How to make sure your landlord doesn’t scam you out of your deposit

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Lanldord-with-depositIf you’re about to enter a tenancy agreement or you’re coming up to the end of your rental period and are slightly concerned that you might get nobbled on your deposit then read on.

You will obviously have to cough up if you’ve managed to break a door in some sort of ill-advised ironing board surfing competition in the kitchen, but there are ways to avoid any unfair payouts.

Here are the top 3 reasons that landlords give for withholding all/some of tenants’ deposits:

1. Cleaning the property
2. Damage to the property
3. Unpaid rent or bills

As a disclaimer, we’d just like to say that the vast majority of private landlords are reputable, honest and fair. But just in case…

Tip 1. Check them out!

Check out your landlord to begin with – Google them. Be aware of ‘let and run’ scams – empty properties are ‘let out’, the tenants pay their deposit and first month’s rent and ooh, the landlord makes a swift exit.

See if they are registered with any governing bodies (e.g. Association of Residential Letting Agents or UK Association of Letting Agents). They should include their details on the contract (check those out too) and don’t hand over money just to register with them.

There is also a scam doing the rounds whereby landlords don’t ask for a deposit, and instead ask for guarantors (and their bank details). This sounds dodgy, and it is. The poor unsuspecting ‘guarantor’ usually winds up with a hefty invoice for ‘wear and tear’ or ‘repairs due to tenant damage’.

Tip 2. Read up!

Always read all the small print on rental contracts and find out exactly where you stand on house rules – no smoking, no subletting etc. Any of these might lose you your home and your deposit. When moving in, walk through the property with the landlord if possible.

The landlord should have an inventory for the house, if not, make one yourself – note any marks/dents to walls, skirting boards, furniture etc. Otherwise you could find yourself losing some of your deposit to cover other people’s damage. Taking photos is advisable.

Tip 3. Know your rights!

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme came into effect in 2007 (so if your landlord hasn’t heard of it, be wary!!!). Your deposit should go into a protected UK Government-approved bank for safe keeping. Seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau if you’re not sent details within 14 days.

Tip 4. Keep up!

Whilst living in your rented accommodation it’s best to keep up with maintenance and cleaning as you go – it makes life easier in the long run, and who wants to live in a dirty house!?

Again, check your rental contract to see who is responsible for major upkeep, like chimney sweeping and clearing gutters. It’s always best to leave it to the landlord to sort out with their trusted contractors.

Doing a botched job yourself could mean less of that deposit coming your way! And please – keep up with your payments for rent and utility bills.

Tip 5. Leave it spotless

When you are moving out make sure that you return any furniture to its original position, get all your stuff out and then deep clean the whole place. It’s not a nice job, but hopefully it won’t be too bad if you’ve managed to stick to Tip 4.

Dodgy landlords are relatively rare, but they are out there. Make sure you go into any contractual agreement with your eyes open. Seek advice where necessary if things do go wrong and above all – ensure you keep up your end of the bargain!

Tip 6. Financial protection for tenants

Don’t rely on your landlord to provide insurance for your possessions; in nearly all cases, they won’t do. You’ll need your own contents cover if you want to make sure you’re financially protected against loss, theft or damage to the things you own.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.