How to Ensure You Get Your Full Rental Deposit Returned [Guide]
Over 4.4 million households in the UK are rented, and every rental begins with a deposit - usually at least one month’s rent and sometimes more. *
Deposits are held in rental deposit schemes until the end of a tenancy, but can be withheld in part or in full if there is damage, the property is so dirty it needs professional cleaning or if rent is still owed.
A number of our staff have recently stopped renting and bought their own properties and so we have used their recent experience to help put together this guide to ensure you get all of your deposit returned.
First we will focus on how you can manage your tenancy in order to make life easier for you when moving out; and increase the chances of getting all of your deposit back.
Doing an Inventory
To ensure that you have a better chance of getting your deposit back it’s important when renting a property that you have a formal record of its condition – both internally and externally – before you start unpacking because in the worst case scenario you could end up paying for damage originally caused by the previous tenants.
Ideally your letting agent should conduct an inventory and create a report with you. This inventory makes a note of what furniture, fixtures and fittings are contained in each room; if there is any existing damage to them and what that is.
If the lettings agent has prepared an inventory in advance – without you being present - it’s vitally important that you check this in detail before agreeing to it. View the property as if it was your own and make sure – before anything else – that you agree with the agent or landlords findings. If not, tell them why.
If the letting agent or landlord has not prepared an inventory, then ask that they do so – with you present or, if not, conduct one yourself – and take photos. Here’s what to consider when an inventory is drawn up:
Check the condition of the main entrance to the property – even a broken door bell, a dodgy handle or a broken letter box should be recorded because ultimately you might end up paying for its repair once your tenancy ends.
As you enter the property start checking the condition of carpets, flooring, walls, ceiling and even skirting boards - room by room - looking out for any stains, marks, scrapes or even holes that you, in future, could get the blame for. Check that curtains can close without danger of curtain rails falling and that ultimately they are fit for purpose.
If it’s a furnished rental property, check that drawers and cupboard doors can open, that there are no broken mirrors or loose screws hidden and it might also be worth a check for wood worm if wooden furniture appears old – it could affect any items you subsequently bring to the property. Where soft furnishings are supplied check for fire safety labels and ensure that there are no hidden holes, stains or even broken springs that could make living in the property less comfortable.
Ask for guarantees and evidence of safety records or when items, such as the boiler, were installed and make sure, as is now legally required, that there is a working fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm fitted. Check that they work.
In the kitchen check inside the fridge/ freezer, turn on the oven on if necessary to check it works and check, meticulously, that any items that are being provided by the landlord are clean and in good repair. You should also reassure yourself that electrical items are in good working order – look out for any bare wires, fraying electrical cords or, worse still, evidence of smoke damage.
In the bathroom check the condition of shower curtains, extractor fans and ensure that any blinds work – it might even be worth checking that the toilet flushes. Once the inventory is completed it might be difficult to claim that any unrecorded problems are not your fault.
Outside check that any paving stones are intact, that any garden furniture or ornaments are in good repair – if not record what the problems currently are and, again, take photo evidence. And, although it may seem obvious, its worth checking you have an outside bin as the last thing you’ll want is to find nowhere to put your rubbish – especially after moving day.
Finally don’t forget to check that everything in the property is included on the inventory and that there is nothing listed on the inventory that you can't find in the property – because when it comes to moving out, you could have to pay to replace these never seen items
Top tip: Once you and the landlord or lettings agent agree the inventory and the photographic evidence - and have both signed it to state you do – you’ll need to keep a copy in a safe place and, if you damage or replace items before you tenancy runs out, make sure you keep a record of these – including receipts for items you have replaced or had repairs to. It’s a great discipline and, along with treating your rental property with respect, is vitally important when claiming your tenancy deposit back.
Maintaining the Garden
If there is a garden with the property, it is likely that it is the tenant’s responsibility to maintain it. It’s best to keep on top of the maintenance as tackling a messy garden in one go at the end of the tenancy could be a huge task. Regular care is the best approach with the garden and the tips below help to make sure it doesn’t get unmanageable.
Pruning plants regularly prevents them from growing out of control keeping them manageable. This avoids a lot of tidying at the end of the tenancy. Trimming often means you only have to nip off the tips of new growth, so you won’t need to deal with lots of green waste. Instead, you can just let it land on the ground, and it will turn into mulch.
Weeds are a constant problem and should be dealt with quickly by pulling them out of the ground.
Spread mulch over the soil around the plants to hinder weed growth and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. It also helps keep the soil cool in summer and insulates the ground in winter keeping the plants healthy.
Look after gardening machinery that was provided. Use machine oil regularly on hedge trimmers and lawnmowers to keep moving parts lubricated and free from rust.
