Protect your deposit in eight easy steps
If you don't want your landlord to have an excuse for holding onto your deposit, follow these top tips.
One of the things I used to hate about renting was the idea of losing my deposit. So I always tried to be extra careful around the flat to make sure I didn't chip any paint, lose any cutlery or spill red wine on the carpet!
Fortunately my landlady was very easy going and I had no problems getting my deposit back in full when I moved out.
But of course, I know I was one of the lucky ones. Many landlords/ladies aren't nearly as kind when it comes to handing over the cash. And I've heard some pretty horrific stories over the years.
So here are some top tips to help ensure your deposit is safely returned:
1) Take your time
Don't rush into anything - check your rental contract thoroughly before you move in and make sure you've read the small print. It's important to ensure you fully understand everything that's contained in it. If anything is unclear, ask your landlord to explain.
You can read more about what your rental agreement should include here.
2) Check the inventory
Landlords/letting agents often draw up a list of everything in the flat - such as furniture, kitchenware, appliances. It should also state whether anything is damaged or worn before you move in.
If you have been given an inventory, go through it with a fine-tooth comb to check it's accurate. Is there anything missing? Is there anything on the list that you can't find? If you disagree with anything, report it to your landlord immediately. If you both agree on the changes, make sure it's in writing.
3) Make your own inventory
If your landlord doesn't give you an inventory, it's worth drawing one up yourself and getting it signed by a witness. Go through the property carefully and check for any signs of damage - make sure you check and double check so you don't miss anything, however small.
If you'd like further help with how to draw up an inventory, check out this sample form from Shelter.
4) Take photos
It's worth taking photographs of the property before you move in so that you've got proof of how the place looked before you lived there. These photos should include any carpet stains or cracks in the walls. And ensure the date can be verified.
Similarly if any problems occur while you're living in the property (such as plaster cracking or damp patches on walls), ensure you take photographic evidence and report it to your landlord immediately.
5) Ensure a deposit scheme is in place
In April 2007 the Tenancy Deposit Scheme came into force, making it much harder for landlords to unfairly hold onto tenants' deposits.
When you hand over your deposit, your landlord must sign up to the scheme and let you know the details of it within 14 days. If he/she fails to do so, you can apply to your local county court to demand your deposit back. The court will also order your landlord to pay compensation equivalent to three times the value of your original deposit!
6) Clean, clean and clean some more
Yes, it's dull, but unfortunately when you move out of your home, you'll need to give it a jolly good clean.
I remember when I moved out of my flat, I spent hours cleaning cupboards, washing floors, scrubbing the cooker, polishing windows, to make everything spotless. Of course, it helps if you've kept it in a reasonable state during the time you lived there!
IAnd, i your contract states you need to get in professional cleaners, you'll need to pay for this to be done.
7) Leave things exactly as they were
It's important to check your contract to see if you're expected to leave furniture where it was when you moved in. If you've moved anything, move it back before you leave - even if your contract doesn't state this, it's probably safer to do so.
And on that note, don't leave anything behind either. Even if you think that comfy beanbag you bought might be useful to the tenants moving in after you, your landlord might disagree. And some landlords will charge you for the trouble of removing extra items.
8) Sort out repairs
General wear and tear must be accepted by your landlord - although some are likely to be more generous than others when it comes to deciding what this includes. For example, you may have to cough up if you've stuck blue tack on the walls, leaving greasy stains behind or peeling paint.
And if you've caused any serious damage to the property, such as a broken window, you'll need to be prepared to pay up.
Hopefully, by following these eight tips, your landlord should be more than happy to return your deposit in full. For further tips on your rights as a tenant, read Six smart rules for renters. Good luck!