Here’s why you might not get your deposit back when you are renting a house

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And how to complain if you think you should have had your money returned

lovely attractive little business house agent working on company office and holding model looking at banknote cash feeling surprised.

Everyone knows someone with a story of their deposit being kept at the end of the tenancy – but can landlords and their agents do this, and if so under what circumstances?

Well, it seems deposits can be retained either in part or in full if certain standards aren’t kept up by the renter.

Tenancy deposits are there to protect landlords in the event of unpaid rent or damage to their property so if, for instance, the landlord has to go in when you’ve moved out and start repairing items, then it’s your deposit he/she uses for this.

Property consumer body, ARLA Propertymark, asked its members for the most common reasons why tenants don’t get their deposits back. Here’s what they said.

Almost nine in ten letting agents 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.

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 per cent of letting agents claim that lack of maintenance is another major reason why deposits are often held back.

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

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.

Of course, the most serious reason in unpaid rent. Deposits cannot be returned until all rent arrears are paid. The fourth most common reason why they aren’t returned is unpaid rent.

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.

Sally Lawson, president, ARLA Propertymark, added: “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.”

So, what else can you do to protect your cash (and the landlord’s property)?

Adam Kingswood, director of Kingswood Residential investment, advises: “The key to ensuring a full deposit return at the end of a tenancy and to have no disputes all comes down to a key document at the very start of the tenancy – an Inventory and Schedule of Condition.

“This document, if prepared properly and thoroughly, should accurately reflect the exact contents, condition and cleanliness of the whole property and is then referred back to when checking out a tenant at the end of a tenancy. Without any proof of the initial condition, disagreements arise between a landlord and tenant when they both recall different standards of the initial condition with no documented proof.

“I feel it is always better to carry out the final end of tenancy inspection with the tenant present for any issues to be pointed out and discussed at the property. The most common disputes at the end of a tenancy is cleaning, with redecorating, broken fixtures and fittings and mould being very common too.”

He added: “Should a tenant either not be provided with an inventory by their landlord or agent at the start of the tenancy, or they note additional issues, they should be sure to check their new property and then notify the landlord or agent in writing within a few days of the tenancy commencement of any issues that they could be liable for at the end of the tenancy.”

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