How not to lose out after a tenancy

There are steps you can take to endure you get your deposit back when you move house
There are steps you can take to endure you get your deposit back when you move house

From broken bones to new beginnings

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The tough financial climate is leading more and more people to choose renting over buying a house.

But a growing number of customers are finding tenancies end with a nasty surprise. Disputes over the return of deposits are frequently mentioned by readers who get in touch with Streetwise, and can be frustrating to deal with.

Industry experts have estimated up to 10 per cent of tenancies finish on a sour note with conflicts over damage, redecorating or maintenance.

And the worst part is for many tenants it can come as a complete shock when their landlord tells them they won’t be getting their money back, easily leading to bad feeling on both sides.

John Pinkham is the senior partner at Top Let letting agency, in Northarbour.

He said the single biggest cause of tenants losing their deposits was them not checking their inventory thoroughly on arrival.

‘Understandably many people have other things on their minds when they move into a new property,’ he said.

‘So often the housewarming party can come before a proper look over the inventory, but I can’t stress how important it is.

‘If you go around and check everything on the list you are in a far stronger position later on.’

To help make life easier for people who want to rent – and their landlords – we have compiled the following top tips with Mr Pinkham’s help:

Read your tenancy agreement

The contract between you and your landlord will usually be a very thorough document, laying out all the conditions and rules of your tenancy – and the obligations on both sides. Fair wear and tear should always be excluded from your liabilities.

If the inventory isn’t right, tell someone

Make sure you immediately report any discrepancies in the items listed or the condition of the property to your landlord or letting agent. Then make sure they agree and are happy to amend their inventories, because this will be your only chance to do it.

Don’t do a shoddy clean-up job

Spending time and money on a top-to-bottom house clean will pay off. Landlords aren’t necessarily trying to catch you out, but if they have to spend their time and money getting the house back up to a decent standard, they will have no qualms about taking it out of your deposit.

Ask your letting agent to inspect the property

Think of it as a dress rehearsal; at the end of your let ask the agent to tell you what they are going to tell the landlord (or if you don’t have one ask the landlord themselves) and then put right any problems they find. It’s the only way to be absolutely sure, and will probably be cheaper than if you let it come out of your deposit.

The News consumer rights expert Richard Thomson said: ‘A landlord is obliged by law to tell a tenant who is holding their deposit. A tenant can ask for it back, and if refused can obtain a court order to have it returned. A landlord cannot make deductions from the deposit for wear and tear, but where most tenants fall down is they don’t read the incoming inventory, and query any suspect items.

‘The deposit scheme only applies to deposits made after April 2007.

‘All three government approved schemes have a free dispute resolution service. Tenants should have been told by their landlord within 14 days which scheme is holding their deposit.’