What security deposits cover
Your landlord is usually responsible for returning your security deposit at the end of your occupation contract but can make reasonable deductions from the deposit to cover certain items.
Your landlord must tell you what any deductions are for and how much for each item.
In most circumstances, when you pay a security deposit the landlord or letting agent must protect the deposit in a government-backed deposit protection scheme. Follow the link to see if this applies to you.
When can the landlord take money out of my security deposit?
The security 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. You can ask to be shown receipts or estimates for items that have been deducted from your security deposit.
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 sort of thing is not legal. Landlords can only claim for any financial loss they have actually suffered.
Can I be charged for cleaning?
Occupation contracts sometimes state that carpets and curtains must be cleaned to a professional standard before the contract-holder moves out. This does not mean that they have to be as clean 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.
What if I’ve damaged something?
You should leave the property in the same condition it was in when you moved in, allowing for normal wear and tear.
Examples of normal wear and tear are:
- worn carpets
- minor scrapes and scuffs on the walls
- faded curtains
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 during your occupation contract.
Your landlord can deduct money from the security deposit if you have caused damage.
Examples of damage are:
- a burn hole or nail varnish spill on a carpet
- holes in plaster or damaged paintwork caused by hanging pictures on a wall
- torn or missing curtains
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.
What if I owe the landlord rent?
If you still owe rent when you leave, your landlord is entitled to deduct this from your security deposit. If you owe more than the value of your deposit your landlord can take you to court to get the rest of the money back.
If you are thinking of withholding the last month’s rent in case the landlord refuses to return the deposit, bear in mind that you are legally liable to pay rent and your landlord could take you to court to recover it.
If you do withhold the last month’s rent, make sure your landlord would have no other claim to your deposit. Repair any damage that may have occurred and be sure to keep records to show the condition you leave the property in and anything you have paid for such as cleaning. Keep the money in a separate bank account in case your landlord does try to claim it back.
How can I avoid a dispute about the return of my security deposit?
When you move into a property, it’s a good idea to draw up an inventory. An inventory is a detailed list of the contents and condition of the property and any items provided with it, such as furniture or equipment. Having an inventory can help you resolve disputes at the end of your contract about whether you’ve caused any damage to the property or whether items are missing. It is in your own interests to take care of the property you are renting.
You should also keep a record of all the rent payments you make either in a rent book or by keeping receipts.