#ExpertView: New Year tenancy resolutions
New Year’s resolutions are often hard to stick to, but if you’re going to maintain one in 2019, make it our best practice for ending a resolution that could see you receive your full tenancy deposit back in your pocket.
If you’re starting a new tenancy in 2019, make sure you’re prepared so you can ‘get it right’ and that you don’t overlook anything important. Tenancy management can be admin-intensive, and there are some key actions that the parties must consider at both the beginning and end of the tenancy term.
To help you stick to your resolution, we’ve pulled together this simple guide for tenants to help with the return of the tenancy deposit:
Make sure you read and understand your tenancy agreement.
The tenancy agreement you sign at the start of the tenancy sets out the obligations and responsibilities of each party, including the process at the end of the tenancy.
Ensure you have the tenancy agreement to hand and that you understand what you must do before handing the property back to the landlord or agent. Some agreements specify that a property should be 'professionally cleaned' and others ‘to a professional standard’. If you're unsure of anything, it's always best to speak to your landlord or letting agent about what is expected: be prepared!
Check the inventory record and your check-in report from the tenancy start
The inventory and check-in report will detail and confirm the condition of the property when it was handed over to you. This record will be used to compare the condition of the property once returned with the information collected in your check-out report; the difference between the two is the identifiable changes or dilapidations. The landlord or letting agent will use this to judge the standard of the property when you leave; any cleaning deficits, damage or missing items may form part of this comparison.
Your landlord or letting agent may not charge you for items considered to be 'fair wear and tear' - this is damage or changes caused by day-to-day, normal use of the property. For example, a carpet will eventually get worn down by people walking on it, and scuff marks in high traffic area may be considered acceptable. However, if something isn't in the same condition when you move out compared to what's on the inventory, it's important to understand whether it will be judged as normal use or abuse. Your tenancy deposit may be at risk of a deduction in those circumstances.
Pay the bills
Remember to pay all of your outstanding utility or service provider accounts. If the utility bills are in your name and you do not pay them, the debt will follow you as they are not tied to a property and therefore may not be deducted from the tenancy deposit. However, if the utilities are in the landlord's name and you leave debt, this could lead to a claim against your tenancy deposit to cover the costs. This could include communal charges such as heating, hot water or use of extra facilities that may not be included in your rent.
It's always important to let the utility companies know that you are leaving as debt could be built up in your name by the next tenant. You should send the utility companies meter readings, so they can send you a final bill. You should also update the relevant local authority as to the actual lawful end date of the tenancy for Council Tax purposes.
Don't ask for the services (e.g. phone line) to be disconnected without checking with the landlord as they may have to pay to have them reconnected, which could lead them to seeking reimbursement from the tenants either directly or via the tenancy deposit.
Outstanding rent may also be considered as an acceptable deduction from the tenancy deposit if the tenancy agreement allows for this, so it is best to make sure you’re up-to-date with all your payments.
Clean the property
If the tenancy agreement states you should return the property in a clean state, you should clean thoroughly throughout the property before you leave. It's always important to go through the property and check areas that are easily missed (e.g. skirting boards, windows, behind furniture).
Check your tenancy agreement to see what level of cleaning is required. If you are in any doubt you should speak to your landlord or letting agent in the first instance, so you know what is required. Cleaning is the reason for most deposit deductions, so it’s important that you return the property as outlined in the agreement. Remember, cleaning is not subject to fair wear and tear; check the details so you return the property in the same condition as it was handed over if that’s what’s been agreed.
Reclaim your tenancy deposit
If your tenancy deposit is registered under our TDS Custodial scheme, the designated lead tenant should log in to the TDS Custodial website to reclaim the tenancy deposit. The landlord may wish to make deductions to cover any damage, cleaning or another cost they have noticed, but you will see this and be able to respond once the tenancy deposit manager, either the letting agent or landlord, responds.
In our TDS Insured scheme, the TDS member (the landlord or the letting agent) will hold the tenancy deposit so you can initially discuss any deductions that are proposed and if you agree, the TDS member (tenancy deposit stakeholder) can pay back the rest straight away.
In both TDS schemes, tenants have the right to dispute the claim and submit the case to a free and impartial Adjudication service, but only if the parties cannot agree. TDS Adjudicators can only consider disputes about the return of the tenancy deposit as registered and not other matters.
You can find out more about the process of reclaiming tenancy deposits and raising disputes in our handy FAQs.
About the Author
John King is a former practitioner in the lettings industry with over 25 years’ experience with a keen understanding of the Private Rental Sector. In addition to his work in estate agency, John has worked within tenancy deposit protection since 2009 starting in the adjudication team before moving into customer services and has recently moved from Deputy Director to Director in our key customer facing team.
John has presented training seminars, forums and industry events and has been involved in the successful TDS Academy training programme offered throughout England and Wales and operates a team of customer service advisors to assist with customer enquiries.
Advocating improvement through education and understanding John appreciates the ups and downs of a tenancy transaction experienced by all the parties. He brings knowledge, consideration and practicality to encourage the stakeholders involved to seek an acceptable solution to tenancy deposit disagreements and access Alternative Dispute Resolution where required.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.
TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.
TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.
TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.
TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland's leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.
TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.
These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.
ARLA|Propertymark: For agents who would like to stay up to date, you can contact Propertymark | ARLA at: firstname.lastname@example.org. By being a member of Propertymark | ARLA you will be eligible for TDS Insured best headline rates.
RLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can contact the RLA at: email@example.com and quote reference: dg715 to receive 25% off your first year's membership.