Can I make a claim on my tenant's deposit?
This is assessed on a case by case basis with the deposit protection agency, as well as the tenants involved.
Firstly, you should speak with your tenants and try to come to an agreement. For example, can they get those damages fixed before the end of the tenancy? Coming to an agreement this way can save a lot of pain and time wasting in future.
What are my obligations as a landlord?
If both parties cannot come to a mutually agreed conclusion, in order to make a claim on the deposit you should be able to provide evidence of the following:
- The deposit was correctly protected and the tenants were served the prescribed information within 30 days.
- An inventory was conducted at the beginning of the tenancy and was signed by all parties.
- Buildings and landlord’s contents were correctly insured where required.
You should also consider any other insurance you have for e.g. rent and whether this can be used to cover any money owed by the tenants.
During the tenancy you should also:
- Keep copies of any photos and relevant correspondence with the tenants.
- If work is required for e.g. repairs or redecoration, make sure the invoice shows the detail of the work done.
- Keep copies of receipts for any work required.
Once you have everything in place, you should contact the deposit agency through their website to initiate the claim.
What can I claim for?
For any tenancies created through OpenRent, clause 7.3 of the contract outlines the items landlords can claim for; these include damages, rent arrears, unpaid utilities, and appropriate cleaning costs.
Although the contract is the first place to look, putting conditions in a contract doesn’t make them enforceable. For example, adding a custom clause to say that the tenant would be legally responsible for any deterioration due to fair wear and tear during the tenancy is unlikely to be enforceable in practice.
You should also never expect to claim for 'betterment', that is, the tenant can never be expected to leave the property in a better condition than could reasonably be expected at the end of the tenancy.
For example, the landlord provides with the property a sofa which cost £1000 and was 1 year old. The tenants damaged this item beyond repair during the tenancy.
The tenants might well be liable for a proportion of £1000, but would not normally be expected to cover the full £1000, because the value of the item would have decreased in the year since purchase. If the tenants did pay the landlord back £1000, the landlord would have received 'betterment', i.e. £1000 for a sofa which by the end of the tenancy would have been worth less than £1000.
What if the amount owed is more than the total amount of the deposit?
The deposit schemes would not be able to arbitrate on claims beyond the value of the deposit.
OpenRent’s contract specifies that “[i]f the Deposit is insufficient the Tenant shall pay to the Landlord such additional sums as required to cover all costs, charges and expenses properly due within a period of 14 days from the end of the tenancy.”
If the tenant did not pay the landlord what they owed, then the landlord would need to take the tenant to court for the remaining money.
Please note the above clauses are only in relation to OpenRent's contract - you should check your own if your tenancy wasn't created using Rent Now. You can see our full AST below.