Being the responsible tenants that we all are (right?), we’ll naturally be concerned with leaving our rental homes in a good state when we move out. Of course, we have a major incentive to do this; getting our deposits back.
In theory, the process should be fairly straightforward. You pay your deposit when you move in, leave the place in a decent state and get your money back when you leave, minus any damage. In practice it can be complicated, sometimes with unscrupulous behaviour on both sides, tenant and landlord.
So what can you do to make sure you get your deposit back when you leave your rented home?
Firstly, you need to make sure that your landlord knows the rules about deposits, right at the start of your tenancy. Since 2007, landlords are legally required to safeguard your deposit with a government approved protection scheme. This legislation was introduced to prevent landlords unreasonably withholding deposits. The landlord is responsible for protecting your deposit money, so make sure this is specified on your tenancy agreement.
In addition, you should also have a detailed inventory at the start of the tenancy that both tenant and landlord have agreed is accurate. This may include specifications as to the state of cleanliness. It’s also a good idea to take photographs while checking the inventory, just in case of any disputes at the end of the tenancy.
So, hopefully your deposit is secure and protected, and now all you need to do is prove you’ve left your home in a good enough condition to get it back!
Communication is always the key when it comes to maintaining a good relationship with your landlord. As I’ve pointed out in my DIY articles, you need to ask permission, discuss your plans and make sure you’ve come to an agreement on everything. The same goes for ending your tenancy. Try to arrange a meeting with your landlord at the property at the time you give your notice, so that you can agree what is required of you in order to get your deposit returned, and even do a preliminary inventory check. That gives you plenty of time to replace any damaged items and get the cleaning done without leaving everything til the stressful and chaotic moving out day.
Again, make sure you know the law with regard to what is considered damage. There are rules concerning fair wear and tear – you can’t be charged for normal wear to carpets, paint etc. Of course, this does not apply to actual damage, for which the tenant is liable. However, you’re only liable for damage on a like for like basis. The landlord or agent can’t charge you for the cost of a brand new item if the damaged item wasn’t new to begin with.
Once all parties are clear on what needs to be done, or what damage might be chargeable, you can get to work.
Cleaning is the obvious task and you should take care to do a really thorough job, leave the place gleaming. Think about things like dust on skirting boards or picture rails, mildew on window frames and really scrubbing out the oven.
If you live with other people, why not each take on specific tasks to lighten the load? You’ll need more time than you think to do a proper deep clean, so be organised and don’t leave it until the last minute.
Even if the place wasn’t immaculately clean when you moved in, do your best to get it absolutely spotless. I would recommend hiring a carpet cleaning machine, especially if you have pets (we do this every six months anyway, as the machines pick up way more pet hair than the vacuum cleaner). Also consider getting a window cleaner to do the exterior glass and don’t forget to tidy up the garden if you have one.
If you’ve been allowed to repaint on the condition that the walls are returned to their original colour, make sure you leave plenty of time to get this done. Also take time to do any minor repairs, touching up paint, filling and sanding holes left by screws and nails, fixing loose tiles, etc.
At your final end of tenancy inspection, make sure you and your landlord or agent are fully in agreement about any outstanding issues, and don’t forget that you can offer to make any additional simple repairs or do extra cleaning if they’re not happy. They don’t have to skip straight to the deposit deductions stage!
It should also go without saying that you must make sure all your rent and bills are paid up and that you’ve informed the utility companies and council of your leaving date. Any unpaid bills or rent can be deducted from your deposit and you could face court if there are outstanding debts on top of this.
Hopefully your end of tenancy will be smooth and amicable, but if things don’t go to plan remember your money is protected and you can seek independent adjudication free of charge. For further information on any aspect of renting, Shelter has an excellent website offering advice and support: http://www.shelter.org.uk/.
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