Getting your security deposit back at the end of your tenancy shouldn’t be like playing the lottery. If the expectations are clear and you have a good plan in place, you should know how much of your deposit to expect back.
What is a Security Deposit When Renting?
So, how does a security deposit work? A security deposit is a one-time fee you pay to your landlord when you enter his property. The fee may be half a rent, a whole rent, double rent, even triple rent, depending on your landlord’s demands.
A security deposit makes sense to anyone who lends a property to tenants. If they do any damage, while living there, or run away without paying last month’s rent or bills, the security deposit should cover the costs.
When Should a Landlord Return a Deposit?
The security deposit should be added in your contract with the landlord with the exact amount you’re paying and you should expect it back once you leave the place, and if you covered all conditions of the contract (such as paid bills, no property damages and so on).
Once these conditions are covered, the landlord will return the whole amount, if everything is fine. Or, they might use part of the money to pay for repairs, or bills and send you back the rest. The contract should cover at least a few situations, but there are just so many details you can add. It will most probably cover general situations where a landlord would be permitted to keep the money.
Bear in mind, landlords will look for ways around it. But, if there isn’t a reason to keep the deposit, you should expect it in the next ten days. Unless there is a clause in the contract for an extended time period.
How to Get Deposit Back From Landlord
Landlords, like any other person who gets security money, would most probably prefer not to return your deposit money back, unless everything is the way they left it to you. So, you have to put some sweat into it. Here is how to ensure you get your deposit back.
- Read the contract carefully. It should have clear instructions on what is required upon moving out. You’ll know if there is a cleaning fee right off the top, what damages are considered outside of, “normal wear and tear,” and what to report in advance. You can create an efficient plan for getting moved out, and prevent a less than savoury landlord from taking advantage of you.
- Make an inventory list upon moving in. This is a great way to have proof that you did your job properly at the end of your tenancy. Make a list of everything in the place, it’s condition and add lots of pictures. You can compare when moving out that you’re leaving the place the way you moved in.
- Give at least a month notice you’re moving out. No landlord wants to find out you’re moving out tomorrow. They need time to make their own plans and look for other tenants after you leave. This should also be written in the contract and you better abide to it. It’s good enough reason to not get your deposit back if you pull that stunt.
- Help out your landlord. If you want your landlord to be in a good mood (and you need that to get your deposit back), you can find a tenant that will immediately take up your place when you leave.
- Do some fixes. It’s perfectly normal to have some damages, especially if you lived in that place for a long time. But, you should know that a can of spackle and a can of paint can make the nicks and bruises in a rental disappear.
- Arrange for a deep clean. You can always clean up the whole place, but there’s a noticeable difference when you do it, and when a professional does it. And, let’s face it, cleaning is the last thing you want to do when moving out. Arrange for an end of tenancy cleaning team and your security deposit is in the bag.
- Keep in touch with your landlord. Moving out is stressful. And not just for you. The landlord would want to know how your plans are progressing and what you’ll be doing. So, tell them if you’re doing reparations (or don’t, whichever is better), tell them you’re arranging professionals for a clean (most landlords prefer that) and tell him the exact date you’ll be leaving.
- Give the landlord your contacts for when he returns your deposit.
Moves are expensive, and a deposit can be just the funds you need to get through the transition. If you know your lease, do some light repairs, and clean like you mean it, the refund should take care of itself.
Landlord Doesn’t Want to Return Deposit
Even if all the conditions are covered, you gave the proper notice, you deep cleaned the whole place and paid all the rent and bills, a landlord might still not want to give you your money back because he’s a fraud. And, that’s more common than you might think. So, how to get your deposit back from a landlord who wants to bilk you?
- Know your rights. You signed a contract and you’ve kept your end of the bargain. There isn’t a valid reason for the landlord to make any claims. Speak with an attorney, even if you don’t want to hire one, just to make sure you’re on the right side of law.
- Raise a fuss. Sometimes it’s enough to get your money back. But make sure you are well mannered. Profanity will only distance you from your goal. Try to reason with him in a civilized manner.
- Take your landlord to small claims court. If you decide to persist, you always have this option, but bear in mind that even if you win, the hassle might not be worth the returned money, especially if the amount you’ll be getting will already be less than the primary sum.
- Publicize your experience. No matter if you get your money back, or not, make sure to expose the landlord for his wrongdoings. Internet can offer you lots of places to do so, and you will warn future tenants.
Deposit Protection Scheme
Since these kinds of frauds with landlords happen a lot, which is why deposit protection services have surfaced in the UK. They resolve disputes between landlord and tenants, and make sure no injustice goes unpunished.
The deposit protection scheme will make sure everything on your tenant agreement is fulfilled, and you must prove the property is not damaged (the inventory list comes in handy then), and that you have paid your rent and bills.
For more information, check out the deposit protection law on the Official UK Government Website.