So you’ve come to ending your lease and you’ve heard horror stories about getting your security deposit back? Truth is, deductions do often occur and yet there are many who experienced no difficulty in receiving all, or part, of their deposit.
At MyFinances.co.uk, we know that with clearly defined expectations and a good end of tenancy plan in place you should be able to build a good idea of how much of your deposit you should receive, based on rental history and property inventory condition.
What is a Tenancy Security Deposit?
It is essential to understand how security deposits work.
This is an one-time payment done alongside your first rent at the start of your tenancy. The fee can vary depending on your landlord or estate agent’s demands. The amount could opt-in for:
- Half of your monthly rent;
- A full month’s rent;
- Double the rent;
- In some cases triple the rent.
It is easier to understand why landlords demand a security deposit when seen from their perspective. In cases where tenants cause damage to the property (beyond general wear and tear) or leave the property with unpaid bills / rent at the end of lease, the security deposit is meant to cover additional costs incurred by the landlord.
When Should a Landlord Refund Your Deposit?
If you meet all end of tenancy requirements stated in your lease (such as settling all bills and repairs of heavy property damage), the landlord has to return your entire deposit.
“You may suffer a withhold of money for your landlord to pay for repairs, redecorating or outstanding bills but your landlord should tell you exactly how much and why they are withholding from your deposit. If you’re about to face deductions for the condition of your carpet, then you should get that written down and signed from both sides. The average price of tenancy cleaning depends on a handful of factors but one thing is for sure – tenants should be informed in a written manner and always receive a receipt. That’s a core part of what landlords are responsible for.”. – advice the pro’s at the Fantastic Cleaners, experts and easing post-tenancy effort with moving out of a property.
* IMPORTANT: Always ask for receipts!
Keep in mind that your landlord might attempt to fraud you.
You might be presented suspicious reasons meant to somehow justify withholding your entire security deposit.
This is the worst and most impudent scam landlords try. If you have indeed met all requirements for your end of tenancy, then you should expect your full deposit within 10 business days. In rare cases there may be an extra clause in your lease agreement which extends the period for landlords to refund your deposit.
How to Get Your Deposit Back From Your Landlord
Landlords would rather keep the deposit till everything is left in the same condition it was when you moved in as a new tenant. It is your responsibility (as a tenant) to make sure that the property inventory is in an acceptable condition prior to moving out.
Effort will be required.
Carefully read and fully understand you lease agreement.
It should have clear instructions on what end of tenancy requirements you are bound to comply with as a tenant. If your deposit is a subject to additional charges, such as a fee for professional end of tenancy cleaning, repairs and etc, all these should be described in detail.
Your tenancy should include a precise definition of what the landlord considers “acceptable” wear and tear and what not. Bare in mind that in case of disputes, verbal agreements will not hold as proof unless somehow recorded, but that’s a long shot anyways.
Do not be afraid to ask questions about your lease.
Do not hesitate to raise any concerns if the end of tenancy conditions are not clearly stated. That is your right as a tenant and it is important to fully understand what responsibilities are yours and which are not.
- Upon signing your lease and receiving keys to the property, make sure to properly inspect along with inventory if it is fully / partially furnished. It would be beneficial if your landlord is present.
- Make a detailed inventory listing everything in the property as well as a description of its condition.
- Take a lot of pictures and have your landlord sign the completed inventory. This way when time comes for you to move out, you can easily compare the property condition to what it was when you moved in. This will also stop block landlords of making exaggerated claims based on the condition of the property.
Give Proper Notice prior to Moving out
The lease will include a section stating how much notice is required prior to you moving out. Follow your agreement to the last word! It is a clever idea to give more notice than required.
Landlords need technical time to prepare the property and find new tenants. If you choose to ignore your lease agreement and inform your landlord that you will move out tomorrow, you should not expect to receive any of your security deposit.. at all. This would happen because you have not fulfilled your obligations and thus you’ll be breaking a fully legal contract.
