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When you first begin renting a property, your new landlord is highly likely to ask for a deposit before letting you move in.

Typically, this is one month’s rent payable upfront, although it can be more in some cases.

Your landlord is legally required to protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme. When you come to move out they’ll refund your deposit in full, unless they have a justifiable reason to keep some of the money.

This could be because:

  • You owe rent
  • You’ve damaged the property. For example, you may have stained the carpet or damaged the walls with fixings
  • You’ve lost or broken items from the inventory, such as mugs or electrical appliances

To avoid losing your rental deposit, here are our top tips to ensure you get your deposit back in full.

1.   Take pictures when you move in
Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous landlords out there, who may try to keep your deposit for damages that were already there when you moved in.

Having photographic evidence on day one means you can challenge your landlord in the event of this happening.

Not all landlords are likely to do this of course, and some may even be unaware of day one issues, especially if they’re ‘hands off’.

Therefore take some pictures on the day you move in, and also be sure to let the landlord or letting agent know of any issues immediately, so they’re aware that you weren’t the cause of them.

2.   Read your contract carefully
It’s surprising how many people just blindly sign their tenancy agreement without checking the details.

For example, there may be information contained there detailing whether you can decorate, or hang pictures on the walls, and there may be reasonable maintenance requirements that you’re expected to stick to, especially when it comes to the garden.

Make sure you read through the contract in detail and if you’re unsure of anything, ask your landlord or letting agent to clarify it and have it written down. This will go a long way to avoiding disputes further down the line.

3.   Check your inventory
Before you sign your contract, make sure you’ve toured the property and agree with everything that’s on the inventory.

If anything’s missing or damaged, don’t assume that it’s an error or that the landlord is already aware and will be fine with it. Make sure you let them know, and have the inventory amended.

It may seem like a pain at the time, but it’s the sort of minor detail that can come back to bite you in the long run, so check that everything on the inventory is present and in working order, or that you’ve notified the landlord before signing your contract.

4.   Stay in contact with your landlord
Whether you have a direct relationship with them, or via a lettings agent, it’s a good idea to touch base from time to time so they can keep an eye on the property’s condition, and you can report any damages or issues to them as they arise.

It’s important to notify your landlord of any damages or problems as and when they occur, rather than let them build up until the time you move out.

This avoids nasty surprises for them, and it means they’re more likely to be receptive to any issues that arise if you’re upfront and honest with them.

5.   Look after the property
You should treat your rental property as if it’s your own home, and this means keeping on top of it by maintaining a good standard of cleanliness and basic maintenance.

Reasonable wear and tear such as faded curtains and worn carpets are likely to be accepted, but stained carpets, damaged walls and broken light fittings are a big no-no if you want your deposit back in full.

Therefore, make sure you keep the place clean and tidy, and don’t allow any scuffs and scratches to build up too much.

Stay on top of the cleaning and fix any minor issues as they appear. If you’re unable to do it yourself then contact your landlord to get the professionals in. Another sure fire way of losing your deposit is to bodge things like electrics or plumbing, so don’t risk any repairs you’re not comfortable with.

What if my landlord withholds the deposit?
Start off by talking to them in person. It may just be a case of crossed wires that can be sorted quickly and easily.

If your landlord still won’t return your deposit then ask for them to state the reasons why in writing.

You can then check which tenancy deposit scheme your money is being held in and contact them for help resolving your dispute.

There are three government-approved tenancy deposit schemes, and they all offer free services to help resolve your dispute.

If your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit in one of the schemes then you may be able to claim compensation.

Baillie White Lettings are your local property experts for the Benfleet area. Call us on 01268 955001 or email lettings@baillie-white.co.uk to chat with a member of our friendly and experienced team about our property management services.

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