Just about everyone has at some point fought tooth and nail over their deposit.
Sometimes, it seems your landlord is being straight-up mean. Other times, your mistakes might’ve put you on shaky ground.
Your contract should outline exactly what you need to do when moving out, so follow it to the letter. If you’re expected to blast all the plugholes with One-Shot, do it. If you have to make sure there’s no food in the fridge or no more than two rubbish bags in the wheely bin, suck it up.
But if you really want to avoid putting yourself at your landlord’s mercy, there are some things you have to take care of before you think about moving on.
The most common mess-ups? Read on.
Not reading the damn contract
If you sign a document promising to clean the outside of the windows and you don’t (even if it’s physically impossible), you’ll be stung for this when you move out. If your contract says you’ll be automatically charged a £75 cleaning fee, there’s little you can do – even if you’ve just spent another £75 paying a professional cleaner to get the place looking tip-top.
Don’t leave things up to goodwill. If you’re not happy about the demands made in the contract, raise your concerns before you sign on the dotted line, not once you’re fighting for your deposit.
Handing over the deposit direct
This is a very, very bad idea. Always make sure that your deposit is going into a trusted scheme rather than your landlord’s back pocket if you hope to ever see it again.
Skipping the Inventory
Funny how people’s memories change when money’s at stake. The floor tile might have been cracked, the paint crumbling or the door handle missing before you moved in, but can you prove it?
If you’re going through an estate agent, they will no doubt charge an inventory fee – so get your money’s worth. Before you move in, insist on doing a full tour of the flat with the landlord or estate agent and photograph everything yourself.
The inventory should list everything that was in the flat when you arrived, as well as any damage that pre-dated you living there, so take pictures of every scratch, every tear, every maintenance issue – anything they could try to pin on you later on. Make sure all of this is included in the written inventory, too.
Don’t move out until you’ve repeated the process with your landlord/estate agent in tow, proving you haven’t taken, broken, or wrecked anything yourself.
On the flipside, if your deposit is protected but the estate agent is so lazy they skipped both your inventory and the exit inventory of the previous occupant, they might have shot themselves in the foot. Check the rules with your deposit scheme.
Letting problems fester
This is a common mistake. If your flat suffers from damp, gets flooded, or is damaged in any way, tell your landlord immediately. You might think it’s not your problem/it’s their responsibility to sort out, but if you don’t let them know and the problem gets worse, you’ll get penalised.
(Also, let’s be honest, it makes you look like a bit of a nob).
Waiting until you’ve left to have the talk
A month before you move out, clean up and invite your landlord round for an inspection. Ask them to point out any specific things that will be docked from your deposit if they’re not addressed before you leave. List everything and email it to your landlord as confirmation.
Then, focus on ticking everything off the list – and when you move out, send another email clarifying that you’ve done so (with evidence). Hard to argue with that.
If you’re done everything right but are still getting done over, it’s time to call Saul. Sort of. Get all your evidence lined up, refer your case to the Tenancy Dispute Service – and be a pro about it.
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