The Best Way to Ease your Move is to Help your Landlord.
To increase your chances of getting your full deposit back, try helping your landlord find a new tenant to take your place as soon as you move out.
You could make repairs yourself
It is absolutely normal for some minor damage or general wear and tear to be present, especially if you have rented the property for a at least 6 months. With a packet of spackle, such as Polyfilla, and a fresh coat of paint you can make many of the minor damage disappear.
Some of the simpler home Improvements possible:
- Replace broken or flickering lights;
- Repair damaged power sockets and light switches;
- Fix wall holes via wall putty;
- Repaint wall marks;
- Wipe and polish furniture inventory;
- Clean bath utensils – sinks, faucets, shower cabins and etc.
- Remove visible dirt, mildew and marks throughout the property;
- Degrease and scrub your hob, oven and hot plates.
Simple property repairs will take a professional handyman anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes per task. Although these will be a minor investment, the return in value will be to ensure the tenancy deposit refund. If tenants put the extra dash of effort and i.e. book a hot water carpet cleaning session or handle simple repairs, 90% of landlords are highly-likely to appreciate the extra effort and thus lower the chances for deductions.
Clean up and arrange a professional tenancy cleaning team to visit.
Given enough time, you can clean the entire property yourself but truth is, there is a huge difference when tenancy cleanup is performed by experienced professionals and DIY tenants.
Talk to your landlord and negotiate politely.
Moving out is stressful for everyone involved. Your landlord will need to know how things are progressing and what you will be taking responsibility for. Tell him/her if you are planning to make repairs. Make sure to inform that you have arranged an end of tenancy clean (any landlord will be very happy to hear this) and lastly, make sure to inform about the exact date of you moving out..
Make sure to provide your landlord with all the personal information needed for a deposit refund.
Moving to a new property is expensive and there is always unexpected cost. Getting your deposit back can be the cash injection you need to get through the process.
If you fully understand your lease and take responsibility by making repairs any arranging proper cleaning, there shouldn’t be a reason for your security deposit to be withheld.
Landlord Doesn’t Want to Return Your Deposit?
After you have fulfilled all of end of tenancy requirements in your agreement, i.e given the proper notice for moving out, booked a professional cleaning service, paid all of the bills and the rent is up to date. If your landlord still refuses to refund your security deposit back, then it’s time for you to take action – contact your deposit protection scheme and you will be appointed a solicitor to help both sides resolve the issue.
This is a lot more common than most tenants would like to believe or admit. There are plenty of unscrupulous landlords in this industry.
But how do you get your deposit back when this happens?
Make sure your know your rights as a tenant.
There is no valid reason for the landlord to withhold your deposit when you as a tenant have met your responsibilities. Contact organisations such as Shelter, the Citizens Advice Bureau, your Local Authority or an attorney for advice on how to resolve the issue.
Do not be afraid to raise a fuss.
In many cases this is enough to resolve the situation but remember that you should be polite while doing so. Using profanity or threatening language will only weaken your position but will cause your landlord to become defensive. Remain calm and reason with your landlord.
Take your landlord to the small claims court. If all else fails, you always have the option of raising a claim through the courts but keep in mind that it may not be worth the trouble, even if you win. This is especially true if you are awarded a sum less than than the amount original paid.
Make your experience public.
Regardless of whether you get your deposit back or not, use the internet and all other outlets to expose the landlord and their unscrupulous business practices. It may not be beneficial for you but you might stop someone else falling into the same situation.
Deposit Protection Schemes:
Due to the shocking number of landlords operating fraudulent businesses, in 2007 the British Government implemented the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme. This makes it mandatory for your landlord to place tenancy deposits in a government-backed scheme within 30 days of receiving.
Deposit protection schemes help with resolving disputes between tenants and landlords. If you can indisputably prove that all your end of tenancy responsibilities have been met then the landlord will have no option but to refund your deposit back.