StuRants: how to get your deposit back

We’re only 20 days into 2021 and it’s already been one of the toughest years for students. Especially those of us living in privately rented accommodation. Or rather, living at home but paying for empty houses in our university cities. The majority of students signed for these houses as early as the autumn of 2019.

As much as hindsight’s a cruel mistress, no one can blame us for getting into these contracts without the pandemic in mind. At the moment especially, it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll get any money back on our rent at all. However, this addition to the StuRants column is going to give you some top tips on saving your deposit.

Tenancy agreement

The first thing to look through before signing a property is the tenancy agreement. This might seem obvious, but it’s very easy to gloss over certain clauses that could come in handy down the line. For example, many agreements state that tenants must have the property clean to a professional standard when they move out, yet when moving in at the start of their tenancy, some people’s houses weren’t clean. This is completely unfair, and after negotiating with their estate agency, they waived this part of the contract.

So, always read the small print because it could save you money in the long run! Also, make sure you get everything your landlord agrees to in writing. Even if it’s just a follow-up email after a phone call – it’s very easy for them to deny promising to fix items in the property if you don’t have any evidence.

The inventory

Another important document to pay attention to is the inventory; this document details the condition of the property at the point at which you move in. Unfortunately, working through this can be even more tedious than the tenancy agreement, but it could save you the most money long-term. It’s important that you go around the house when you move in taking photos of absolutely everything. I’m talking scuffs on the walls, marks on mattresses, dirty ovens – anything that has damage. Even if you can’t see any damage, take photos of each room as a whole anyway, just in case you’ve missed something.

Then, you’ll have to either add any damage that’s missing from the inventory into the document (with clear photos and references) or complete the inventory yourself. Do whatever your landlord or estate agent ask you to do, because each one does this step slightly differently. This will take time, it’s definitely worth making the inventory as thorough and detailed as possible. If you don’t, your agents could take money from your deposit for damage that wasn’t yours. After the banning of estate agency fees in 2019, some will be wanting to take money from you wherever they can. If you’ve got no evidence to prove that damage wasn’t yours, then they can deduct money from your deposit for expensive repairs. 

Deposit protection scheme

This is one of the best ways you can protect your deposit. However, another way to ensure your deposit’s safety is to ensure the landlord puts it into a deposit protection scheme. This must be done within 30 days of the landlord receiving your deposit and ensures that you get your deposit back if you don’t damage the property, do pay the rent and bills, and fulfil the tenancy agreement. Bear in mind that there are only 3 schemes available in the England and Wales. These are the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits, and the TenancyDepositScheme.

If your landlord claims to have registered the deposit with any other provider, they must change this as soon as possible. If there is a dispute that needs to be resolved after a tenancy – over some undisclosed damage, for example – the deposit is protected ‘til you and the landlord agree on any deductions. Remember, you can dispute any charges your landlord initially imposes, if you feel that they are unreasonable.

Understandably, this is a lot of information to take in, but it’s all worth knowing to avoid getting caught out. If you’re ever unsure about your rights as a tenant, look on the government website, because they have so much information available on there.

Image: Rcsprinter123, on Wikimedia Commons.

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