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Legal experts reveal your rights for rental deposits

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Most student renters know the struggle of forking out to pay the often large deposit sum on top of first month’s rent, let alone the even bigger struggle of getting their deposit back at the end of their tenancy.

According to a study carried out by SaveTheStudent this year, more than half of all students in the UK rent rooms or houses from private landlords, with many paying an average of £311 for their deposit alone. The same study found that one in five students struggle to get their money back at the end of their tenancy.

Image Credit: Sephelonor on Pixabay

What many students do not know is that there is now a legal requirement for their deposit to be placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme. This scheme is designed to protect and give tenants the possibility to dispute any deposit-related claims at the end of their tenancy. If tenants have not violated the terms of the tenancy agreement (paid all the bills, rent and left the property undamaged), then the scheme will ensure the deposit is returned, even if it involves a third party. 

This scheme is mandatory for landlords in England and Wales - separate companies are covering Scotland and Northern Ireland - to place any deposit payments into one of the three government-supported companies:

  • Deposit Protection Service
  • My Deposits
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Debora Henigan, a Teaching Fellow from the University of Law, has summarised some advice for anyone starting their tenancy to ensure their deposit is returned at the end of the lease:

1. Make sure you read your tenancy agreement carefully and abide by it

Your landlord’s and your own responsibilities - such as keeping the property clean and damage free - are outlined there.

2. Make sure there’s an up to date gas safety certificate

According to UK legislation, all appliances need to be checked by the landlord every 12 months. Any records of these checks need to be kept for two years.

3. Check the inventory carefully at the start of your tenancy and report any missing items

An inventory is often given to you when you first sign the agreement, so it is essential to report any errors as soon as possible to ensure you are not the one held accountable. While an inventory is not mandatory, it is often used for both sides as a base to refer back to. Should your landlord not provide one, it might be helpful to demand one to avoid later disputes.

Image Credit: TeroVesalainen on Pixabay

4. Photograph any existing damage to the property and furniture at the start of your tenancy

Gathering evidence from the beginning is essential. Pictures these days often come with time stamps and as the saying goes, "A picture says more than a thousand words."

5. Report any repairs promptly - you may be liable for damage if you fail to mention them

Remember to check your tenancy agreement when reporting repairs. The landlord has a responsibility to respond to repair requests within a specific timeframe once the issue is raised.

6. Check there are secure locks on the windows and doors

When you are moved in, it is often your own responsibility to keep the property safe, and damage or loss of personal belongings will likely have to come out of your pocket. Again, check the tenancy agreement for these situations.

7. Choose your housemates wisely: you may be jointly liable for debts or damage

These are the people you will be living with. There is a difference - even your best friend might actually be a nightmare to live with. That person that is SO fun on a night out may not the best person to share a house with. So, you have been warned: choose wisely.

8. Make sure you thoroughly clean the property before you leave. Otherwise, you may be liable for cleaning charges

There are actually several companies around that offer cleaning services for when you finish your tenancy. Alternatively, why not make a day of it and get some friends round to help? It might not seem like the most fun task in the world, but there is hardly anything that cannot be paid back in beer and pizza.

9. And finally, if you disagree with your landlord, don’t be afraid to challenge their evaluation. Just remember to stay polite and keep your cool.

For anyone already at the end of their tenancy and in a dispute with their landlord, Henigan has some additional advice:

 

  • Depending on the scheme, the process of disputing your landlord’s claim on the deposit can vary. These will be outlined in each scheme's terms, but with most, once the dispute is initiated, evidence will be required to support your claim – pictures were taken when moving in, any conversation relating repairs or deposits and so on.
  • This information will then be reviewed by an independent adjudicator who will decide how much of the deposit will be returned.
  • For more information on the specific process used by your provider, you’ll need to check with the company your landlord registered your deposit with.
So - remember, you are not alone when it comes to securing your deposit, and not everything your landlord says and does should be taken as gospel. There are legal requirements and schemes set up for you and your money's safety. Whilst this is the case, you should still try and take steps to protect yourself so that you can back up any claims, should it come to a dispute.

For more information, visit the University of Law's website. 

Lead Image Credit: Sephelonor on Pixabay.




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