Contracts & Deposits
Here are some top tips to make sure your tenancy runs smoothly.
- Make sure you read your contract thoroughly and that you know what you and your landlord’s responsibilities are before you sign and commit yourself
- Make sure you keep a copy for your records. If you need advice, you must bring it with you to your Adviser
- Even if you are dealing with a letting agent, ensure you have the landlord's (the owner of the property) full name, address and contact number - IT'S THE LAW!
- If there’s anything that is troubling you about your contract or if you have any questions at all, get in touch directly with your landlord or agent
- Landlord Registration
- Before you sign, you must check that your landlord is registered - this has been the law from 25 Feb 2014
- Tenants and advisers can check the register to see if a landlord has registered. It's possible to search by landlord name or by property address. If your landlord is not registered, think seriously before accepting the property and seek further advice from the Landlord Registration Scheme advice line on 0300 200 7821. They should be reported to your Local Council which has the power to impose a fine.
- Tenancy Deposit Schemes
The Law states that deposits paid on or after 1 April, 2013 by tenants in the private rented sector must be protected by your landlord in a Government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
These Schemes make sure that your deposit is safe so you can get it back when you move out (as long as you have looked after the property and paid your rent).
Make sure that your landlord has secured your deposit with one of these Schemes within 14 days of paying your money. By 28 days you also should have been provided with specific details (called your ‘Prescribed Information’). If you are not sure whether your landlord has secured your deposit we strongly advise you to write to them using the sample letter below:
If your landlord doesn’t reply or hasn’t secured your deposit within 28 days you should report them to the Environmental Health Officer at your local council*, which has the power to fine them up to three times the amount of the deposit or if prosecuted in court, up to £20,000.
*If you live in Belfast, the Belfast City Council’s Environmental Health Department can be contacted on: 028 9032 0202
Unfortunately, as this is a new piece of legislation, a loophole has been identified. The reason we strongly advise every student to check within the first 28 days that your deposit has been properly protected is that if you don’t check and report any non-protection to your local Council, before six months of your tenancy has passed, the Council does not have any power to fine your landlord. Students who have waited until their tenancy has ended, later discovered they weren’t protected and subsequently lost their deposit. We don’t want this to happen to you and we plan to lobby local Government to change this.
It’s your money – don’t lose it! Please make sure you follow our above advice to make sure your deposit is protected!
There are currently three Schemes the landlord could have used:
Further info can be found on NI Direct
When your tenancy agreement ends, for most the first thing you think about is getting your deposit back. Who can blame you?! - as a student it's usually around July time that your tenancy ends and therefore you have summer to look forward to and of course that extra couple of hundred pounds will help you enjoy that summer a little bit more.
It is probably worth considering that most people do not get their deposits returned straight away. On average you should expect to receive the deposit back within around 28 days of the tenancy ending. This is likely to be seen as a reasonable period. On occasions it can take slightly longer, if for example the landlord has to do work on the property as a result of damage caused by you or another tenant during the period of your tenancy.
So when can a landlord make deductions to your deposit?
Your landlord should only make deductions from your deposit for things that cost them money. Deductions should not be made for the purpose of financial betterment. Deductions may be proposed if you:
- owe any rent
- damage the property or furniture
- lose or damage anything included on the 'inventory'
- leave the property dirty without cleaning
You might also lose some or all of your deposit if your landlord has to pay court costs for action against you.
Deductions should not be made for reasonable wear and tear in the property, for example damage that has taken place over time through normal use. This could be the carpet becoming worn.
Anything which needs to be repaired or replaced should be on a 'like or like' basis, so a second-hand desk shouldn't be replaced with a brand new one at the tenant's expense.
You can ask your landlord/agent to show you receipts or estimates for anything they want to deduct from your deposit. If they refuse to do so, you may wish to question why.
If you do not agree with the proposed deductions, for example if your landlord deducts money for something you disagree with, you should try reasoning with the landlord/agent first. If that does not work, your Deposit Protection Scheme can help resolve the dispute without going to court. There are usually time limits to using this service.
The tenancy deposit scheme your landlord used normally will hold the relevant amount until the dispute is resolved.
You need to establish which one of the Schemes noted under the ‘Deposit Protection’ above was used before looking to access their dispute service.
Once you are aware which one of these was used, you can contact them directly to ask that the funds be released.
It would be beneficial for you to have taken photographs when you moved in and out of the property to provide proof of the condition it was in when you entered and vacated. If you have done this, keep hold of the photographs in case you need this to evidence your argument against deductions. It is also helpful if you have a copy of your inventory too.
How can Advice SU help?
An Advice SU adviser can provide guidance and support on structuring letters and emails in relation to disputes. We can point you in the direction of other support agencies who can help with tenancy issues and deposit disputes. If you have any questions or need help with a deposit issue, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.