How to guarantee your tenancy deposit is returned

A common issue for renters is getting their entire deposit returned. Heating Wise advise how to guarantee your deposit is returned, and what landlords’ legal obligations are.

As getting a foot on the property ladder is seemingly becoming more impossible for Generation Rent, it’s no wonder that there are approximately 13 million renters across the UK. Anyone who’s rented before, whether as a student as part of a big group or a single occupant, can emphasise with the nuisance of getting their deposits returned.. 

A deposit prior to moving into a rented property, typically 4-6 weeks’ worth of rent, is supposed to offer the landlord security in case tenants damage the property or don’t pay their rent. However, many tenants still find themselves in an unfair position at the end of their tenancy, whereby a landlord keeps some, or even the entire of the deposit.

In this article Heating Wise share the steps tenants need to take to protect their deposit and ensure it’s all returned.

What to do before you move in

Here’s what you need to do before you move in to protect your deposit as much as possible.

Take photos

Rule number one is: take pictures of everything. A reputable estate agent or landlord should provide an inventory of the property, containing photos which document the state of the property around the day you are moving in.

These photos should also show any defects to prove they were there prior to you moving in. Heating Wise explain. Have a look through the inventory but also take your own photos and send them to the estate agent/landlord. This will help prevent any disputes when you move out. 

Ensure your deposit is in a reputable scheme

A private landlord in the UK must, by law, use a deposit protection scheme – so make sure they do! Your landlord must also tell you which scheme they are using, as there are different ones across the UK.

Deposit Protection Schemes work in the favour of both the tenant and the landlord, as they protect the deposit and work as an impartial mediator, providing dispute resolutions. Essentially this means a landlord cannot deduct money from a deposit without good reason, Heating Wise explain.

While it is a legal requirement for landlords to enrol in a Deposit Protection Scheme, there are some exceptions. If you rent as a lodger and live with the owner of the property, they aren’t required to use a scheme. In this case, the law does not offer as much protection here, so it’s important to sign a Lodgers Agreement and ensure you are protected by that contract. 

What to do during your tenancy

Here’s what to do during your tenancy to protect your deposit as much as possible.

Raise any issues ASAP

We have all been guilty of putting off admin and life tasks; it is a simple fact that we would much rather not have to deal with emailing or calling up an estate agent, this can eventually result in deposit disputes.

As soon as you notice something is damaged or not working as well as it should be, then you must report it. By reporting it as soon as possible, it means it can get fixed sooner and avoids any disputes with the landlord further down the line.

Keep the property maintained throughout your tenancy

This may sound obvious, but keeping the property clean and maintained throughout the tenancy means you will have less to deal with once you do move out. Equally, if something becomes damaged or broken it is important to repair and replace where possible. Your landlord is responsible for repairing:

  • Walls, doors, and windows
  • Plumbing – sinks, baths and maintaining drains
  • Electrics
  • Heating.

If something else gets broken, for example the shower rail, then you will need to fix this yourself. By not fixing it, then your landlord could have grounds to deduct money from your deposit.  

What to do when you are moving out

Here’s what to do when you are moving out to to protect your deposit as much as possible.

Check the tenancy agreement

Some contracts have specific tasks which you need to complete as you reach the end of your tenancy and by ignoring tasks, you risk the landlord having reason to deduct, or even withhold the entire deposit.

Some contracts expect the whole place to be professionally cleaned, including having the carpets professionally cleans. By ensuring you have completed the tasks required, you are avoiding the landlord having grounds to keep your deposit.

A simple rule of thumb is to leave the property in the same condition you found it, unless otherwise stated in the agreement.  

Deep clean the property

Depending on the state of the property, you can decide whether you can get away with cleaning yourself or if you need to enlist a professional to complete an end of tenancy clean. End of tenancy cleans are really thorough and mean it’s one less thing for you to do yourself.

However, end of tenancy cleans can be quite expensive and sometimes unnecessary, especially if you have kept the property in good condition throughout. Heating Wise continue, make a judgment call when the time comes, as usually store-bought cleaners can do the job.

Remember to clean the easily forgotten areas of the property – especially the oven and the fridge. Ensure you take all rubbish away with you too. 

Ask for your deposit back

The law states that you must ask your landlord or estate agent for the funds to be released and transferred back into your bank account. Firstly, you must always make this request by email, as this offers written evidence that you have asked. From the date you ask, your landlord legally has 10 days to return the deposit, unless there are any disputes which need resolving. 

If your landlord wants to take money off the deposit, it is okay to negotiate. Money should only be deducted if the property has been damaged or if you haven’t paid your rent. A landlord cannot request money for natural wear and tear, such as minor scuffs. 

If you disagree with the reasons your landlord provide to keep the deposit, then don’t be afraid to argue your case. This is where the Tenancy Deposit Scheme should step in a provide their dispute resolution service. 

Photo by Anna Sushok