How To Get Your Tenancy Deposit Back

How to get your tenancy deposit back?

Getting a deposit back at the end of your tenancy can seem difficult & stressful, many times you need the money in order to pay for a deposit for your next property, in this short article we will set out the various steps you will need to take in order to give yourself the best chance of getting your deposit back.

What is a tenancy deposit?

A deposit is a sum of money paid to the landlord or agent at the start of your tenancy usually on the day you sign the tenancy, sometimes a few days before that is held as a form of security against the tenant’s obligations during the tenancy, the deposit can be used to cover any costs incurred by the landlord caused by damage or arrears. A deposit cannot be more than 5 weeks rent in value & in most cases will need to be held by a secure third party scheme.

When you leave your property the deposit should be returned to you in full minus any deductions for damage or rent owed (excluding fair wear & tear)

The term deposit is also used interchangeably with the bond in many cases, in some rare cases any agent or landlord might try to call the deposit “rent in advance or advanced rent” for more information on this see our article “when is a deposit not a deposit”

Who should hold my tenancy deposit?

Most tenancies in England & Wales are what is known as assured shorthold tenancy agreements (AST), if you have signed an AST your deposit must be registered with one of 3 government-backed security schemes, which are the DPS, TDS, or MyDeposits, these schemes act as independent arbiters in the case of any dispute arising as to who the deposit should be returned to. You can read more about each tenancy deposit scheme here.

In some cases, such as lodgers or license agreements, the deposit does not have to be held by the scheme & can be held by the landlord directly.

Moving into your new home!

The process to get your deposit back starts even before you sign the contract, one of the biggest mistakes we see tenants make is essentially handing over the deposit & forgetting about it until they have left the property. So what steps do you need to take even before you hand the money over to give you the best chance of getting your money back when you do eventually come to leave your new home.

Firstly make sure you understand what you are being asked to pay, sometimes the deposit payment can be mixed in with other things including a holding deposit, these are then often transferred to make up part of the security deposit later, it is important that you understand exactly how much of what you are handing over is intended to make up the security deposit.

Once that is all done we would suggest making the deposit payment separately to any other payments such as the first month’s rent, ideally do this via bank transfer & label the payment clearly as deposit payment for XXXX. If the landlord insists the payment be made in cash or you are unable to make a bacs payment it is essential that you ask for a signed receipt that clearly states the amount you have paid & the reason for the payment.

Make sure you check exactly what type of tenancy agreement you are signing, this will have a big bearing on what happens to your deposit & the process you will need to follow to get it back, in most cases you are looking for an AST it will normally say this in large letters at the top of page one of the agreement if you are unsure what type of agreement you are signing make sure you ask the landlord or agent & then have a quick search on our (Understanding your tenancy) page.

The final thing is to make sure the landlord or agent clearly writes your deposit & the amount on the tenancy, ensure that it is clearly labelled ideally it should say deposit paid XXX

While all these steps seem minor it saves any arguments later down the line about how much you paid or if you even paid a deposit at all, we are contacted regularly by clients who have handed the money over only to later have the landlord deny ever receiving it.

Once you have got your keys…

Now that is all out of the way & you have your keys & you are in your new home, the boxes are piled high & you are probably exhausted, don’t order a takeaway just yet as there is one more thing that you need to do before you settle into unpacking… get your phone out & get snapping photos!

A check-in inventory is something that tenants often depend on the landlord to do, some will, others won’t but for your purposes the best thing to do is forget about that & make sure you have what you need.

The return of the deposit depends on you returning the property in the same condition as when you got it, again minus fair wear & tear, so with that in mind one of the most important things you can do is have evidence that shows how the property looked the day you got the keys.

The pictures do not have to be a professional standard but a few tips;

  • If you are using a smartphone you can usually date mark or date stamp the pictures, this will tag the photo with the exact time & date it was taken.
  • Make sure you turn the lights on & open the curtains let as much light in to make the pictures as clear as possible.
  • Try & keep your things out of the way, it might not be possible to have the rooms totally clear, but less is better. If you can do it before you start unloading the van the clearer the pictures are showing the state of the property.
  • Take pictures of everything, try not to simply do one wide-angled shot of each room, try to get one of the walls, one of the floors, door frames, skirting, etc. Make sure you also take photos of the outside of the property.
  • Keep an eye out for any marks, scuffs, or damage that you see, no matter how minor it might be take a picture of it, these are things you do not want to end up being charged for when you leave, maybe the seal around the bath has gone or a previous tenant has chipped the paintwork whatever it is get a photo taken.
  • Finally, once they are all done, back the photos up. Go through them, delete any that are no good, try to label them all & sort them into folders, maybe room by room & then save them securely. We recommend an online cloud storage system such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud.

This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. Tenant Angels does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.