As a landlord, the topic of deposit deductions will come onto your radar as a tenancy ends. You don’t have long to identify any issues with your property before deciding to make deductions or return the deposit in full. Get your checklist ready as we answer the question – how long does a landlord have to make deductions?

What can landlords deduct from deposit?

As a landlord, you must outline any reasons for deposit deductions in the tenancy agreement. Setting clear standards from the outset could save you in the event of a dispute. Some common reasons for landlords to deduct from the deposit include:

Unpaid rent 

If your tenant still owes you rent money at the end of their tenancy, you can deduct this from their deposit. In some cases, the amount that the tenant owes can be more than the full deposit. To make sure you’re not out of pocket, you could take the case to court to claim back the rest. However, you need to consider the legal fees of going to court. It may not be worth your time and money if it means you’ll make a further loss.

Property damage

Landlords can deduct the amount required to repair damages to the property. What is defined as damage can be a grey area, as you cannot charge tenants for fair wear and tear. For example, you cannot make deductions based on small scuffs on the wall or faded paintwork. Whereas you could apply charges if you see holes in the walls or large burns on the kitchen worktop.

Remember to take the length of the tenancy and the number of occupants into consideration when evaluating the property damage to give the fairest assessment. Or else your tenants may begin to dispute the deposit deduction.

Damage by pets 

Allowing pets into your rental property can be risky, so it may be worth charging a higher deposit to start with. Again, this should be clearly stated in the tenancy agreement and your tenants must understand their responsibility to leave the property in the same condition that they found it.

Deposit deductions due to damage by pets can relate to anything big or small; from the cost of replacing woodwork after a cat has scratched it to the expense of removing an infestation. Remember to get a reliable quote before you decide how much to deduct.

Deposit deductions for cleaning

Deposit deductions for cleaning can be one of the most common culprits. You shouldn’t demand that your tenant hires professional cleaners for a deep clean, but if the property is in a worse state than how you handed it over, it’s acceptable to make a deduction.

Lost items that are owned by the landlord

You may have left items in your property for your tenants to use. This can range from furniture to ironing boards to a cutlery set. When you carry out your final property inspection, have your inventory to hand. Carefully work through your list and if any items are missing, it is acceptable for you to deduct the cost of a replacement.

Poor redecoration

Most tenants will need permission from their landlord before they make any home improvements, and major redecoration is often granted for longer tenancies. However, you can make deposit deductions if your tenants did a shoddy job and you’ll have to go in to put it right. The cost of buying materials and bringing in decorators can soon add up, so get a quote from a professional to send over with your deductions document.

Bear in mind that you can’t withhold your tenant’s deposit simply because you feel like redecorating the property. There must be a clear reason for your proposed actions. Some common reasons to redecorate overlap with property damage. For example, your tenants may have left holes in the wall from where they hung pictures, or there could be large scratches on the wooden floor that needs to be replaced.

Lack of maintenance of key facilities

Deductions for lack of maintenance is also a vague area. But you can charge your tenants if you feel that they have neglected parts of the property, such as appliances. Or perhaps they left the window open during a storm which allowed floods of water to damage the property. Although the tenant did not have malicious intent to damage the property, you can still make deductions for this kind of negligence.

Tenant leaves unwanted belongings 

The main message has been that if your property isn’t in the same condition at the end of the tenancy as at the start, you can probably make a deposit deduction. This also applies to the cost of removing tenant’s belongings that they left behind. You should give your tenant’s a chance and ask them to remove the items themselves, but if you cannot come to an agreement, it’s acceptable to make a small deduction.

How much can landlords deduct from deposit? 

If you decide to make deductions, it’s a good idea to give your tenant a breakdown of the costs involved. This transparency should deter any disputes and both parties can come to an agreement sooner.

The deductions that you make should be fair so be realistic about the finance you’ve lost during their tenancy. For example, if your tenants damaged a cheap sofa, don’t charge them for the cost of a higher spec three-piece suite. You should find the price of a like-for-like replacement and charge them accordingly.

How long does a landlord have to make deductions?

As soon as the tenancy agreement comes to an end, your occupants can request their deposit back. You then have 10 days from the date of this request to either return the deposit in full or open a discussion about any deductions.

It’s best to arrange your property inspection sooner rather than later so you have plenty of time to decide on any deductions and send them across in writing. As long as your judgements are justified and fair, your tenants may quickly accept your proposed deductions. Yet you should be aware that you may have a dispute on your hands.

After reading our advice, we hope you feel more comfortable making deposit deductions. To protect yourself against loss of rent and other events, you may want to consider a landlord insurance policy. At CIA Landlord Insurance, you can compare landlord insurance quotes to find the best deal in the market. Give us a call on 01788 818 670 or get a quote now.

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