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Why landlords withhold deposits

Posted on 2016-03-01

When you return the keys for your rented home to your landlord after the checkout process, you’ll want to ensure the return of your full deposit.

As long as you take good care of the property throughout your tenancy and pay your rent on time, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you don’t return the property in the same state as when you moved in (minus ‘fair’ wear and tear), you may suffer deductions. In this post, we look at why landlords withhold deposits from their tenants after checkout and the steps you can take to prevent your deposit being withheld.

Under a third of landlords have withheld a deposit

In our recent survey of the UK’s landlords, we found that only 29% of landlords had withheld a deposit from their tenants in the past.

With under a third of landlords telling us that they’d withheld a tenant’s deposit, it appears as though many landlords and tenants alike are having a positive experience when ending tenancies; with the vast majority of deposits returned in full.

Of the landlords who told us that they’d withheld deposits from their tenants in the past, 49% said that they’d done so because of the state of the garden, which was by far the most common answer.

A further 15% told us that they’d withheld a tenant’s deposit because of damage to fixtures and furnishings, while only 13% said they’d withheld deposits because of the standard of cleanliness. Finally among the popular answers, 12% of landlords said that they’d withheld a tenant’s deposit because of rent arrears.

With these problem areas in mind, let’s take a look at how you can prevent your deposit being withheld for each reason.

The state of the garden

When you’re renting, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to the garden. Tenants are generally responsible for typical garden maintenance, including:

  • Emptying the bins
  • Cutting the grass
  • Weeding the garden (if the garden contained weeds when you moved in, this should’ve been listed on the inventory) 
  • Cleaning the guttering

There may also be other aspects you’re responsible for in the garden, so remember to check your tenancy agreement.

By keeping up with gardening tasks throughout your tenancy, you avoid the chance of problems developing. So, before the landlord or letting agent comes to inspect the property at the end of the tenancy, ensure that you mow the lawn, trim back the hedges and tidy up, disposing of all garden waste responsibly.

Damage to fixtures and furnishings

Let’s face it, accidents do happen.

If you cause damage to fixtures and furnishings in the property, then it’s best to tell the landlord or letting agent immediately, no matter how minor the damage might be. This way, you can avoid any unwanted fees at the end of the tenancy.

Although it’s undoubtedly a difficult conversation, by explaining the exact nature of the damage to your landlord, a mutual agreement can be sought in advance of the tenancy’s end, potentially saving you money.

This’ll also help you maintain the relationship you have with your landlord throughout the tenancy and they may also be more willing to provide you with a good reference.

Cleanliness

During checkout, the property must have the same level of cleanliness as when you moved in. This should be noted on your inventory. Again, this is subject to ‘fair’ wear and tear. If you’re unsure what that constitutes in your property, you can ask your landlord in advance of checkout.

When cleaning, take a copy of the inventory around the property with you, so you remember how it originally looked.

If you’ve slightly marked a carpet, then ensure that you steam clean it. Equally, ensure that all window glass is polished and lint free. All lights should be in full working order, and the oven should be spotless.

By manually checking everything on your inventory, you’ll ensure no stone’s left unturned.

Rent arrears

Finally, if you’re having trouble paying the rent during your tenancy, ensure that you tell your landlord or letting agent immediately. By keeping them informed and updated, you can maintain your relationship and ensure that the situation’s rectified.

Problems paying rent can result from a number of circumstances and it may be that it’s just a one-off. If you continue to struggle, then the Money Advice Service can help get you back on the right footing.

Image courtesy of iStock

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