Proceed to check out! Tips for tenants moving out

Keep your money safe.

| 29 August 2014

As a tenant in Northern Ireland you can expect to pay an average £570 for your tenancy deposit. It's a lot of money.

As a tenant in Northern Ireland you can expect to pay an average £570 for your tenancy deposit. It's a lot of money. When you come to move out the time between paying your new deposit and getting your old one back can be a tense wait - you'll be anxious about how much (if any) of your deposit you'll get back, not to mention having a house move to deal with!

So what can you do to get your money back, and fast? TDS Northern Ireland resolves disputes between landlords and tenants over deposits, and we have some top tips for tenants moving out.

1. Is your deposit protected?

First things first, it's vital to know if your deposit is protected. If you paid your deposit on or after 1 April 2013 it is the law that once your landlord has received the money:


    • within 14 days: your landlord or agent must protect your deposit with a government approved scheme such as TDS Northern Ireland


    • within 28 days: you must receive specific details in writing of how your deposit is protected and an official leaflet explaining how the scheme works. This is called prescribed information.

The deposit money is either paid to the scheme (custodial protection) or held by the landlord and covered by the scheme's insurance (insurance backed protection).If your landlord holds the deposit, she can return it to you directly when the tenancy ends.If it is held by TDS Northern Ireland click here to read the process for getting your deposit back.

Your landlord can withhold money from the deposit if costs have been incurred by you failing to meet obligations in your tenancy agreement - most commonly for cleaning, damage, and unpaid rent. If you cannot reach an agreement with your landlord over deductions you can raise a dispute through the scheme. The scheme will look at evidence from both parties and adjudicate to decide how much your landlord is entitled to keep. This dispute resolution service is free of charge.

If you paid your deposit before 1 April 2013 your deposit will not be protected and if no agreement can be reached unfortunately you will need to challenge your landlord in court. Free advice is available from the Housing Rights Service

2. Know what your landlord can use your deposit for

The deposit is security for your landlord against any loss suffered from you breaking any terms of the agreement, most commonly cleaning, damage, and rent arrears but it can apply to any clause;�the importance of this document cannot be overstated!

The general rule is that you should return the property in the condition you found it (allowing for fair wear and tear).But: double check the agreement for specific requirements. Did you agree to get a professional cleaner? Do you have a garden to maintain? If you move in in Winter and move out in Summer the garden will be in a different condition, so be clear on your weeding and mowing responsibilities. You might also have specially negotiated clauses, such as conditions for keeping pets, which are especially important to take heed of. If in doubt, ask your landlord or agent.

The deposit is your money so the landlord can only keep it with your agreement. Know what he is entitled to and know your own obligations.

3. Check your Check In report

This is your chance to right any wrongs, and minimise losses from your deposit.

You should have received a check in report at the start detailing the contents and condition of the property when you moved in. Do your own inspection of the property using the report to try and rectify any damage and alert yourself to anything which might lead your landlord to make deductions.

4. Go to the Check Out

The landlord should also conduct a check out inspection to record the condition of the property when you leave. If possible, attend this inspection. This is your opportunity to agree on the property's condition. Being there in person can avoid disagreement later on, saving you time and money.

5. Keep it clean!

Cleaning is by far the biggest reason for landlords taking money from deposits. What constitutes 'clean' can be open to interpretation so don't cut any corners! Dirty ovens are a recurring nightmare for landlords and letting agents; a pair of marigolds and a bottle of bleach are a wise investment for any tenant.

As mentioned above, you might have agreed to bring in a professional cleaner. Read your tenancy agreement to confirm this, and ask your landlord or agent if you are unsure.

6. Request your deposit in writing

Your landlord or agent should promptly tell you if and how much money will be taken from your deposit. If you make a request for the return of the deposit however, they then have 5 working days in which to return the money provided you both agree on the amount. Make this request in writing to make sure there is a record of it.

7. Negotiate your own settlement

If there is any disagreement do your best to try and negotiate before going down official channels. The new dispute resolution service is by far much quicker than the courts, but you could still be waiting a month or more before your money is returned.
If you have followed the above advice you should have a clear idea of what your landlord is entitled to, whether or not you've met your obligations, and what it is fair for him to keep. You'll be in a stronger position to negotiate with your landlord and save time by avoiding official dispute resolution.