Almost all tenants have to pay a security deposit when they move in to a rented property in the UK. This is held in case of damages, or non-payment of rent/bills. Sometimes, however, getting your deposit back can be a pain! Read on for essential tips for getting your house or flat deposit back when you move out.
*Please note this is based on personal (UK) experience and should not be taken as professional legal or financial advice. Read the deposit resources below to find out how to get proper advice tailored to your own situation.
When you move in
Note & photograph any damage
You should have a “check in” or inventory check with your landlord, letting agent or a third-party agency when you first move in. This is one of the most essential processes for making sure you’re not charged for damage that’s not your fault when you eventually move out. Make sure any damage is noted by both parties on copies of the inventory, and photographed as evidence in case of a dispute.
If you notice anything early on that was missed, let your landlord or property manager know ASAP. Via email is best rather than telephone, so you have dated proof of when the damage was reported.
Make sure your deposit is protected
Getting your deposit protected is arguably the most important thing you can do to ensure you’ll get your deposit back! In the UK, your landlord must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving it. This protects you in the event of a dispute, and even if everything goes smoothly it makes sure the return process is easy. You should receive details of the deposit scheme soon after paying it – ask your landlord or property manager if you haven’t received this.
While you live there
Read your contract before decorating
If your contract includes terms about painting, putting up shelves or even using blu-tack, this could affect your deposit return later on! Read your flat contract carefully and make sure you are only making easily reversible changes while you live there.
Report any new damages immediately
Break something, spill something on the carpet, appliances stop working? Report or replace it straight away. Know what things are your responsibility (i.e breaking things) and what are your landlord’s. Usually anything to do with wear-and-tear, appliances and things like the boiler aren’t your responsibility. If you have any problems with these, report them straight away so they can arrange repairs.
When you move out
Compare the flat/house condition vs your check-in inventory
You may have an official “check out” scheduled, but it’s important to go through the inventory yourself in the weeks before moving out. This can help you both prepare for what deposit deductions to expect, and potentially save money if you spot something that can be fixed.
Check for any items that are missing, any damage done during your tenancy and signs of wear and tear. If there’s anything you can fix yourself – do it! This might include buying replacement items and filling in holes in the walls, for example. Any deductions made by the letting company or landlord will usually include a surcharge and be much more expensive than doing it yourself.
Don’t skimp on the cleaning
A professional cleaner will often cost a LOT more if arranged by your landlord or letting agent. Check if your tenancy agreement includes terms about cleaning before moving out and make sure you leave the property in the state requested. You can either hire professional cleaners or do it yourself, but factor this in to your moving costs or timeline.
If anything goes wrong
You should receive a summary of any deductions being made from your deposit. Read over these and compare to what you expected to pay, if anything. If you disagree, here’s what you can do to make sure you get your deposit back:
Speak to your landlord first
The best first step to get your deposit back is to start a calm discussion with your landlord. Request further information about any deductions made so you have all the details you need to assess if it’s fair or not. Query anything related to wear-and-tear (it’s not your fault if the 5-year-old sofa needs replacing) as this is the landlord’s responsibility. Make sure you are not paying for routine maintenance or replacements. Hopefully both parties (landlord/property manager and tenants) can come to an agreement on what’s fair.
Raising a deposit dispute
If you can’t agree through conversation, your tenancy deposit scheme provides a free dispute resolution service. Contact them directly to get started and be ready to provide evidence for your case. This is where accurate inventories, photos and previous correspondence will be essential.
Please note you have to start the dispute resolution process before agreeing a deposit amount with your landlord. You can’t change your mind later if you have already accepted deductions! The resolution decision will be final.
This is also the process to use if you just can’t get in touch with your landlord re returning your deposit. They have a limited window to return your deposit so if they aren’t communicating, speak to your deposit protection service.