How to get your deposit back
Around about a year ago you tossed all your worldly goods on to a strange new bed and went off to celebrate that you had moved into your first flat. You marvelled at the fake wood flooring and shiny mock leather sofa. You even found a dishwasher and washing machine in the kitchen. But as you were sticking up your posters with blue tack in your room and hammering in the odd nail to hang a collage of photos from home, did you pay any attention to your Tenancy Agreement?
Check your Tenancy Agreement
Yes, you remember signing to agree to pay an extortionate sum every month. You even remember a little clause saying “no noise after 11pm” and something about putting rubbish into the myriad of recycling bins outside, but also buried in the small print was a phrase informing you that you were not allowed to stick anything to any wall, nor were you allowed to hammer in any more picture hooks.
Your Tenancy Agreement probably said that the flat/bedsit had been professionally cleaned before you moved in and attached to it was an inventory of all the contents, all of which you signed for. Now your tenancy is up and you want your deposit back in order to move on to somewhere new. Check your Agreement, does it say that all carpets and curtains must be cleaned to a professional standard before you move out? If so, ensure you keep any receipts for cleaning. However, you shouldn’t be expected to pay for making the property cleaner than when you moved in.
Did you take any photographs of the condition of the flat when you first moved in? Was the curtain rail actually attached to the wall or did you inherit it precariously balanced by string? How many dents were there behind the door caused by the lack of a door stop and the door handle chipping lumps out of the plaster? Did you tell your Landlord that there actually weren’t any shelves in the oven and that the plastic boxes in the fridge were cracked and covered in parcel tape? When you checked your Inventory did you make a note that only three out of seven light bulbs worked?
If not, then these are items that your Landlord will say he needs to deduct before he returns your deposit. If you signed the Tenancy Agreement and the inventory without checking the flat out first and making a note, preferably photographic, of all the defects, then your Landlord can blame the sticky blue tack marks on the wall, the curry stains and cigarette burns on the rug, the precarious curtain rail, the lack of oven trays, the broken fridge storage boxes all on you and charge you for them. However, your Landlord cannot charge you for general 'wear and tear' so if a carpet looks a bit worn down then that is general wear and tear and he cannot charge you. But if you burn a hole in it, then it’s damage.
How to avoid being stung when you move out
When you first sign a Tenancy Agreement make a note of every defect and put it in writing to the landlord then there can be no dispute later on. If you and your landlord agreed an Inventory at the start of your tenancy, then there should be an accurate record of the condition of the walls, floor coverings, appliances and furniture. Any changes can be noted and agreed when you leave. Remember your landlord can make reasonable deductions to pay for damage, unpaid rent and cleaning. However, he can only deduct on a like for like basis. So if you break the leg off an armchair and it was an old armchair, your landlord cannot charge you for a brand new one.
Your Landlord can deduct any unpaid rent from your deposit. You are legally liable to pay rent and if you don’t then the landlord could take you to court to recover it. If you have paid all your rent and caused no damage then the full amount of your Tenancy Deposit should be returned to you. Your deposit should be protected by a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme. Tenancy deposit protection law protects private tenants with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. If there is a dispute with your landlord, a tenancy deposit scheme can assist you getting your money back when you leave.
Remember don’t hand over your deposit until you have checked the inventory for your future home!