Upkeep of Property Exterior
Regularly check for signs to see if the gutter is blocked; if you notice a problem immediately inform your Landlord or Letting Agent. During spring and autumn, gutters tend to be vulnerable to blocking, so check how they perform during a downpour of rain. A blocked gutter can cause damage from overflowing water running down external walls of the property. A quick photo or video of any overflow of water emailed to the landlord will help to demonstrate the issue and help provide a solution
Also check gutters to ensure that all fixings are in place to hold them up and in alignment. Again if you notice any problems contact your Landlord or Letting Agent. Look at the guttering to ensure that all of the fixings are still in place, as these can sometimes come loose.
When you are outside of the property just have a look at the external walls to see if there are any cracks that weren’t there when you started your tenancy. Frost can cause cracks to appear on rendered walls so worth checking a bit more regularly during cold months and alert your Landlord to any issues.
Managing Your Pets
Tenants who keep pets are usually subject to a higher than usual deposit; because of the increased likelihood of damage. Prevention is key when it comes to keeping a pet – so you don’t end up having to deal with a whole list of repairs just as you leave your tenancy.
The first tip is always make sure you have permission from your landlord BEFORE getting a pet, don’t risk your deposit.
Pet fouling is one of the main concerns of Landlords. So if a mishap occurs make sure you thoroughly clean it with the appropriate stain removers and use odour removers to control any unwanted pet smells. There are lots of products on the market and easily available so be a responsible pet owner.
As a pet owner it is easy to get used to your dog or cat’s particular odour and not even notice. So it is especially important to regularly air the property – open doors and windows on pleasant days – or use plugins or air freshners at least once a week.
Many pets shed hair so do hoover on a regular basis, and groom your pet to reduce the problem. It may be necessary to shampoo carpets every month or so to keep on top of things.
When you leave your pets alone do try and ensure they can’t cause any damage. This is particularly relevant to young animals who like to bite and claw! Pets who are bored are more likely to do damage so give them plenty of toys to keep them occupied. A scratching post for a cat is a must.
Top tips for removing pet hair and odours…
Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and then vacuum to remove odours
Use a damp rubber glove to attract pet hairs
Vacuum in multiple directions to uproot stubborn pet hairs
Use sellotape to lift hairs from furniture
If something does get damaged it’s essential you replace it or fix it.
Get curtains and other furnishings professionally cleaned, you might not think they smell or have pet hair on them but don’t risk your deposit.
Shampoo your carpets prior to leaving the property.
Don’t forget about nooks and crannies where pet hair could be such as skirting boards or light fittings.
Whilst cleaning the property try and get somebody else to look after your pet so they aren’t present at the property, this will stop them undoing all your good work but also stop them from getting chemicals on their paws.
Now imagine if you will the end of your tenancy agreement is getting close and you have chosen not to renew your agreement. You need to prepare the property ready for inspection and ensure everything is in order before you ask for your deposit back.
Some people believe they do not have to pay their final month’s rent as it will be recovered from their deposit. However if you do this, not only will you not get your deposit back, but you will still owe the last month’s rent.
Any rent owed must be paid, and have cleared through the banking system by the end date of your rental agreement. Failure to do so will result in loss of your deposit. So if you are paying by cheque or bank transfer do check how long it will take with your bank.
Damage to the Property
When you take on a tenancy you become responsible for the fixtures and furnishings (if furnished) and the property’s décor while you are a tenant.
If they have then it is your responsibility to get any damage rectified before the end of your tenancy, so that it is as it was when you moved in. If you know how to do the repairs then you can do them yourself, but do be wary and if in doubt get a professional to fix the damage. You don’t want to end up causing more damage.
If you have lived in the property for some time then it is almost inevitable that some accidental damage will have been done. This could be knocks and marks on walls or scratches on furniture. Again if you are comfortable with making repairs yourself then do so, but don’t take a risk and ask a professional if in any doubt.
If you have been able to keep a pet(s) in your rented property – do a thorough check of the property to make sure your darling pets haven’t chewed, ripped, or bitten their way through anything they shouldn’t have.
Often the most overlooked aspect when leaving your tenancy, but one of the most frequent to cause loss of deposit is cleaning.
Clean marks off walls, this can be done with those clever magic erasers, which really do work. Unless you know the paint is a washable type, don’t use a wet cloth as you could end up wiping the paint off.
Check ceilings for cobwebs, and light fixings; which are easy to overlook.
Hoover all floors and remove any stains or odours from carpets or rugs.
Dust all woodwork so that’s tops of doors, around door surrounds, window ledges and skirting boards.
The kitchen is probably the most disliked area of a property when it comes to cleaning, but it will be top of the list for a letting agent when looking to check out a tenant so we have singled it out.
