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Advice on Deposits
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Advice on Deposits for Accomodation

If you agree to rent a property, but are not going to move in immediately, the landlord may ask you for a holding deposit. This is a cash deposit to hold the property, usually for a stated amount of time, until you pay the first month's rent and any security deposits. If you change your mind about moving in, the landlord may be able to keep your deposit.

Ask the following questions before paying any deposit:

• If you decide to rent the unit, will the holding deposit be applied to the first month's rent? If so, ask the landlord for a deposit receipt that states this. Applying the deposit to the first month's rent is a common practice.
• Is any part of the holding deposit refundable if you change your mind about renting? As a general rule, if you change your mind (for whatever reason), none of the deposit is refunded. If you and the landlord agree that all or part of the deposit will be refunded, make sure that these terms are in writing.

   
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Understanding Security Deposits

Landlords are allowed to charge a security deposit, and almost all landlords do. The security deposit may be labelled "last month's rent," "security deposit," or "cleaning deposit," or may combine the last month's rent plus a specific amount for "security" in the event of damage to the property.

There is a limit to the amount a landlord can charge for a deposit. The total amount charged for any type of security deposit cannot be more than the amount of two months' rent for an unfurnished rental unit or three months' rent for a furnished unit. The landlord typically will require you to pay this amount in addition to your first month's rent.

Security deposits are refundable under English Law. The law, however, allows landlords to retain part or all of your deposit under certain circumstances. They include compensation for:

• outstanding (unpaid) rent
• cleaning the rental unit after you moved out, if the unit was not as clean as when you moved in
• repairing damages caused by you or your guests, exclusive of normal wear and tear
• replacing or restoring furniture, furnishings, keys, or other items belonging to your landlord, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear

Within 14 days after you move, your landlord either must (a) send you a full refund of the security deposit or (b) an itemized statement that lists reasons for and amounts of any deductions from the deposit, with a refund of any amounts not deducted.

Because you may be entitled to a refund of a portion or an entire security deposit, make sure that your rental agreement clearly states that the landlord received a security deposit from you and accurately reflects how much you paid.
Your deposit can also be used to cover any unpaid bills outstanding on the property (gas/ electricity/telephone/water) but only if the owner/agent has written such a clause into the contract.
The deposit cannot be used to cover reasonable wear and tear, which you have paid for in your rent.

Paying a deposit

Always pay your deposit by cheque or credit card (because then you can prove payment in the event of any dispute) and get a receipt, which states the amount paid. You should also receive a statement of what the deposit covers. Attach the receipt to your copy of the contract.

The average deposit is between 150-200 per person. It should not be paid until the contract has been signed.

If you are unhappy about any aspect of the condition of the property when you move in (damage, outstanding repairs, damage to decor or the level of cleanliness) - inform the owner/agent in writing immediately and keep a copy for your own records. If you fail to notify them about your concerns then you could find yourself paying for the previous tenants damage at the end of your own tenancy.

Protecting your Deposit

There are many legitimate reasons why deductions may be made from your deposit. Below are a few tips to help avoid problems.

• Check what your responsibilities are for the garden - if you are responsible gardening equipment should be provided.
• If you bring furniture from home make proper arrangements to store or remove the owner's furniture where it will not get damaged.
• Always report any repairs in writing and keep a copy, so you can show that it is not damage caused by the household.
• Maintain the house properly, cleaning/vacuuming from time to time.
• Clean all cookers, fridges, toilets, showers and baths properly at the end of the tenancy using proper cleaning materials.
• Respect the owner/agents fixtures and fittings. Burn marks on the carpet cigarette burns on the furniture could cost you your entire deposit and more.
• If you do break/damage anything (deliberately or accidentally) then inform the owner/agent immediately. Do not leave it until the end of the tenancy.

If you signed a joint contract your deposit can be used to cover outstanding rent and/or damage caused by your housemates.

Arranging an Inspection

Three weeks before your tenancy ends make sure that you have an end of tenancy inspection visit by the owner/agent. Ideally you should be present at that visit so that you can agree any work you need to do with the owner/agent.

Before the inspection ask the owner/agent for a checklist of what they expect you to do. The list on pages 4 and 5 shows the areas that owners are likely to inspect.


Utility Companies

Two weeks before you are due to move out you should also contact all the utility companies (gas/electricity/telephone) and arrange for final readings to be taken. You will also need to write and request your names are taken off the bills from the date you all move out.

Making Sure Everyone Does their Fair Share of Work

If you are renting a shared house then you should leave the property in a fit state for the next set of tenants to move in. If you have signed a joint contract (as many students do) then you are jointly responsible for the whole house and it is important that the whole house is cleaned and left in a good condition.
It is important that every occupant does their fair share of work. Avoid individual occupants leaving one by one over the last few weeks leaving cleaning to one or two remaining tenants. Work out who will clean what.
Most students will clean their own bedroom, but make sure you divide the responsibilities between yourselves for living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, corridors, cellars and gardens. Generally, cleaning and clearing the kitchen and bathroom in a house is 50% of the task of cleaning the whole house.
Allow yourself plenty of time to clean the house at the end of the year.
Never have an end of house party on the last day. Always leave at least three days after any social event to clean up and move out.

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