#ExpertView: The tenant's guide to ending a tenancy
John King, TDS Northern Ireland’s Director of Customer Services, gives tenants advice on best practice for ending a tenancy.
Tenancy management can be 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 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 agent. Some agreements specify that a property should be 'professionally cleaned' and others ‘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 of 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 can 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.
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.
About the Author
John King is a former practitioner in the lettings industry with over 25 years’ experience with a keen understanding of the Private Rental Sector. In addition to his work in estate agency, John has worked within tenancy deposit protection since 2009 starting in the adjudication team before moving into customer services and has recently moved from Deputy Director to Director in our key customer facing team.
John has presented training seminars, forums and industry events and has been involved in the successful TDS Academy training programme offered throughout England and Wales and operates a team of customer service advisors to assist with customer enquiries.
Advocating improvement through education and understanding John appreciates the ups and downs of a tenancy transaction experienced by all the parties. He brings knowledge, consideration and practicality to encourage the stakeholders involved to seek an acceptable solution to tenancy deposit disagreements and access Alternative Dispute Resolution where required.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland (TDSNI) is a government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDSNI offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
TDSNI Insured Scheme: where a TDSNI member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.
TDSNI Custodial Scheme: where TDSNI hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.
TDSNI Academy: TDSNI provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.
TDSNI 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.
ARLA Propertymark: For agents who would like to stay up to date, you can contact Propertymark | ARLA at: email@example.com. By being a member of Propertymark | ARLA you will be eligible for TDS Insured best headline rates.