At the outset of any tenancy, the property’s new occupant will be expected to provide a deposit. The amount you pay will tend to depend on the value of the property. It’s kept in a secure escrow, to be released at the end of the tenancy. Among the more important functions of the deposit is to protect the landlord against problem tenants. As such, it isn’t guaranteed that you’ll get it back.
So, under what sorts of circumstances might you find your deposit withheld?
If some of the appliances or furniture in the property are found to be broken, then your landlord might keep a portion of the deposit to cover the cost of a replacement. Ordinary wear and tear are to be expected, but the damage isn’t.
If you haven’t paid your rent, then your landlord can justifiably deduct the debt from your deposit. Note that if you leave the tenancy early, then you’re still responsible for unpaid rent. Check the tenancy agreement for a break clause. Even if the tenancy is a rolling one, you will typically still be required to provide notice that you’re leaving.
It might be that the property requires a deep clean to get it back into the state it was in at the start of the tenancy. This often happens when a pet has been kept at the property, in contravention of the tenancy agreement.
If you’ve redecorated the property, put up wallpaper or repainted the walls, then you’ll often be expected to restore it to its original condition before you leave.
If you have a garden, then it will be your responsibility to look after it. This means weeding, trimming hedges, and mowing the lawn. While you might not feel any great urge to tend to a garden that you don’t own, you should try to stay on top of it, and do whatever is reasonable.
What if I can’t get the deposit back?
What can tenants do when landlords or letting agents refuse to return the deposit? Your first step should be to request in writing. That way, you can point to the fact that you’ve tried to resolve the problem amicably if there’s a dispute. If you’ve taken out tenant’s insurance, you may be able to seek compensation while the dispute is being resolved.
Your landlord is legally required to have protected your deposit using one of three schemes. You can check that they’ve done so online. If they haven’t, then you might have to go through the courts to get the money back. This is where the services of a competent, specialised solicitor can be enormously useful.