Q&A: How do I know how much deposit to keep when my tenants leave?

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We’ve talked before about deposits before, this is always a thorny issue as tenants don’t want to be out of their pocket and neither do landlords. The perfect scenario for both sides would be for the property to be in great condition so that the landlord won’t have to fork out to get it back up to scratch for the new tenant. This results in the tenant getting all their deposit back, which is a much needed financial boost when moving!

Unfortunately, sometimes the landlord does need to deduct from the deposit, whether this is for cleaning purposes, damage to the property or unpaid rent. But how do you decide just how much is needed?

The importance of inventory

An inventory benefits both parties. It’s incredibly important to have a report documenting the condition of the property before the tenant moves in for both parties to refer to. As a landlord, if you do the inventory yourself or use a professional service like ours, you should always send a copy to the tenant. This way, when the tenant is they have a reference to ensure they return the property to you in the same condition they received it.

We highly recommend getting a professional inventory, as you can then choose to have a check-out report which will make suggestions for deductions as well. Not only does this save you time, but it can also reduce any potential upset because a professional third party has made the recommendation.

However, if you do choose to look after your own inventory, there are few things to consider when deciding whether to deduct from the deposit and how much.

What can’t you charge for?

Reasonable wear-and-tear shouldn’t be counted as damage. For example, let’s say a tenant has lived in your property for three years. When you move out, you notice the staircase carpet is looking a little bit worn. Still, you mustn’t charge the tenant for a replacement as it’s reasonable to assume that three years of climbing the stairs will leave a visible impact! If you feel the carpet needs updating, that will have to come out of your own pocket.

You can also give your tenant a head’s-up ahead of moving day about areas that are often overlooked, which you will be checking. These include:

  • Skirting boards
  • Light switches
  • Ovens
  • Filters
  • Toilets
  • Kitchen sinks

Be timely in your checking, making sure you can go and inspect the property as soon as possible after moving out. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can get your new tenant in because no one likes a void period! 

This is also important for relations with your outgoing tenant. While it’s unlikely you’ll leave it weeks to check, if you do, dust can accumulate, making the place look less clean than the tenant left it, and that isn’t fair on them.

A timely check means you’re seeing the work they’ve done to leave your property in good condition, so they can receive their deposit back as soon as possible, and you can get your new tenant in.

Ultimately, tenants and landlords need to be aware of their duties of care in order to avoid deductions. So we really do encourage you to have evidence of the condition of the property before your tenant moves in because it really does benefit both sides. 

Don’t forget that you can cover yourself with our professional inventory, from which you can choose both a check-in or check-out, making your life just that little bit easier.

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