The new term has started, and so have lots of new tenancies.

If you are renting for the first time it can be easy to forget about your tenancy deposit until it comes to moving out. You’ve never been faced with realising that what you’ve done, or not done, during your tenancy can cost you money from your deposit when you leave!

Making sure you get it back hangs on what you do from the day you move in, so here is some advice from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme on what to do now so you don’t lose your deposit later.

1.    Is your deposit protected?

Firstly, you must make sure your landlord or agent has protected your deposit in a government approved scheme. If you think your deposit is being withheld unfairly when you come to move out, you apply to the scheme to raise a dispute and challenge any deductions.

This is a vital legal requirement which your landlord must comply with within 30 days of your paying the deposit, and we explain it in more detail in this previous article, Is your deposit protected?

2.    Check your check in report

When you move in your landlord or agent should have given you a check in report, including the inventory. The report will detail the condition of the property when you move in.

You must read this carefully.

As a tenant, you will need return the property in the condition you found it, allowing for fair wear and tear. The check in report is the evidence you have of the state of the property when you moved in. If there is any damage or dirt not listed, or if it describes the property in a better condition than it really is, you could get blamed unfairly – and charged to put it right.

You will normally be asked to sign this to confirm you agree with the contents, and not signing will usually be taken as tacit acceptance of the report. Check, correct, and return as soon as possible. 

You may wish to take photos as evidence, but make sure these are dated and labelled. You may also wish to email them to your landlord or agent, and keep a record of having sent them.

3.    Know your responsibilities

All tenancy agreements are different and they are what all deductions from your deposit are based on, so it’s not just the small print! If you don’t meet any of the responsibilities in the agreement there is a risk deductions will be made. Some of your obvious responsibilities will be to pay rent on time, keep the property in good order, not to alter the property, and so on.

Also, Smoking is not allowed in many tenancy agreements now, largely down to the smell it leaves behind but also because it is considered a fire risk.  Pets are a common issue – many agreements specifically state that pets are not allowed, or at least not without permission from the landlord. Gardens can also be tricky, if you have one. Some tenants mistakenly think of it as a maintenance issue for the landlord but your tenancy agreement may say otherwise, so read it carefully.

Your landlord will be responsible for maintenance and repairs, and for keeping your home safe and habitable, but you are responsible for telling them if anything needs repairing. If repairs are needed tell your landlord as quickly as possible, because if you let problems continue – such as leaks – you might be held responsible for extra damage caused by your delay. Keep written records of your communications about maintenance – if you speak on the phone or meet face to face, send an email afterwards confirming what you discussed and agreed, and when. This will show that you acted promptly to get the problem fixed.

These are just a few common examples. Not meeting any of the terms of the agreement puts you at risk of losing some of your deposit. Your landlord might be flexible in changing terms of the agreement for you, but always get this in writing and ideally get the agreement updated.   

4.    …and know your housemates’ responsibilities

If your housemates aren’t making the grade as a tenant you could end up footing the bill; literally. Bills, rent, cleaning, and other responsibilities are often considered joint and equal obligations so one person’s indiscretions can leave all of you out of pocket.

So, get together when you move in, make sure you are all clear what gets paid when and by whom. Put your cleaning rota into action, and if anyone causes damage agree at the time if one person is responsible and if they will foot potential charges from the deposit to avoid problems when you leave.

5.    Changing tenants

Lots of students leave their houseshares mid-term. Perhaps university isn’t for them, or the living arrangements just haven’t gone to plan.

You must tell your landlord or agent if tenants leave or are replaced so that the agreement is updated and the deposit is protected in their name. If the departing housemate is still officially a tenant their replacement will face difficulties getting the deposit back.  

And never sub-let unless you have a specific and written agreement with the landlord. This is when you rent out the room to someone else whilst still remaining a tenant yourself. It is almost always against the terms of the agreement and brings up difficult legal issues – and it could get you evicted.

6.    Keep good records

Lots of disputes are sent to TDS because a ‘your word against mine’ situation results in a deadlock. Communicate with your landlord or agent in writing during your tenancy and keep the communications safe, along with all other documents to do with your tenancy.

The deposit is your money, so it is always for the landlord to prove that any deductions are reasonable. However keeping your own good records will help end disagreements more quickly and help support your side of the story should a dispute be referred to a tenancy deposit protection scheme.

About TDS:
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.

TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.

TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.

TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.
These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

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