Whether you’re a student or not, getting your deposit back is a daunting, annoying and often stressful experience. Over 2011-12 less than 70% of deposits were returned in full across the UK and just over 13% got nothing back. The average amount taken off was a whole month’s rent – a staggering fee in some cases.
When you’re a student, these statistics get worse for a couple of reasons: landlords can view you as naive or unaware of the laws which are set out to protect you or because you have no expectation of getting your money back so why bother trying.
The facts about your deposit:
It is illegal for a landlord or agency to hold your money without registering it into a tenancy protection scheme regardless of who they are. This means that your money is held by an external and regulated body who are compelled by law to protect it: your landlord can’t spend it or touch it during your tenancy.
You are entitled to receive your deposit within ten working days of your ‘check out inspection’. This inspection works in accordance to your ‘check-in’ inventory which should occur at an agreed time when you move in. Make sure you get a copy of this for your records: if there is no ‘check-in’ inventory then the landlord cannot legally take anything from your deposit.
Most common reasons to lose your deposit:
1. Inadequate Cleaning: no one expects you or your flatmates to be professional cleaners, but you must make the effort to do a ‘deep clean’. Commonly missed areas include ovens, grills, fridges, washing machine filters and gardens. Pop some music on and spend a day getting down and dirty – it’s worth it. Cleaning bills can cost anything up to £1000 depending on the state of your property. You’d be surprised how much it costs to get someone in just to do the basics, the usual bill for a property that has just ‘missed’ a couple of things is a minimum of £200.
2. People leave on different days: This is something we’ve heard a lot from our tenants. It’s an unavoidable issue when you share a home with people on different courses with different end dates. Often, people will leave one by one until you’re the last person in the house faced with a massive pile of cleaning to do – nobody wants to do that after exams finish. The best thing to do in this situation is get a calendar together and mark when people leave – pick a day when you are all there together before the first person leaves and give the whole place (including your bedrooms) a deep clean (it’s better to have your leaving parties before this date obviously). That way, even if you are the last person standing it should only require a much quicker and easier once over before you go.
3. Wear & Tear: What does that mean? At SweetSpot we’ve rarely had to take money off for this, however it’s the area where a lot of landlords are flexible with the truth but luckily, thanks to regulating bodies, it’s getting harder to bend facts. If you’ve been sharing a house with five other people for a year or so it’s likely that there will be superficial wear on the property; a mark or two here and there from furniture and other things. This is fair. You are allowed to live in your home and enjoy it – no one wants to walk on eggshells 24/7, after all you’re paying for it. If your landlord tries to take money from you for this and you feel it’s unfair stand up for your rights and contest it. Going to your Student Union is a good place to start – they can tell you what to do.
4. Missing Items: Some items can cost a lot to replace, the odd throw / picture frame might be £10 but this soon adds up if everyone in your house takes something you could be looking at another £200 or so coming off your deposit. Leave it where it is. At SweetSpot we take care to make your homes special with antiques and one-off objects which can be pricey, we’re more than happy to tell you where we got them from though so you can get your own.
We help our tenants as much as we can: we share charge-sheets on inspections and our students are free to speak to the Sweeteners (people who live locally to our properties and help out when there’s any problem) about what they can do to make sure the property is ready for inspections. We even share the cost of the independent inventory checks with our tenants so they don’t pay the full bill. We only charge what we spend – we never round-up.
We want everyone to get their full deposits back – let’s work together so we can change the statistics and show the world that students can clean…