy. Ensuring you do the following will help when it comes to getting your deposit back at the end of your stay…
- Understand your obligations in the tenancy agreement and stick to them
- Avoid damaging walls to hang pictures etc
- Stay on top of cleaning
- Protect furnishings provided
- Report problems quickly
- Do not smoke or have pets if you’re not permitted to
- Keep the property well ventilated
- If you break anything, replace it like for like or own up
- Pay your rent in full and on time every month