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While renting, you might have encountered at least one landlord that believes they are entitled to take your deposit regardless of how you feel about it.
Needless to say, this is not true. The tenancy deposit is the property of the tenant, and although kept by the landlord or a deposit protection scheme, it should be returned back once the tenancy ends.
However, being entitled to something and actually getting it are two very different things.
A key thing to remember when renting is that you need to anticipate events in the near future and take the according measures in advance. What this means to say is legal procedures happen slowly and there is a lot of waiting. If you just start talking about the deposit as you return the keys to your landlord, it’s likely going to be a week of back and forth messages before any agreement is achieved.
The solution is to open the conversation as soon as you hand in your month’s notice to vacate.
That will give you a full month to negotiate any deductions your landlord plans to make and how the money is going to be refunded.
If you rent privately from a landlord, you’re most likely an Assured Shorthold tenant. That gives you a lot of rights regarding your deposit money.
It used to be the case that landlords would both hold the money and determine how the deposit is returned or deducted.
However, that gives landlords too many opportunities to abuse their power for their own gain. So, the government changed the law and from April the 1st, 2007, every private landlord is required to submit the deposit money to a government-authorised scheme.
This scheme will hold out the money during the tenancy. When the tenancy ends, it will oversee how the money is returned and in a potential dispute, provide dispute resolution services for free.
How does it work?
When you pay your deposit to the landlord, they have 30 days to protect it with a scheme of their choice and return to you with:
They have exactly 30 days from your payment to do this or they will fail the procedure. Your deposit can still be protected, but your landlord will become liable for a compensation owed to you.
How can I check?
You can use these links to check if your deposit is registered with all three government-backed companies:
If it’s not there, it’s not protected. You should ask your landlord immediately and demand your deposit is registered. Threaten legal action if they don’t comply.
If the tenancy ends and you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, the deposit protection scheme can help.
Both the landlord and the tenant can request an alternative dispute resolution, which will appoint an impartial adjudicator to your case. The adjudicator will request documents such as:
These will serve as the material evidence on which the adjudicator will base their decision. After they have decided, you will get confirmation and the according funds will be released into each appropriate account.
However, the full procedure takes an average of 6 weeks. That’s a lot of waiting time, considering your moving expenses have likely dried out your account.
Your best bet is to always…
When your tenancy is near it’s end, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get all your documentation in order, so you know your claims are backed by physical proof.
While it’s next to impossible to negotiate harsh breaches like unpaid rent, outstanding energy bills or severe damage, some items may be bargained for.
For example, minor scratches and scuff marks can be passed as fair wear and tear, if you have lived in the property for more than a couple of years. The landlord can’t expect to receive the property in perfect condition.
Try your best to sort out minor things like:
You’ll be amazed, but more than 50% of all deposit disputes include hygiene issues in one form or another. It’s something so simple, but in the moving rush, tenants often can leave quite a mess behind.
Moving one day early and returning for a good deep cleaning of the property propels your chances of successfully receiving your deposit tremendously.
Still, if you made every reasonable effort to return the property in good condition, but your landlord still refuses to give you back the money – look for leverage.
Try to look for things that will get your landlord in trouble, such as:
Landlords hate to get in trouble with the council, especially the Environmental Health department. If there is a good chance that your report gets them fined, they will quickly reconsider and you may get positive results.
This guide was contributed by The Tenants’ Voice – UK’s biggest tenant community. TTV is established by tenants for tenants and it’s mission is to unravel the complex housing laws that regulate landlord and tenant relationships. The Tenant’s Voice produces helpful guide and content to thoroughly educate tenants of their rights and responsibilities, so they can stand their ground when things are tough.