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depositIf you’re moving into private accommodation, your landlord will want you to put down a deposit. Read on to find out why – and how to make sure you get it back.

What is a deposit?

A deposit is a sum of money you pay to a landlord, which they hold as insurance in case you damage the property. It is normally the same amount as one month’s rent. You pay your deposit together with your first month’s rent when you sign your contract, and get it back when you leave the property. However, the landlord can deduct some money or even keep it all if you move out of the property without paying all your rent or bills, or leave it in a particularly bad state.

Before you move in

Check your contract before you sign it. It might contain clauses about smoking or keeping pets, for example – and you could lose some of your deposit if you don’t follow these. Ask the landlord about anything you’re unsure about.

Your landlord should also provide you with an inventory. This is a list of all the furniture and appliances in the property. Make sure that everything listed on the inventory is actually there, and note any damage, as you could be charged if anything is missing or broken later. Ask your landlord to make any necessary repairs before you move in.

Your landlord also has to put your deposit in an approved deposit protection scheme, and provide written proof of this. Keep copies of that, the contract, the inventory, and any other important documents in a safe place. It’s also a good idea to keep copies of any emails or letters you send to your landlord, in case you need to refer to them later.

When you’re living in the house

cleaningYour landlord is legally obliged to keep the structure of the house in good repair, and fix or replace any appliances they’ve supplied you with – like the washing machine or shower, for example – that break down accidentally. However, they don’t have to perform basic household repairs like wiring a plug for you.

Nor do they have to fix any damage that’s your fault. So if you break a window, get red wine on the carpet or bang big holes in the wall putting up a poster, you’ll have to sort it out yourself or the cost will be deducted from your deposit.

When you’re moving out

Your landlord can only deduct money from your deposit for actual damage, not just normal ‘wear and tear’, so give everything a clean to show that you’ve been trying to take good care of the property and you stand a better chance of getting all your deposit back.

Also make sure you're up-to-date with your rent and bills, so the landlord can't deduct money from your deposit to cover any you haven't paid. You should also notify your utility and telephone suppliers that you're moving out if necessary, so they don't keep sending you bills.

Your deposit will be returned to you by the deposit protection scheme after the landlord has checked the house. This normally takes a couple of weeks, but if you feel like your landlord is taking too long or is keeping too much of your deposit, ask your university’s student housing officer for advice, and contact the deposit protection scheme directly.

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