10 Top Tips For Getting Your Tenancy Deposit Back
Hey renters, looking for 10 top tips to get your tenancy deposit back?
We’ve put together a non-exhaustive list of things to bear in mind when you’re leaving the place you’ve been renting.
1. Prepare a couple of weeks in advance
You should have given your landlord or letting agent at least one months notice, so you should have at least one month to get your shit together. Use your time wisely. Some landlords and letting agents have tried to take as much deposit as they can from tenants at the end of their tenancies, so prepare yourself for every eventuality.
It’s your money - these extra bits of preparation should help you out.
Time-wise, you should have roughly 4 weekends before boot-out date, so there’s no excuses for being slack.
Run through the rest of these tips to get your deposit back and you should be on to a winner.
2. Check your tenancy agreement
Remember back to those halcyon days before you realised what a dump the flat was?
Remember that thing you didn’t read before signing?
Go find the tenancy agreement, it’s probably stashed away in one of the kitchen drawers or on top of the boiler. Can’t find it? Don’t @ us.
When you find it, read it.
Yes it’s like trawling through Terms and Conditions on a website, but it’s really important to understand what you signed, way back whenever.
Do you have to tidy the garden?
What utility services do you have to cancel?
What’s the check out process?
What are you responsible for?
What does your landlord have to take care of?
3. Go through the inventory
The inventory is a separate document to the tenancy agreement. It’ll probably be referenced in the tenancy agreement, but rather than rattling off a list of agreements, the inventory should have a list of everything non-structural that was in the place when you started renting it.
Items like furniture, sofas, chairs, fridge, freezer, washing machine, mirrors, tables, etc.
Then next to the item there should be a ‘Condition’ box that states what condition the items were in when you moved in.
You should have gone around the place with your landlord and letting agent and agreed the condition of all the items on the inventory.
Once you’ve found the inventory, go around the place and identify the differences between then and now. What’s changed? Is the sofa in a worse condition? Has your pet Gopher gnawed through the kitchen table leg? Have you replaced the missing chair after ‘that’ party? Is the microwave in the same state as it was when you moved in?
There’s a great article called ‘A tenant's guide to inventories 2019’ by HomeLet that goes into more detail around inventories.
4. Understand what ‘Fair wear and tear’ means
It’s not unheard of for landlords and letting agents to use the terms ‘Fair wear and tear’ to keep tenants’ deposits and replace everything in the house.
A saucepan burn mark on the kitchen worktop is not likely to be ‘fair wear and tear’.
Worn out carpet on the stairs in a house you and your kids have been renting for the last 8 years could very well be fair wear and tear.
A couple of variables can come into play when working out fair wear and tear.
a) length of tenancy
b) number of tenants
c) age of tenants
d) initial state of the rental property
e) common sense
Reading through that list you’ll note that calculating ‘fair wear and tear’ is not an exact science. The House of Lords defines fair wear and tear as: ‘Reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces’.
TDS defines it as: 'Fair wear and tear can be defined as the level of deterioration that a landlord might reasonably expect a tenant to cause through their everyday normal use of the property over the period of the tenancy.' in their useful: 'A guide to check-in/out reports, inventories, and schedules of condition.'
The application of the phrase ‘fair wear and tear’ will depend on the evidence you provide to your landlord, letting agent and the deposit protection agency.
Keep in mind the variables listed above and have the evidence to back any claims up.
For extra reading there’s a good article ‘Fair wear and tear: assessing damage to your rented property’ from Net Lawman.
5. Report any damage
Be open, honest and communicative with your landlord or letting agent about anything that’s been damaged.
Your landlord or letting agent wants to get someone else in to the place you’ve rented as soon as possible after you leave. Minimum hold ups, minimum fuss. So if there is damage, but honest - tell them, explain what’s happened, let them know in advance what might need to be replaced so they can prepare themselves to get the place ready for the next tenants moving in.
Don’t leave it until the last minute as this might hold up the next tenants.
Make the leaving process as smooth for everyone as you can.
6. Take pictures of absolutely everything
Take pictures of everything.
Use Marks Out Of Tenancy’s ‘Tenants’ Tools’ to store pictures of your rented house or flat.
Images stored in Tenants’ Tools show the time, date and GPS coordinates next to them, so you can prove exactly where and when the pictures were taken.
We’ve built it so you can store your images, documents, contacts and notes all in one place, attached to your tenancy, not visible to anyone else but you - oh, and it’s free too.
7. Take your rubbish out
Seriously, take your bloody rubbish out.
Do a tip run if needs be.
If there’s loads of rubbish left over when you move out, your landlord could use a private rubbish collection firm to do it and take a huge chunk out of your deposit, all because you couldn’t be bothered.
This also includes any garden waste or rubbish.
If your tenancy agreement says that you’re responsible for the garden, make sure it’s in the same condition when you leave as it was when you arrived.
8. Clean from top to bottom
‘Lack of sufficient cleanliness’ is one of the most frequently used reasons why tenants don’t get their deposits back.
Clean the carpets. At various tenancies, the Marks Out Of Tenancy team have used Rug Doctor (https://www.rugdoctor.co.uk/store-locator/) to get carpets back to their former glory days.
If you leave the carpets in a wreck, the landlord will need to get them cleaned and will charge you a hefty fee that’ll come straight out of your deposit.
Take before and after pictures of the carpet. Keep the receipt.
MyDeposits state in their document ‘Rules of Claiming for Deposit Deductions’ "The tenant is only obliged to return the property to the same standard it was in at the start".
Remember that cleanliness and condition are two different things. ‘Condition’ will be covered in the inventory.
9. Check the meter readings
It’s likely you’ll have been shown where the gas, electric and water meters are when you moved in.
In older places it’s usually down some dodgy, damp stairs. You’ll have to fight off the same spiders that tried to jump you when you first moved in.
Hopefully it’s not that horrific, but if you’re in a place with lots of other flats or a building with loads of other residents, and you’re not sure which of the meters is yours, we have a handy trick!
How do you find out which is your gas or electric meter?
Looking for a surefire way to find out which of those gas or electric meters is yours?
Find one of your utility bills.
Somewhere on the bill with be an MPAN.
MPAN stands for ‘Meter Point Administration Number’ - every gas and electric meter has one of these, clearly stated on the front.
Check the number on the bill with the numbers on the front of the meter.
If they match - that’s yours.
10. Be there when the check-out happens
There will be forms, the inventory and possibly other bits and bobs for you to sign at the end of the tenancy.
It’s vital you’re there to bring everything to a smooth close.
Don’t leave it up to the landlord or letting agent to sign for you, you never know what could happen.
Bonus tip: Leave a review on Marks Out Of Tenancy - help future renters know what the landlord was like, how the letting agent treated you, what the place was like to rent and whether the neighbourhood was any good.