Making Deductions From A Tenant Deposit

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When a tenant leaves a property, you’ll want to arrange to do an inspection either before or after they leave, we prefer to do it before.

It’ll give you an opportunity to have a look around and compare the condition of when they moved in.

Have a read of our Inventory Check-in Report article to get an insight into what you should be making a record of when moving a tenant in!

This opportunity to inspect the property will allow you to highlight areas of concern, and make deductions if necessary to cover the costs incurred.

What Deductions Are Acceptable?

Whether it be deductions related to:

  • Cleaning
  • Damage
  • Redecoration
  • Missing items
  • Gardening
  • Rent arrears
  • Unpaid utility bills

There should be clear evidence proving the fact that your planned deductions are justified, both ethically and financially.

If the check-in report clearly shows the property was handed over clean and tidy, with freshly painted walls and the garden trimmed to a maintainable level, however when checking the property on the tenant’s departure the house is a mess, dirty, with crayon drawings on multiple walls and the garden now resembling a jungle! That should be more than enough evidence to justify the reasoning of why you plan to charge the tenants the deduction.

Your next plan of action should be to get quotes to rectify these issues, by contacting 2-3 sources of cleaners, gardeners, and painting & decorators you’ll get a good idea of the rough cost to rectify the above issues to the same standard you initially gave the property in. 

Use this as a guide for the costs of deductions and keep Pro-forma invoices on hand to back it up.

Ensuring you have followed the above will mean if your tenant disputes the issues or their related costs, you’ve got enough evidence to displace any doubt regarding the deductions you propose.

Costs For Cleaning

Cleaning costs are the most common reason for deductions made from tenancy deposits. However, there are many cases of landlords expecting the property to be left in an even better condition than what they initially let it out in.

This is where a report should be generated on every tenancy check-in, recording cleanliness amongst other aspects. Upon check-out, you can refer back to this document, and as long as the tenant has left it in a similar condition to when they first moved in, it should be acceptable.

In the instance the tenant has genuinely left it in an untidy or unclean condition, you can either choose to do the cleaning yourself or use a professional cleaning company. The costs for either of these options should be reasonable, and not exaggerated. 

Costs For Damage or Loss

Again, a check-in inventory is vital. Having a clear comparison to refer to will prove handy to determine whether any of the areas of your property have been damaged during the tenancy.

Any charges made should be reasonable and on a like-for-like basis.

If you provided a dining table and chairs in the property you paid £250 for from Ikea, you cannot then request the cost of a replacement from Wayfair at the cost of £1000. That isn’t fair for the tenant, replacement should be indicative of the cost of a like-for-like replacement. 

The same goes for any losses incurred. Missing furniture or other items that were provided as part of the tenancy can be deducted from the deposit. Again, it should be like for like replacements.

What About Wear and Tear?

Wear and tear is day-to-day wear that happens as the property is lived in. Bear in mind that wear and tear is a regular occurrence for landlords to have to deal with, and shouldn’t be classed as damage to the property.

Worn soft furnishings and curtains, small marks on painted walls etc, shouldn’t be deducted from a tenancy deposit.

Unauthorised Changes To The Property

If your tenant wants to make any significant changes to the property, you should have a procedure in place where they request permission beforehand, ideally via email.

Examples of significant changes could be visual, cosmetic, or structural. As well as changes in decoration, utility meters, wall-mounted items, or even a cat-flap!

Upon the check-out, ideally, you should do this before they actually move out to give your tenants the opportunity to reverse anything they changed, that wasn’t authorised. Alternatively, if you’ve got sufficient evidence of the condition before they moved in, you can make deductions to put the property back in the same condition as when they moved in.

Outdoor and Garden Spaces

Outdoor and garden spaces that are provided with the property are equally as important to be kept well and maintained, as the rest of the property.

Having the lawn cut, hedges and bushes trimmed, and patios or driveways kept clear and clean should be the expectation as standard. You don’t necessarily have to provide equipment for garden maintenance, but if you do, ensure it is included in the check-in inventory. 

The same expectation applies, if the tenant doesn’t look after the outdoor spaces as you expected, ask them to arrange to sort it before they move out. Or you’re fully within your rights to claim on their deposit to deduct the necessary costs to revert the condition to how it was when they moved in. 

Utility Bills

During the tenancy, all household bills should have been in the tenant’s name. However, to cover yourself you should contact the providers to inform them you have gained possession of the property again from the specified dates. In some cases, they may ask for proof of the dates of the tenancy of the move-in and move-out.

This is important as if the previous tenants didn’t change the correspondence to their names, and they run up a debt, this will implicate yourself or the tenants previous to them be liable for the costs.

On their departure you should:

  • Endeavour to give the utility company the tenant’s forwarding address.
  • Take photographs of the meter readings at the check-out.

Take note, you can only deduct from the deposit if you have suffered a financial loss due to unpaid bills, or having to pay to change the meters back to the original type on their move-in.

Rent Arrears

And finally, unpaid rent.

Ideally, throughout every tenancy, a record of payments made should be kept. Correlating amounts, and the dates it was made. Also keeping receipts and giving the tenants a copy too for their records.

It is suggested payments are made via a bank transfer, as opposed to cash payments. These are easier to trace if needed and very simple by pulling up bank statements for the months in question.

Rent arrears can be deducted from tenancy deposits, but deposits are now legally capped at the 5-week equivalent of rent. If your tenant owes any more than that, or you have damages to add to the list, you could find yourself at a loss.

What Next?

Most governmental protected deposit schemes are unbiased and work off of factual information, as opposed to what they’ve been told.

Here at Abbey Property, we use the Deposit Protection Service to secure tenancy deposits for peace of mind for all.

When the end of the tenancy is reached, we contact them to release the deposit if applicable, or if not, state the amount of what we intend to claim for, and why. If the tenant accepts our deductions, all go ahead well.
However, if there is a dispute with the claims or the amounts, it will go into an impartial adjudication process where both sides are to submit evidence to support their findings. This is what the adjudicator will solely work from to make a final decision, hence why we urge good check-in, and check-out inventory inspections to be conducted.

Come to the end of tenancy, if you can have a clear discussion with your tenants about what you’ll be charging for, and why, it could make things a lot less long-winded and complicated.

Landlord Advice