Tenancy deposits are in place to protect landlords in the event of unpaid rent or damage to their properties. Most tenants get their full deposits back, but there are situations where the landlord may need to keep part, or all, of it to cover various costs.
ARLA Propertymark (the Association of Residential Letting Agents) asked its letting agent members for the most common reasons why tenants don’t get their deposits back:
The Top Reasons Tenants don’t get their Deposits Back
Almost nine in ten letting agents (88%) said that the main reason that tenants don’t get their deposits back is because they leave the property dirty or messy. In most cases, properties are professionally cleaned at the start of a tenancy, so, while you can clean it yourself when you leave and aren’t required to use a cleaning company, landlords expect the same level of cleanliness as documented in the inventory report 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.
Maintenance (or lack of)
Tenants are expected to maintain their rental home, which includes keeping the garden in the same state that it was in when they moved in. However, 44% 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 such as this is another top reason why tenants don’t get their full deposits back (39%). 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.
Deposits cannot be returned until all rent arrears are paid, but the fourth most common reason why they aren’t returned is unpaid rent (31%). By setting up a standard order at the start of a tenancy, you can ensure that your rent is always on time, which will save you from issues when you leave the property.
Here is the full list of the top reasons that tenants don’t get their deposits back:
Lack of sufficient cleanliness: 88%
Lack of maintenance: 44%
Direct damage to the property and its contents: 39%
Unpaid rent at the end of the tenancy: 31%
Damage due to carelessness and lack of maintenance: 29%
Unwanted personal belongings left behind: 12%
Keys not returned at the end of the tenancy: 2%
Unpaid bills at the end of the tenancy: 2%
Pest infestation: 2%
The President of ARLA Propertymark, Sally Lawson, says: “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.”
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