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Ensuring the return of your deposit: Moving in

Posted on 2014-12-10

Building a deposit for a rental property, although nowhere near as expensive as a deposit to buy a house, can be very costly.

A deposit usually costs the same amount as around 1-2 months’ rent, so you could be paying well over £1,000 to secure your house or flat.

It’s always best to ask about the deposit amount before you show an interest in viewing the property or moving in.

The money from your deposit, when you move out of your current home, will help offset the cost of your next rental property or even go some way towards the deposit to buy your own home.

With this in mind, it’s essential that you try to keep your deposit intact throughout your tenancy and leave the property in an appropriate state at the end, so you don’t end up out of pocket.

But, before you even start to think about doing any of this, you need to check your deposit is being properly handled and protected from the start.

Deposit Protection Scheme

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Deposits paid for assured shorthold tenancies must, by law, be protected in Government-backed schemes. This applies to the vast majority of private tenants. There are only a few circumstances in which your deposit doesn’t have to be protected in this way, including:

  • If you live in the same property as your landlord
  • If you’re a student
  • If your tenancy agreement was last renewed (or agreed) before April 2007 you can check whether your deposit needs protecting (or will need protection) by using the Tenancy Deposits Rights Checker on the Shelter website.

If your deposit does, or will, need protecting, make sure you ask your new landlord or letting agent which scheme they will be using. They must also give you a copy of the deposit protection certificate, along with information on how and where it’s protected, no more than 30 days after you pay the deposit.


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When you move in, your landlord or letting agent should take an inventory, with you present to witness it. This will involve you both having a copy of a pre-made inventory, listing the contents and condition of the property.

Ideally, there will also be photos of the property as evidence of any damage or previous wear and tear. If there aren’t any photos included, take some yourself with the landlord or letting agent present and email them across later on.
Any evidence of the property’s condition that you can gather could help save your deposit later on – whether you’re trying to work out if a scuff on the wall was there when you moved in or if you’re being charged for damage that you don’t believe you caused.

On moving out day, check the inventory to ensure you’re not inadvertently taking anything with you that’s not yours and that you’re repairing any damage that wasn’t already there.

Sticking to your tenancy agreement

Once you’re in the property, have another good read of your tenancy agreement to make sure you know what you can and can’t do to the property. Many agreements forbid the hanging of pictures and shelves - or, at least, the drilling or hammering of nails into the wall.

This is to prevent any damage being done to the internal structure of the house – which could be costly to you or the landlord. If you really want to put up pictures or shelves, make sure you get permission from your landlord in writing and keep a copy of their reply.

If you want to replace things such as curtains, make sure you keep the originals in a safe, dry, clean place and remember to replace them when you move out. The same goes for painting – your landlord may say it’s ok to paint the walls as long as you paint them back to their original colour at the end of your contract.

If in doubt, ask. The worst that can happen is that your landlord says no, in which case, have a look at our top tips on decorating your place without going against your tenancy agreement.

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