The checkout at the end of a tenancy is one of the most important parts of the moving-out process.
A successful checkout can reduce the chances of any deposit disputes occurring between you and your landlord.
When leaving your rental home behind, you'll be eager to receive your full deposit back, but what can give you the best chance of this being the case?
For landlords, the checkout provides a clear record of the state of the property, while for tenants, it offers the opportunity to state a case for any damage caused during the tenancy that might affect how much deposit the landlord returns.
Below, we offer a thorough insight into the checkout process to ensure you know exactly what to expect and to give you the best chance of getting your full deposit back.
What happens before checkout?
As part of the checkout process, your landlord should inform you of your specific responsibilities around two weeks in advance (unless otherwise stated in your tenancy agreement).
Your landlord is obliged to allow you to be present at the checkout stage of your tenancy, and it's strongly recommended that you attend.
Before this point, your landlord needs to let you know what you'll have to do before leaving the property and what they expect from you. If you remain unclear about your tenant responsibilities, you can turn to your tenancy agreement, which will clarify these in detail.
When moving into the property, you should have been provided with a copy of the inventory by your landlord. If you still have this at hand, and it's recommended that you keep it safe, it can be a great tool to utilise at the end of a tenancy. If you don't have a copy any longer or were never given one in the first place, you can request another copy from your landlord.
This allows you to scrutinise the inventory for an accurate description of the property when you moved in, enabling you to compare it to its current state and carry out any necessary work to restore it to its previous condition.
As well as cleaning the property thoroughly before checkout, you should take several other steps to improve your chances of receiving your deposit back in full. These include:
- Making sure that all light bulbs are working
- Defrosting the freezer
- Removing all remaining food containers from cupboards, fridges and freezers
- Informing your internet/TV service providers that you're moving
- Asking for your post to be redirected
- Ensuring all items are where they were when you first moved in and are as described in the inventory
In addition, if your rental home has a garden, you should ensure that you've cut the grass, de-weeded and left the garden in a good, tidy condition for future tenants.
You also need to ensure that all utility bills (including council tax) are paid in full, and if you have any furniture or white goods that you're not planning to take with you, you need to ensure these are disposed of safely and not left in the property. If you're unsure how to do this, contact your local environmental services department for advice, tips, help and more information.
It's also important to remember that your landlord should check the meter readings upon checkout and may ask for a forwarding address to settle any final bills.
What happens during checkout?
As mentioned above, it's strongly recommended that you attend – or at the very least get a close family member or friend to attend on your behalf.
The process should go fairly smoothly, provided you've carried out any necessary repair work and left the property in the same condition as when you first moved in.
Your landlord will use the checkout to inspect the rental property for any damage and examine its cleanliness and overall condition. They'll use the inventory they created during check-in to cross-reference and see in clear detail whether the property's condition has altered.
If the property has suffered any dilapidations or changes to its overall condition, your landlord will note these against the inventory.
While doing this, your landlord must consider what's known as 'fair wear and tear'. This is even more relevant if you've been in the home for a long time.
Landlords expect items to change over time based on age and usage, but damage such as chips, rips or burns is in a different category and wouldn't count as 'fair wear and tear'.
Once your landlord has completed the checkout, they'll complete a checkout report – comparing the current state of the property to the description in the original inventory. There should be no deductions from your deposit if you've left the property clean and in the same state as when you first moved in. In these instances, you and your landlord can sign and date the form at the checkout, confirming that no deductions will be made. You can both move on, happy that your tenancy has been resolved amicably.
However, if there are issues with the property's condition and your landlord wishes to make any deductions, now is the time they will tell you about this. They will inform you what they are deducting and their reason for each deduction.
You can, at this stage, either accept their conclusions, reject them and appeal, or come to a mutual agreement. If you come to an agreement or accept their conclusions, this can be marked on the signed and dated form.
If, however, you opt to dispute the return of your deposit, then your tenancy deposit protection scheme offers a free dispute resolution service. In this case, you and your landlord must agree to go down this avenue.
You'll both be asked to provide evidence, and their decision about your deposit will be final. This is a reasonable means of redress if you feel deductions have been made wrongfully, but you also need to ensure you have a valid case before taking these steps.
No more charges for inventories
As a result of the Tenant Fees Act, in force from June 1 2019, landlords and letting agents will no longer be able to charge a fee for inventories.
This might make landlords and letting agents more reluctant to carry one out as they can't recover their costs from the tenant, but you should push for an inventory to be conducted during the check-in process to reduce the chances of disputes and issues at a later date.
It's also essential to adhere fully to the inventory process to give yourself a better chance of receiving your deposit back in full, which will help make moving to a new home easier.
Alongside bans on upfront fees for tenant referencing, inventories and admin charges, the Tenant Fees Act now also means a cap on security and holding deposits. Regarding security deposits, they are now capped at five weeks' rent for annual rentals below £50,000 and six weeks' rent for rentals above £50,000.
You can find out more about how the Tenant Fees Act impacts tenants in our handy guide.
Are you ready for your move?
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