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Landlords: here’s some reasons why tenants don’t get their deposits back

The relationship between landlord and tenant is a delicate one, complete with terms, conditions and dual obligations. The majority of tenancies run smoothly, but sometimes issues can arise before, during or after a tenancy. This can lead to complications for both parties – deposit deductions being one of them.

Tenants are entitled to receive their full deposit back at the end of their tenancy, but there are occasions where the landlord may want to keep part of it to cover various costs. An online survey of over 250 letting agents was carried out to determine what reasons landlords and letting agents gave for claiming deposits back from their tenants. Landlords are legally required to make such claims through the Tenancy Deposits Schemes (TDS).

1. Lack of cleanliness

Cleanliness – or lack of it – topped the list, with over 88% of letting agents stating that tenants left their property dirty or messy. This is a gripe for many landlords, as properties are often professionally cleaned at the start of tenancy, meaning they expect the property to be left in the condition set out in the inventory at the beginning of the tenancy agreement.

2. Lack of maintenance

Maintenance is also an important issue which some tenants fail to keep up with. According to 44% of letting agents, there was a lack of maintenance and upkeep from tenants, who failed to leave the property in the same state it was when they first moved in. This also served as a major factor as to why landlords claimed some or all of a tenant’s deposit.

Tenancy agreement

3. Damage to the property and its contents

As commonly stated, the general rule is for tenants to leave the property as they found it. Some tenants ignore this advice by carrying out DIY tasks, such as hanging up pictures, which can leave holes in the wall. Almost 40% of agents surveyed stated that this was another reason for claiming money from a tenant’s deposit. Taking photographs before and after a tenancy is advised, as they will serve as proof of any changes to the property made during the tenancy term.

4. Unpaid rent at the end of a tenancy

Landlords usually make it clear that all rent arrears must be paid before deposits can be returned. However, some tenants still fail to repay their arrears. This caused 31% of landlords to claim deposits. Encouraging tenants to set up a standing order during a tenancy may help to stop this from happening.

5. Damage caused by carelessness

Damaging a property by overall carelessness can cause major issues for a landlord. This led to 29% of landlords claiming from tenant’s deposits.

Other reasons given by respondents included leaving unwanted personal belongings behind (12%), keys not being returned at the end of the tenancy (2%), unpaid bills (2%) and pest infestation (2%).

While each of these instances can prove to be stressful, there are precautionary measures landlords can take to ensure the tenancy is as straight-forward as possible.

Prevention is always better than cure, so getting a thorough check of your tenants beforehand, vetting their rental history and any previous landlord references would be helpful.

Furthermore, landlords should consider rental loss and damage insurance, as these policies are relatively inexpensive and can potentially save you money in the event of loss of rent while covering legal charges.

Regular property inspections are key to picking up on any minor issues that could potentially snowball into a bigger problem in the near future. As a landlord, you are entitled to make regular checks during a tenancy, so long as you give your tenants 24 hours’ notice – soon to be 48 hours in the new Private Residential Tenancy in Scotland, commencing on December 1st.

Setting out a clear and thorough written tenancy agreement that details your policies and the obligations of your tenants, as well as presenting a detailed inventory at the start and end of a tenancy, would help to reduce the risk of disputes later on. Certain provisions will be mandatory from December 1 in the new Private Residential Tenancy.

However, you’re not alone. We at Letting Solutions will help you throughout the rental process – from marketing your property, vetting tenants, preparing leases, writing inventories, carrying out repairs, collecting rental payments and overseeing the entire tenancy.

If you would like assistance in letting a property, please get in touch with us on: 01506 425382.

To find out how much you could be charging in rent each month, you can request a free and instant online property valuation here.