Starting on the Right Foot: Getting a Deposit Back From Previous Accommodation

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Moving out of a rented home into your first mortgage is a fantastic experience that many people relish. Even having an incredibly laid back landlord doesn’t compare to having a place of your very own.You could literally start drilling random holes in the walls and no one’s going to say anything because they’re your walls (note: please don’t needlessly drill into your new walls).

But as eager as you may be to leave behind your rented flat or house, it’s important to remember that your new home is likely to come with expenses. This might be due to some small work that needs doing or you may have some grand ideas about what your new house needs to make it yours. To this end, every penny is going to count and it’s worth remembering that deposit you put down when you moved in to your rented property.

Getting Your Deposit Back

Most standard deposits are worth four to six week’s rent, not an amount of money to disregard. Yet many homeowners allow this helpful amount of cash to slip through the cracks. Here are the top mistakes made by new homeowners when it comes to their deposits:

  1. Not leaving the accommodation in a clean condition.
  2. Forcing the landlord to make expensive repairs or renovations through lack of maintenance.
  3. Not following up on the deposit
  4. Not being aware of their rights.

Cleanliness

From speaking to landlords, it’s quite clear that most deposits get trimmed or lost through point number one. Packing up your home is time consuming and exhausting so the prospect of cleaning everything after you’re done is not likely to seem appealing. However this is the simplest way of keeping as much of your deposit as possible. Part of your tenancy agreement may well include a specification on how clean you should leave the property so be sure to read over your documentation again.

There is a distinction between “professionally” clean and “domestically” clean that is likely to be pertinent. If a landlord considers the accommodation to be in a poor state then they may be able to claim the cost of a whole property clean from your deposit. A professional clean from top to bottom is an expense that will eat into your deposit.

Maintenance

If you haven’t been very handy around the house until now then it may seem like it’s too late to keep up with the house maintenance. But this is another area where you might be able to take the initiative and save yourself some money. Always consider that by carrying out quick maintenance work yourself you are saving the landlord time and effort by needing to hire a professional. Quick and easy ways to check that your house is in a great functional condition:

  • Take care of wooden scuffs and sand down any wooden surfaces that have been scratched or chipped.
  • Repaint scuffs and holes in walls, in cases where paint is clearly peeling then it may be worth offering to repaint the room for your landlord.
  • Lubricate locks for doors and windows so they work smoothly. Likewise, check the tracks on sliding doors for any debris that could cause them to fail.
  • Take care of slow working drains via a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar, followed by a kettle full of boiling water.
  • If you have a garden then ensure that it’s trimmed back. Check your agreement and see if you promised to keep the garden maintained, which will dictate how much work you need to carry out in order to fulfil it.

There’s a helpful guide over at Mydeposits.co.uk that details the process for working out what’s fair wear and tear for a landlord. Use this to work out if replacement costs that might be attributed to your accommodation are fair.

Not Chasing a Deposit

It’s a critical problem of the British that some of us just don’t want to make a fuss.  So when our landlord doesn’t mention the deposit then some of us might opt to not bring it up either. And, in the cases where issues with the deposit arise, some tenants simply abandon the issue to avoid any confrontation. Whilst interactions over deposits can become tense, it’s always worth remembering that you paid those 4 weeks of rent in advance with the understanding that it was an incentive to keep the place in a good state. If you have done so then the landlord has a legal obligation to engage with you over the matter.

Email or phone your landlord prior to your vacating the property and firm out the details about how they will be assessing your home. Ask for confirmation about how your deposit will be returned to you and how they will be accounting for expenses. If they deem it necessary to remove part of your deposit then they must provide evidence as to why, as well as reciepts for the costs of work done.

Not Knowing Your Rights

If your landlord withholds your deposit then you might be left wondering what on earth you can do but there are plenty of avenues available. Remember that your deposit can only be kept in cases of reasonable loss to the landlord. This traditionally covers rent if you fall in arrears, letting charges if you leave before your contract was up and to repair reasonable damage so the place is fit to let again. Your deposit cannot be used as a punishment, where amounts will be taken away for loud parties etc. Keep requesting information about how deductions were calculated and remember that this is your money that you can find a use for in your new home. If you feel you’ve done everything possible to get the property in a good condition then there is no reason why you shouldn’t get a substantial return on your deposit.

If you’re finding negotiations difficult that you can contact the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme (TDP), which offers free dispute resolution. Both you and your landlord will need to agree to it and provide evidence for a final decision to be made regarding your deposit. This decision will be non-negotiable. The deposit scheme also states that landlords must put your deposit in a government backed scheme and return a deposit within 10 days of an agreement being made on how much should be returned. Visit the Tenancy Deposit Scheme website for more information, as well as case studies that show how past situations were resolved. .

Your rights are the key to getting the appropriate amount of money returned to you and just as important as leaving the property in a pleasant state. And once you’ve got the money back, you’ve got a solid amount of money to put towards your own renovation costs!

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