Before you move in
When you find a private property to rent you will need to:
Pay a tenancy deposit and any letting agent fees
Sign a tenancy agreement
Get the keys and inventory the day you move in
You will also get a copy of your tenancy agreement, which includes contact details for your landlord and letting agent should you have any concerns about the property.
What is a tenancy deposit?
It is a lump sum of money you pay when you move in to cover any damage you cause to the property.
The amount you pay depends on how much the landlord or letting agent ask for, but is usually between four and seven weeks worth of rent.
If you do not pay all your rent at the end of your tenancy your landlord could deduct some of your deposit to make up any missed payments.
Protecting your deposit
Your letting agent or landlord must put your deposit into a government backed Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme within 30 days.
If you do not get confirmation of this, call your landlord and ask them to do it. If they refuse to put your money in a scheme they risk going to court and facing a fine.
By using a TDP your landlord must agree to try and resolve any financial dispute with you before they can deduct money from your deposit.
Assess the property
When you move into your property most letting agents give you a document called an inventory, but not all provide photographs.
An inventory lists all defects and damage to the property, including its contents. Use the inventory as a guide to how your property should look when you move out.
Go through the property and check there is nothing missing from the inventory to avoid any disputes at the end of your tenancy.
You usually have a few days after you move in to add anything that is missing.
If you do not do this, you could end up paying for damage that was already in the property.
Complete an inventory
If you are not given an inventory from your letting agent or landlord, then make one yourself.
Print off an inventory checklist and write down any damage you find in your property. Make sure you write clearly, as your landlord will also need to read what issues you have found.
Take photos as evidence of everything you write in your inventory. This will help with any disputes you have with your landlord at the end of your tenancy.
Here is a list of common issues you should report:
Crack and marks on walls
Signs of water leakage and damp; look around sinks or your bathtub/shower
Cracks around light fixtures, such as spotlights on the ceiling
Damage to windows, such as eroded or non existent sealant around the frame
Once you have completed your inventory, give a copy to your letting agent or landlord to sign.
If they refuse to sign your inventory, and do not plan to give you one they have created, contact Citizens Advice for legal guidance.
When you move out
At the end of your tenancy make sure your property is in the same condition as you found it by using your inventory.
If you do not have one, ask your letting agent or landlord for a copy a few weeks before the end of your tenancy to give yourself enough time to restore the property to its original condition.
If you made any cosmetic changes like painting, you usually have to repaint back to the original colour unless you had your landlord's permission.
Common deposit deductions
Things you could have money deducted for include:
Damage to the property or furniture*
Missing items from the inventory
Paying for cleaning because you left the property in a dirty condition
You or one of your housemates still owes rent
Your landlord should not deduct money from your deposit to cover the cost of damage caused by wear and tear, such as worn carpets.
If you have concerns over the quality of something in the property and it is not in the inventory, like wallpaper that is peeling back, tell your letting agent or landlord immediately.