If you’re about to start a tenancy and are putting down a deposit, it very literally pays off to know how to best protect it and deal with any disputes.
Deposit Protection Scheme
By law, landlords must put your deposit into a government backed deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it. It is very important to make sure that your deposit has been entered into one of these approved deposit schemes as it will ensure that you can get it back, as long as you have adhered to your tenancy agreement, and, in the case of any disputes with your landlord, it will be protected until they are settled.
Do a Thorough Check In
Before moving in, make sure that you and your landlord are agreed on the state of the property, so that you can’t be held liable for any damages that predate your arrival. Most landlords will supply you with an inventory list that will include the current state of the items. It’s a good idea to take photos so that you have evidence in the case of any disputes at the end of your tenancy. To do a thorough check-in, make sure to follow the important steps for a proper check-in.
Understand the Terms of Your Lease
Your tenancy agreement should include information on whether you’re allowed a pet, to smoke, to redecorate, or any other actions that could affect the property. It should also specify what you are allowed to change, such as rearranging the furniture or putting up posters. If you are uncertain about anything, speak to your landlord. Drop them an email and then you will have in writing whether or not you may carry out the action.
Through the bustle of day-to-day life, it is understandable that damage can occur in any property. If this does happen, then you must report it straight away. More often than not, the landlord can fix it quickly, meaning you will not be held accountable for it at the end of your tenancy.
If you’re flat sharing, it pays off to make sure that you all have individual deposits. You and your flatmates will have your own rooms, for which the others aren’t responsible. However, unless you have individual deposits, you could be held accountable for any damages your flatmate caused in their room and the money could be deducted from your share of the deposit too.
Leaving the Property
It goes without saying that you need to leave your property in a good state. Make sure it’s had a proper clean, as landlords will often take the fees for a professional cleaner off your deposit if they feel it’s not up to scratch. It’s also advisable to move any furniture back to how it was on your arrival; just as well you took those handy pictures at the beginning of your tenancy! And, if, during your deep clean and furniture moving, you happen to find anything broken, make sure to repair it.
Knowing Your Rights
The landlord has to pay you your deposit back ten days after you have both come to agreement on the amount. As long as you have adhered to your tenancy agreement, have paid all rent and bills and have not damaged the property, then you will be entitled to a full refund.
If your landlord refuses to pay back your deposit, without any valid reasons, then there are steps you can follow. Your deposit protection scheme will have an ADR (alternative dispute resolution) and if you and your landlord consent, they will come to a decision for you that is both free and final.
As a last port of call you can choose to go to court. This is an expensive route as you have to pay the legal fees upfront and, if you lose, will have to cover the landlord’s legal fees too. However, before going to court you will need to send your landlord ‘a letter before action’, and most landlords will agree to settle at this point.
Ultimately, if your deposit is protected in a government scheme and both you and your landlord abide by the terms of your lease, you shouldn’t encounter any problems. The majority of deposit returns are uneventful, but it’s reassuring to know what to do, just in case.