John King, TDS Head of Member Services gives tenants advice on best practice for ending a tenancy.

Tenancy management can be very admin-intensive, and there are some key actions that the parties must consider at both the beginning and end of the tenancy term. Make sure you’re prepared so you can ‘get it right’ and make sure you don’t overlook anything important. To help, we’ve pulled together this simple guide for tenants coming to the end of a tenancy to help with the return of the tenancy deposit.

Make sure you read and understand your tenancy agreement

The tenancy agreement you signed at the start of the tenancy sets out the obligations and responsibilities of each party, including the process requirements at the end of the tenancy.

Ensure you have the tenancy agreement to hand and that you understand what you must do before handing the property back to the landlord or their agent. Some agreements specify that a property should be ‘professionally cleaned’ and others cleaned ‘to a professional standard’. If you’re unsure of anything it’s always best to speak to your landlord or letting agent about what is to be expected.

Check the inventory/check-in report

The check-in or inventory report will detail the condition of the property when it was handed over to you and this record will be used to compare the condition of the property once returned; the difference between the two is called the dilapidations or changes. The landlord or letting agent will use this to judge the standard of the property when you leave.

Your landlord or letting agent may not charge you for ‘fair wear and tear’ – this is damage or changes caused by day-to-day, normal use of the property. For example, a carpet will eventually get worn down by people walking on it. If something isn’t in the same condition when you move out compared to what’s on the inventory, it’s important to understand whether it will be judged as normal use or abuse.

Pay the bills

Remember to pay all your outstanding utility or service provider accounts. If the utility bills are in your name and you do not pay them, the debt will follow you as they are not tied to a property and therefore may not be deducted from the tenancy deposit. However, if the utilities are in the landlord’s name and you leave debt, this could lead to a claim against your tenancy deposit to cover the costs.

It’s always important to let the utility companies know that you are leaving as debt could be built up in your name by the next tenant. You should send the utility companies meter readings so they can send you a final bill.

Don’t ask for the services (e.g. phone line) to be disconnected without checking with the landlord as they may have to pay to have them reconnected, which could lead them to making a claim against your tenancy deposit.

Outstanding rent may also be deducted from the tenancy deposit if the tenancy agreement you entered into allows for this, so it is best to make sure you’re up-to-date with your payments. You should also consider that there may be no obligation for the landlord to use the deposit for rent arrears, especially if there are other dilapidations to consider, it may be that the landlord decides to pursue a rent claim elsewhere, for instance via court action.

Clean the property

If the tenancy agreement states you should return the property in a clean state, you should clean thoroughly throughout the property before you leave. It’s always important to go through the property and check areas that are easily missed (e.g. skirting boards, windows).

Check your tenancy agreement to see what level of cleaning is required. If you are in any doubt you should speak to your landlord or letting agent in the first instance, so you know what is required.

Reclaim your tenancy deposit

If your tenancy deposit is registered under our TDS Custodial scheme the designated lead tenant should log in to the TDS Custodial website to reclaim the tenancy deposit. The landlord may wish to make deductions to cover any damage, cleaning or another cost they have noticed.

In our TDS Insured scheme, the TDS member (the landlord or the letting agent) will hold the tenancy deposit so you can initially discuss any deductions to be made, and if you agree, the TDS member can pay back the rest straight away.

In both TDS tenancy deposit protection schemes, tenants have the right to dispute the claim and submit the case to a free and impartial adjudication service, but only if the parties cannot agree. TDS adjudicators can only consider disputes about the return of the tenancy deposit as registered and not other matters.

You can find out more about the process of reclaiming tenancy deposits and raising disputes in our handy FAQs.

About TDS

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.

TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.

TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.

TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.

TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland’s leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

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