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Renters: the sure-fire way to say goodbye to your deposit

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Tenancy deposit schemes protect both renters and landlords. Here, landlords reveal the most common reasons why renters won’t get their full deposits back.

Since 2007, deposit money must be protected in a government-approved scheme. This can be either through an insurance scheme or a custodial scheme.

If there’s a dispute at the end of the tenancy over deductions made from the deposit, the scheme adjudicates the matter.

If you want to make sure you get your full deposit back, ARLA Propertymark asked landlords to reveal the most common reasons why they may hold back some or all of the money to cover various costs:

Keep it clean

Almost nine in ten letting agents (88%) said the main reason tenants don’t get their deposits back is because they leave the property dirty or messy. In most instances, properties are professionally cleaned at the start of the tenancy, so while you can clean it yourself when you vacate the property, and aren’t required to use a cleaning company, landlords expect the same level of cleanliness as documented in the inventory at the start of the agreement. To avoid any disputes, you should take photos at the start and end of the tenancy to use as evidence.

Lack of maintenance

Tenants are expected to maintain the property they’re renting; which includes keeping gardens in the same state they were in when you moved in. However, 44% of letting agents claim that lack of maintenance is another major reason why deposits are often held back.

Damage to the property and its contents

When you’re renting a property, it’s tempting to stick your own photos on the wall, or hang your own pictures, but damage like this is another top reason why tenants don’t get their full deposits back (39%).

Plain walls can be boring, but using white tac can avoid greasy marks, or even just asking your landlord if you can hang a few pictures in sensible places will likely avoid deposit deductions.

Unpaid rent

Deposits can’t be returned until all rent arrears are paid yet the fourth most common reason why they aren’t returned is unpaid rent (31%). By setting up a standing order at the start of a tenancy, you can ensure your rent is always on time, which will save you from issues when you leave the property.

Other reasons cited include unwanted personal possessions left behind (12%), keys not being returned at the end of the tenancy (2%), unpaid bills at the end of the agreement (2%) and pest infestations (2%).

Sally Lawson, president, ARLA Propertymark said: “When you’re leaving a property you’ve been renting, the general rule is to leave it as you found it. Make sure you haven’t left any personal belongings behind, and that the property is clean and tidy for the next tenants.

“You should flag any damaged items to your letting agent or landlord during the agreement, so that when you leave, it doesn’t come as a shock. This will also help you develop a good relationship with them, which will be useful for any reasonable negotiations about the deposit.

“Finally, you should always take photos of the property at the start and at the end of your contract, so that if you need to dispute any of the deposit deductions, you can evidence your points.”

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