Top tips for keeping your rental deposit

What’s your biggest concern as you prepare to move into your new rental property? In most cases, tenants worry most about their deposits. After all, it’s almost certainly the biggest financial outlay you’ll make at the start of a new tenancy. And while deposit protection schemes have eased the worries of countless tenants over the past decade, disputes, unfortunately, do still happen. As a tenant though, you can take these steps to ensure a harmonious relationship with your landlord and giving you the best chance possible to get back your full deposit.

Understanding your landlord's expectations

Everything that you are responsible for should be outlined in your tenancy agreement – but it’s incredible how many new tenants fail to read this vital document properly. Go through your agreement with a critical eye and ensure you know what’s expected of you and what you can and can’t do to the property. Hanging pictures might seem perfectly normal to you, but if your agreement states this is not allowed, you are risking your deposit.

An accurate inventory?

Like the tenancy agreement, a worrying number of tenants fail to cast their eye sufficiently over the check-in inventory report. This details the condition of the property room by room. Go through it and then check the property room by room as the inventory clerk would have done – if they have missed something, you don’t want to be held responsible for it so let your landlord know as soon as you can.

Pay your rent - and your bills

If you are responsible for bills like electric, gas and water, set up direct debits with the service providers as soon as you move in. ‘I didn’t know it was my responsibility’ as a response to a payment demand simply won’t wash – either with the supplier or your landlord. Everything you are responsible for, from those services to council tax and internet costs, should be outlined in your tenancy agreement. Most importantly, pay your rent in full and on time. It there is one thing certain to cause an unwanted dispute with your landlord, it is unpaid rent.

Time for a clean

Schedule in a weekly clean of the property, in particular dirt-heavy areas like the kitchen and bathrooms. Staying on top of the cleanliness of your rental property will make it easier to bring it back up to the standard outlined in the inventory when it’s time to check out. Cleanliness is one of the most cited reasons for landlords withholding deposits so don’t allow things to get away from you.

Keep the garden in good shape

Are you responsible for ensuring the garden is clean, tidy and useable? If you don’t know, then chances are you haven’t read your tenancy agreement! An outdoor tidy-up is likely to cost your landlord at the end of your tenancy and if you were responsible for maintaining the space, reimbursement will almost certainly come out of your deposit. Look after the garden as if it were your own and you won’t go far wrong.

Ask permission

Once you have been in your rental property for a period of time, it can be easy to become complacent and almost forget you are living in someone else’s property. If you want to do something to the property to enhance it for you, ask permission first! Most landlords will be open to discussing things like putting in electrics for a wall-mounted TV as it will benefit their property going forward. But what they won’t like is you going ahead and doing the work without asking them first. A landlord / tenant relationship is built around trust and communication, so keep those lines open and be a good tenant. It will pay off for you come check-out time.

Stay professional in a dispute

Disputes do happen. It is a fact of the rental sector. But if you do end up in one with your landlord and it is due to them withholding your deposit, it pays to draft in one of the deposit protection schemes’ resolution services. A mediator can keep things calm and see the argument from both sides, which is far more likely to result in a mutual agreement than a slanging match between tenant and landlord.