£32 Million Lost By Students In Rental Deposits When They Leave Accommodation

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house manchester by Alex Pepperhill via Flickr

New research from independent comparison website money.co.uk has revealed that landlords keep the deposit of four out of ten students (38%) almost a third (29%) when they leave private rented accommodation.

Our research reveals this will be a total loss of £32 million for the 196,766  students affected. The research also highlights a wider issue where four out of five students (79%) are not signing a photo inventory when they move in. This means they have very little evidence of the ‘before and after’ condition of the property when it comes to moving out. Our research found that over half of students (53%) polled felt that getting their whole deposit back would have been easier if they had signed an inventory.

To put this in context, there are over half a million (520,545) students in private rented accommodation paying an average deposit of £572 each year. In total, there is almost £300 million worth of student deposits taken each year by landlords. It’s a lot of money the table when it comes to moving out.

So why are landlords keeping the money?

· For more than half (52%) it’s simply down to cleaning – the landlords didn’t feel the property was cleaned to a high enough standard to warrant a full deposit return.

· Damage to fixtures and fittings was also the reason cited for almost a quarter (24%) of students who didn’t get their full deposit back.

· Excessive wear and tear (22%) was also an issue for over a fifth (22%). Just 5% cited unpaid bills as a reason.

What about deposit protection schemes?

One in four students said they did not receive details of the protection scheme their deposit was secured with from their landlord and a further one in ten claim their landlord didn’t protect their money. Knowing where your deposit is protected is key when it comes to moving out as the schemes can act as third party mediators in the event of a dispute. Students must take control and ask their landlord which deposit protection scheme their money will be secured with – this applies to both new and existing tenants. Landlords are legally obliged to give you copy of the paperwork.

What is deposit protection?

It is mandatory for all private landlords to protect deposits for assured shorthold tenancies via a government backed tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receipt[3]. They must also give tenants prescribed information about where their deposit is protected, who they are renting from and how they raise a dispute. The schemes give landlords and tenants access to a free dispute resolution service if things go wrong when the tenant moves out, eliminating the need for court action in many cases.

Despite two thirds of students claiming the deposit withheld by their landlord was unfair, just 15% disputed the decision and managed to get some of their money back. A further one in five took action but didn’t get another penny.

Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief money.co.uk comments; “This will be the first time many students have rented their own place. There are so many things to think about but making sure your deposit is protected is key so you’re not left out of pocket when you move out. Landlords are not the enemy –students must make sure they keep the property in a decent state so there’s no reason for their landlord to keep their cash – this is money they’ll be relying on getting back.

“With over half a million students in private rented accommodation the scope for problems is huge. Without signing a photo inventory you run the risk of losing money every time you move out as it’s your word against your landlord’s if things go wrong. Student debt is already colossal and forfeiting your deposit is an unnecessary loss at the end of the year.”

Hannah’s ten hot tips – how students can make sure they don’t lose their deposit when they move out:

1. Photo inventories are crucial. Without this ‘before and after’ evidence it’s your word against the landlord’s if things go wrong. It’s really worth taking the time to do this as soon as you move in – or before if you can. Print off an inventory checklist, note down and photograph any damage you find then report it to your landlord.

2. Cleaning is a must. Make a pact with your housemates to put the hoover round and wipe down the kitchen and bathroom every other week at least. If a professional clean is written into your contract find out if you’re tied to a particular company, why and what they cost. If it’s not it could still be cheaper in the long run to get a professional company to do this before you move out to avoid losing your deposit.

3. Carpet and oven cleaning. If the carpets and ovens need to be professionally cleaned when you move out you should check if it was done before you moved in. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your landlord.

4. Go through your contract with a fine tooth comb. Query anything that’s open to misinterpretation or seems unreasonable. Getting clarity will benefit your landlord too.

5. Know your rights. Your landlord must protect your deposit with a registered scheme within 30 days of receiving all or part of it and give you confirmation. You can take legal action if your landlords refuses to protect your deposit.

6. You can check if your deposit has been protected. Visit the relevant deposit scheme website or use the Shelter website to check all three schemes in England and Wales. You will need to provide your postcode, tenancy start date and deposit amount.

7. As an aside: find out when the boiler, fire alarms and electrics were last tested (ask to see certificates) and make sure bills from previous tenants are settled so you aren’t saddled with their debt.

8. Landlords are not the enemy. The majority want you to enjoy living in their property so they have a hassle free life. Maintaining a positive relationship is often the best way to get problems resolved quickly and painlessly.

9. Play your part as a responsible and respectful tenant. Pay your rent and household bills on time, clean your home on a regular basis (ants and mice aren’t fun for anyone), remember to put the bins out and don’t annoy the neighbours!

10. We have created a useful guide for students (and their parents) that are heading off to university this Autumn – it gives you more information on how to minimise the chance you’ll lose money when you move out of your rental property.