Landlords in general are often much too keen to hold on to a deposit, and when it comes to student accommodation this seems to be even more the case. Most contracts will require a property to be returned in the same state that it was rented out in, so that it can be rented out again. The deposit is meant to cover the cost of any damage to the property, which could be anything from stained carpets to broken beds. A deposit shouldn’t be used to pay for wear and tear i.e. the effect of the property being occupied.
However, there are unfortunately many student landlords out there who either don’t understand the basic concept of the damage deposit, or who are determined to squeeze as much money out of you as they can regardless. So, how do you make sure that you get your deposit back when you move out?
Choose a decent landlord in the first place
Ok, so this is quite difficult to judge but if they’re telling you there’s no need for an inventory, written tenancy agreement or initial inspection avoid like the plague – and if they have no idea about protecting your deposit then rent with someone else.
You can also look out for the AFS unipol Code symbol. This is an accreditation system for landlords that shows a landlord is a competent and professional manager and that their properties are being properly handled.
When you rent the property
Do the inventory – it might seem a waste of time to go around and note every crack or scuff mark but this document is proof of damage that was pre-existing when you moved in and which the landlord cannot try to keep any of your deposit to pay for.
Take photos too – seems a little over the top? Well it won’t when your landlord is attempting to keep your entire deposit to replace a carpet that the previous tenants stained and you need a way of proving you didn’t cause the damage. Focus on particular problem areas like flooring, bathroom furnishings and any furniture damage – and use a digital camera so the images are time and date stamped.
Don’t be a party house –yes it’s tempting to install a massive sound system and be the popular kids on the block. However, the more parties you have, the more likely you are to end up getting precisely none of your deposit back thanks to damage like cigarette burns on the carpet, smashed furniture and those broken banisters when everyone decided to sledge down the stairs in their sleeping bags at 4am.
Clean – it might seem obvious but if you don’t maintain some basic standards of cleanliness throughout the year, no amount of scrubbing before you move out will get the property back to the condition it was in when you moved in.
When you move out
Get the camera out again – it’s amazing what kind of ‘damage’ can occur between you moving out and the landlord suddenly deciding to withhold half your deposit. Before you leave take pictures of all the beautifully maintained – and clean – rooms, floors, windows, furniture and furnishings to show exactly what kind of a state you left them in.
Fix it yourself – there are small items of damage you can deal with yourself before moving out and avoid being presented with a huge bill. Paint over any adhesive marks on the walls, fill in any holes made by hooks or drawing pins and carry out repairs to curtains or fabric furniture. If these small jobs are left to the landlord the cost to you will be much higher.
Check the contract – were you supposed to keep the windows clean? Was there a requirement to mow the lawn? Before you leave, make sure that you have covered any ‘tenant obligations’ in the contract that might allow the landlord to try and charge you for them.
If the landlord tries to hold on to your deposit – you don’t have to take this lying down. Often a politely worded email pointing out that either they are trying to charge you for what is actually fair wear and tear, or attaching those photos showing the carpets were already damaged, will be enough to put a stop to deposit shenanigans. If not, then you can use the Tenancy Dispute Service to resolve matters – you (and the landlord) will need to submit evidence to support your case and then an independent adjudicator will make a ruling.