The deposit belongs to you and should be returned to you unless your landlord can show s/he has suffered a financial loss. Your landlord can make reasonable deductions from the deposit for:
- damage to the property
- unpaid rent
- missing items
Even if your landlord has a valid reason for keeping part of your deposit the rest of it should be returned. Your landlord may try to withhold some or all of your deposit for a different reason such as because you had a noisy party when your contract stated you could not. This is not legal. Landlords can only claim for any financial loss they have actually suffered. Your landlord cannot normally deduct costs relating to the property such as advertising or agency fees. This would only be possible if you left your tenancy without ending it properly.
Your landlord can only deduct as much as is needed to repair or replace what you have damaged on a ‘like for like’ basis. So, if you break an old armchair, you shouldn’t have to pay for a brand new one.
Your landlord cannot keep your deposit because of general ‘wear and tear’ to the condition of the property. For instance, if the carpet gets a bit worn out, it is probably wear and tear, but if you burn a hole in it, it is not. The amount of wear and tear it is normal to expect depends on the condition of the property when you moved in and the length of time you lived there. If you think you are likely to have problems it may be worth taking photos or getting a witness as early as possible in your tenancy.
Cleaning / Decorating
Tenancy agreements often state that carpets and curtains must be cleaned to a professional standard before the tenant moves out. This does not mean that they have to be as clean as or cleaner than when you moved in. You are only required to clean any items soiled above normal wear and tear. If possible keep records and receipts for any cleaning you do or pay for.
If your landlord expects professional cleaning of the property at the end of the tenancy it may be cheaper for you to arrange this than allow the landlord to pay for it. If carpets, etc have any marks at the start of the tenancy ensure that this is noted on your inventory. Decorating costs after you move out should not be deducted from your deposit, unless you have damaged the property beyond what is considered “normal wear and tear” e.g. if you have put up pictures or shelves which have left holes in the wall.