Getting your deposit back
Most landlords take a deposit (usually equivalent to a month's rent) to protect them in case their property or furnishings are damaged. The deposit is meant to be used for substantial cleaning or repairs, and also protects the landlord if you don't pay your rent.
Sometimes it can be confusing when deciding what deductions are reasonable when it comes to your deposit. To help, we’ve answered some of your most common questions to ensure that you avoid any unnecessary deposit deductions in future.
What can I do to make sure I get my deposit back?
Most renters need their deposit back quickly, as they’ll use it to pay for their next rental. We know how annoying it can be to receive a charge or a delay when it comes to your deposit, so we’ve put together a list of the most common charges and advice on how to avoid/prevent them.
We conducted a survey where we asked if you’ve ever had money deducted from your deposit after moving out and, if so, what these charges were for. The three most popular causes people cited for lost money from their deposit included:
Cleaning - If the property isn't clean when you move in, you need to complain to the landlord straight away and take photos. If you don't return it to the original condition, then your deposit may be used to pay for cleaning. Find out what standard is expected before you move out, in case you need to purchase oven cleaner or hire a carpet shampoo machine.
Damage to property/items in the property - It's expected that the apartment will suffer some wear and tear, especially if you’ve lived there for many years - this is not something that you should be charged for. But simple household accidents, such as spilling coffee or red wine on a light floor, could end up having a hefty impact on your deposit. Most damage you can repair yourself (it’s usually pretty low-effort and inexpensive), but sometimes it may be necessary to get a professional in to restore it. Even if you have to fork out a few pounds. Either of these options are likely to be cheaper than leaving it to your landlord as they will have free reign to charge the maximum amount for the damage caused.
Redecorating - If you’ve put up any temporary decorations or made modifications to your property, it’s expected (and usually written into your contract), that you should leave the property as you found it. This means filling in any holes left in walls, taking down any temporary fixtures (like shelves, picture frames, etc.), filling in any holes that you’ve caused through drilling, or painting where necessary - otherwise your landlord would be within their rights to charge you. But there’s no need to stress as temporary modifications should be easy and inexpensive to fix yourself!
Other common reasons why tenants don't get their money back in full include:
- Not leaving the room in the condition you found it: If you've installed temporary walls, put up pictures or made any other modifications, you should take care to return the place to how you found it.
- Not giving proper notice in writing: Even if your lease is about to come up, you must always give notice or you could lose a month's rent.
- Missing items: Make sure you check all the items that were in the apartment when you arrived (there should be a full inventory) and that you leave it complete. If you've broken a glass it's usually cheaper to replace it yourself than to allow the landlord to deduct an amount from your deposit.
How to handle security deposit disputes
You may be unlucky enough to get into a dispute with your landlord over the return of your deposit. It's important to handle this properly and to communicate clearly.
You should try to resolve any disputes through negotiation and always treat each other fairly and in good faith. If your landlord has billed you for items you disagree with you should respond straight away in writing. This is a good time to include any photographic evidence to support your case, give clear reasons why you don't agree with their decision, and ask politely for the full amount to be refunded to you within a reasonable period (say, seven days). Don't threaten legal action until they've responded.