Keeping hold of your deposit

We’ve all heard the horror stories of tenants losing huge deposits when they vacate at the end of their tenancies. However, before you start to panic, these tales of woe are few and far between thanks to secure holdings like the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, which is backed by the British government, no less.

Safeguards such as these ensure that the minority of unscrupulous landlords that do exist in the market are no longer able to take their tenants for a ride. That said, if you want to ensure you receive 100% of your deposit back at the end of your rental stay, there are a host of steps you can take.

Read the small print

Okay, so a tenancy agreement shouldn’t contain any ‘small print’ but you get the idea. Ensure you go through your agreement with a keen eye before you sign on the dotted line. You should know exactly what is expected of you before you move in.

While many landlords may be happy for you to nail pictures to the walls as long as you make the holes good before you move out, some will stipulate that you do not damage any walls. Make sure you stick to the agreement!

Study the inventory

A properly compiled inventory shouldn’t miss any existing damage, but it is worth going around with a camera yourself on moving-in day to ensure everything has been picked up and there is nothing you can be blamed for as a new tenant.

Read the inventory in full. This is your protection against a disgruntled landlord trying to withhold some or all of your deposit.

Pay your bills

In most cases, tenants are responsible for gas, electric, water, telephone and internet charges.

Make sure you pay them in full and on time, alongside your council tax obligations. If you fail to do so, your landlord could have cause to terminate your tenancy and this would likely involve some kind of reimbursement of costs – potentially from your deposit.

A far from tiny 31% of UK lettings agents polled in research by ARLA Propertymark at the end of last year cited rent arrears as the main reason landlords hold on to deposits.

Maintenance issues

Most tenants will stumble across a problem or two during their rental stay. It’s almost a given.

However, it is important to report any problems, like broken floorboards for instance, quickly so they don’t dilapidate further. Landlords will take into account fair wear and tear during a tenancy, but allowing problems to deteriorate could see that view fall into the ‘excessive’ category and that will almost certainly hit your deposit.

In the ARLA Propertymark research, 44% of agents claimed deposit losses for tenants were down to maintenance problems.

Leave it as you found it

Generally speaking, you should be moving into a spick and span property at the start of your tenancy agreement. The inventory will say exactly what kind of condition your rental was in. With that in mind, keep the property clean on a regular basis.

Dirt and grime is tough to get rid of if you leave it and if the cleanliness of the property doesn’t match the inventory report at the end of the tenancy, that could be cause to withhold some of your deposit to cover the cost of a deep clean. Indeed, it can often pay, as a tenant, to call in a professional cleaner every quarter to ensure you are on top of the hygiene of your rental property.

The ARLA Propertymark figures revealed a huge 88% of UK lettings agents felt cleanliness was the main reason landlords withheld deposits. You have been warned.

Hard flooring

Many modern rentals have laminate or wood flooring in place. While this eliminates the chance your deposit could be withheld for deep carpet cleaning, hard flooring scratches with alarming ease. Use castors underneath sofa and table legs and place a rug over any open spaces.

Not only do rugs protect your flooring, they add a definite warmth to a property. A win-win scenario, especially when you consider 29% of agents claim direct damage to property was the big reason for landlords to keep your deposit.

Look after the garden

If you have been through your tenancy agreement with the advised fine tooth comb then you should be aware if any garden responsibility lies with you as a tenant. If it does, stick to it.

Garden clean-ups can be costly and landlords will not hesitate to use your deposit to pay for them if you have not stuck to the agreement on outdoor space.

Some landlords provide a gardener and add the expense to the rent, but be sure you are fully aware of what is expected of you.

Don't leave anything behind

Vacating a rental property is not an opportunity to rid yourself of that old table that you no longer need, thinking you are doing your landlord a favour.

If an item is not on the inventory, the landlord may charge you to remove it before a new tenant moves in. Of course, your landlord may be pleased to take an item off your hands but don’t presume – always ask rather than simply leaving it.

Dealing with a dispute

Safeguarding like the Tenancy Deposit Scheme is in place for a reason and offers a free resolution service so if you feel your landlord is withholding more of your deposit than you deem reasonable, contact them as soon as you can.

It's all about respect

Essentially, if you treat your rental property and the person who owns it with the kind of respect you would reserve for your own home then you won’t go far wrong.

Look after the property as if it were yours and pay your bills and rent on time and in full. Respect goes a long way, after all.

If you have any questions about your property or deposit, speak to your local Martin & Co office who will be happy to help.

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