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Top tips for getting your rental deposit back

When you're ending your tenancy, you'll want to finish on good terms with your landlord and get your full deposit back. Our tips are here to help.

Guest Author
Words by: Harriet Meyer

Renting a home normally involves paying a deposit of four to five weeks' rent before you move into the property.

Your landlord has to place your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme and provide written proof of this at the start of your contract.

If the landlord needs to take cash from this pot, they'll need evidence to support their claim. This could be if there’s some damage to the property at the end of the contract or you have not paid some of your bills or rent.

While you should be protected from losing your deposit, it can be possible to come across hitches when it comes to getting it back.

Here are some tips to make sure you get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy.

1. Make sure your deposit is protected

If you’re signing up for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), it’s a legal requirement that your deposit is held in a tenancy deposit scheme.

The landlord has to provide you with information about it, such as which scheme is being used, how to claim your deposit back and what to do if there’s a dispute.

In England and Wales your deposit can be held in one of 3 schemes, while Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate schemes.

Under these schemes, landlords have 30 days to return your deposit after you leave the property, or may face paying a financial penalty.

Deposit protection scheme guide

2. Check the inventory

The agent or landlord should undertake a thorough inventory when you move into the property. An inventory lists everything that’s in the property as well as its condition.

Make sure you check the inventory carefully, agree with what's written in there and get a copy once it's finalised.

It'll typically be used as evidence in the event of your deposit being partially or fully withheld.

It can help to take your own photos of the property and any furniture that's included. This will give you a useful reference with a timestamp in case there are any issues later.

3. Keep hold of all documents

Until your deposit is returned, make sure you retain any documents you’re given at the start of the tenancy or during your stay.

This includes the tenancy agreement, inventory, any print photos of the property (date-stamped), and correspondence with your landlord/agent.

Put paper copies in a plastic wallet and keep them somewhere safe, and keep your emails and online documents organised in a folder just for your rental documents.

4. Talk to the agent or landlord

Don’t delay if there’s a problem during your tenancy, such as the oven not working, or you notice damage to fixtures or fittings.

Report it to your agent or landlord and keep a record of any communication. 

Even if there’s a minor issue, such as the toaster breaking, it’s worth telling your landlord so they can replace it and you don’t end up forking out at the end of the tenancy.

5. Fair wear and tear

Remember that a landlord can’t hold onto your deposit for fair wear and tear, for example, faded paint, minor scuffs on the walls, or dirty curtains. 

Money can only be deducted for actual damage, such as broken furniture or a failure to pay rent. 

If you face a dispute over this, contact your tenancy deposit scheme (TDP).

6. Sort any damage before moving out

If it’s straightforward to do so, fixing any damage caused during your tenancy before moving out is recommended.

This way you can shop around for a deal, make sure you’re not overcharged, and avoid any nasty surprises. 

For example, it is likely to be cheaper to remove a carpet stain before to you leave than to have costs deducted from your deposit. 

Note that apart from reasonable wear and tear, you are legally obliged to return the property as you found it.

7. Look after the property

Keeping up with general upkeep during your tenancy is one of the major ways to ensure you get your full deposit returned. This means keeping it clean and ventilated.  

8. Deposit retained

If you believe your deposit has been retained unfairly, then what recourse do you have? 

The first course of action is to communicate clearly and concisely with your landlord, stating why you disagree with the decision.

Mistakes do happen and neither party may be in possession of the full facts. For example, the landlord may have missed something from the initial itinerary and docked your deposit as a result.

If you can come to an agreement, even if that’s a compromise, you can resolve the issue and move on.

But if you reach an impasse, then you can turn to an independent body for a resolution. 

All reputable agents will be members of one of three redress schemes: the Property OmbudsmanOmbudsman Services, and the Property Redress Scheme.

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