Here are our top tips, followed by an indepth cleaning guide:
Don’t pack your radio – listening to some tunes whilst cleaning will help pass the time
While cleaning imagine what you will do with your deposit when you get it back – it will help you stay motivated.
Move all of your belongings out of the property before you begin to clean the kitchen and order a takeaway that night so there are no dishes to wash up or oven to clean again
As you near the final weeks of your tenancy start running down your freezer food, in readiness for defrosting.
Before attempting any cleaning of your appliances and surfaces, do refer to your own manufacturing guidelines for the appliance installed in order that you do not damage anything in the cleaning process
It’s best to tackle the cleaning of the kitchen once all of your belongings have been moved out, the last thing you want to do is to clean everything and then cook on the final night or wash up dishes once you have ensured the sink, taps and draining board are gleaming.
Start with the windows and window handles; not only should you clean the inside of the kitchen windows but also the inside of the frames. If you find any mould or mildew you may need specialist cleaning fluid to remove these. If you have blinds or curtains, make sure these are cleaned and free of dust and grease residue
The fridge and freezer will usually be required to be cleaned out and the freezer defrosted ready for inspection. You can check with your Letting Agent to make sure of their particular requirements. Newer freezers don’t get clogged up with lots of ice but older freezers may require significant time for all the ice to melt. Use buckets, and plenty of towels to protect the floor. This probably isn’t a job for the last day of your tenancy, so make sure you allow plenty of time. Remember to wash these towels before you clean out the washing machine
If the washing machine was provided as part of the rental then it will need to be cleaned. The drum may look clean, but lots of fluff and odd change can accumulate in the rubber ridges around the drum; so give them a good wipe out.
Carefully remove the soap/conditioner drawer and soak it hot water. It can accumulate limescale so a little lime scale remover may be needed. Don’t forget to clean inside the drawer area as this can get filled with grime and detergent and will be checked. If your washing machine is also a tumble dryer/condenser, remember to empty out any water held in the machine.
If your property has a dishwasher again clean out the detergent drawer and inside door edges where it can sometimes become discoloured.
There are some really great products for cleaning the oven out there and our favourites are the products that come in a box and include a bottle of chemical and a bag for oven racks with some necessary protective gloves. Basically you open the bags, place the trays and shelves into them, seal and leave for the recommended time (sometimes 24hrs so do this the day before you are checking out). If you have a rubber seal that can be removed, put this in the dishwasher for a rinse and it will come out gleaming.
Extractor fan – replace the filters and clean around the light and fan element, for those hard to reach places, cotton buds can come in handy with a little oven cleaner on them.
First hoover the cupboards and drawers to remove excess crumbs and then clean out with a little washing up liquid and warm water, if your pans have left marks, use a stronger cleaner to remove, leave to dry. Don’t forget to hoover and clean the top of the cupboards – you may need a step ladder to reach them. Whilst you have the step ladder to hand, check the light(s) and run a cloth over – ensure they are switched off before attempting this.
Sink, taps and draining boards can be cleaned with hot soapy water, leave to dry and then go over with a dry cloth to really get the shine required. Don’t forget to really get in around the bottom of the taps, the underside of the plug, chain and overflow element.
Floors and skirting boards should be done near the finish. Start from the farthest end and clean whilst walking backwards, this will ensure that you don’t leave footprints, then once dry, go over with a polishing cloth, to really add some shine.
Finally the door and door handles to the kitchen, remove any finger prints and don’t forget the light switch.
Tah dah, you should now have a beautifully clean kitchen ready for check out and that someone else could happily move into and start using straight away.
Top Tip – Have a dry old towel for buffing
Detach the shower head and submerge it in white vinegar overnight.
Put plastic shower curtains into the washing machine with detergent and some old towels. Rehang to dry.
Scrub a paste of white vinegar and baking soda onto shower doors, leave it for a bit and then rinse. Buff with a dry cloth.
Don’t forget to take the drain apart and clean.
Buff all chrome.
Bath, sink and tiles
Scrub round the sink and bath, ensuring the drains and plug holes are clear.
Remove any mould and limescale buildup from metal surfaces. You can get special limescale remover.
Get an old toothbrush and have a really good go at the grout between tiles with white vinegar and baking soda mix.
It’s hard to beat a good dose of bleach, but try the white vinegar and baking soda approach too, you might also need a special limescale remover.
Don’t forget to clean the toilet brush and its container.
Switch off the power.
Remove the cover, soak and wash in detergent and water.
Use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the gunk (difficult with the power off, but maybe you’ve got cordless?).
Keep your rental property In good condition throughout your tenancy
Report any issues immediately to your Landlord/Letting Agent
At the end of your tenancy:
Pay outstanding rent and bills
Clean your property thoroughly
Fix or repair any damage