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Have you rented a house
or flat from a private landlord?

Was your tenancy deposit protected?

Self help

Welcome to our Self Help area. We have included various rental guides here as well as letters you can download and use. We hope these are useful but please contact us with any questions or suggestions if the options below don’t cover your situation.

What to look out for in a rental agreement

We have set out below some key areas where you need to be careful before signing any rental agreement. This is not an exhaustive list but it does contain most of the key issues you need to be aware of.

1. Shorthold Tenancy Agreements v Licence Agreements.

All house, flat or room rentals in the UK come under two areas of leases: a shorthold tenancy agreement or a licence to occupy.

These two types of agreement can technically be orally agreed but you should always insist on a written agreement with your landlord or letting agent.

A Shorthold Tenancy agreement is for someone to rent a room, entire flat or entire house from a landlord. Most home rentals will come under this banner. Some landlords will attempt to call the written agreement a Licence but the law looks at the reality of the situation rather than the title of the agreement.

If you are paying a rental sum, either weekly or monthly, you have the exclusive right to occupy a room i.e. you have the entire property on your own or with others OR you have a room but it has a lock on the door, this is an indication that the agreement is a Shorthold Tenancy Agreement.

An agreement will be a licence where your landlord lives in the property as well, often called a rent-a-room scheme. If your landlord does not in reality live in the property then the Law will always consider the agreement to be a Shorthold Tenancy Agreement whatever the title of the document. If you are renting a room and live in the same house as the landlord, this will be a licence agreement and will not be an Assured Shorthold tenancy Agreement.

2. The rental period

This should be stated on the agreement i.e. a start date and the period of the rental e.g. 12 months. We have seen agreements where tenants have agreed to rent forever so be careful!

3. The rent payable

The amount of the rent and the payment terms must be stated e.g. £500 per calendar month paid on the 1st of each month.

4. The landlord’s name and address – make sure you have this and not just a contact telephone number

This must be included. Ask for confirmation of the address by seeing some ID.

5. Any deposit payable

Make sure this is written on the agreement. When you pay the deposit, keep a record of it and ask for a receipt. You can also use one of our free letters to confirm the deposit has been paid. NEVER pay the deposit in cash. Always pay through your bank or by cheque as this way you will have proof of payment.

6. Itemised list of furniture
Check the list carefully and, if an inventory clerk hasn’t been used to prepared a report, we suggest you take your own photos to show the condition of the property before you moved in. Ensure this includes photos of the meter readings for gas and electricity.

7. Read the terms carefully

Make sure you know what you can and cannot do and any unusual terms or conditions. If you are not happy then query the condition. For example, if the agreement says no pets but you have a cat, you must get the landlord to agree to you having a cat otherwise you would be in breach of the agreement. If the landlord agrees but wants a pet deposit, this also needs to be protected!

8. Signatures

Ensure that the landlord or their agent sign the agreement and that you are given a signed copy.

Tips to ensure your deposit is returned

Our first tip is a key one. Landlords are required to protect your rental deposit in one of the Government’s three approved deposit protection schemes. They should then send you a certificate and information about the scheme to confirm that the deposit has been protected.

If you don’t receive one of these within a month of paying the deposit then ask for a copy from your landlord. You can download our free letter to do this here. If your landlord can’t provide a certificate then consider sending them on of our demand letters – see our letters section. Alternatively contact us and we will make enquires for you free of charge.

If your deposit is protected then the landlord has to apply through the deposit protection scheme arbitration process for any deduction in the deposit at the end of the rental period. The landlord has to prove that a reduction is appropriate e.g. by showing damage to the property or non-payment of rent. The deposit protection scheme will then adjudicate and decide if it is fair to make a reduction. Without this, you would be open to arbitrary reductions being made by the landlord who, don’t forget, would already have your money.

Another key area is proof of the condition of the property. If a full inventory isn’t prepared including photos when you move in then do your own! Make a list of all items/furniture and take photos of them. You should also photograph any stains or existing damage. Make sure the photos are date stamped and then keep them safe. Don’t leave them on your phone in case of loss or replacement! A good idea is to send copies to the landlord at the beginning of the tenancy. We have included a letter in our free downloads section to do this.

When taking photos, make sure you include the meter readings.

We know it sounds obvious but take care of the property. Don’t stick posters on the wall without permission etc. Check the agreement you have with your landlord to ensure you know what you can and cannot do and try to stick to the rules.

At the end of the tenancy, if your landlord alleges you have damaged something, check your inventory and the photos. If they are right, check what the cost is to replace or mend the item or consider fixing or replacing it yourself. This will normally be cheaper. If you check everything just before your tenancy ends and fix any problems then the landlord won’t be able to say anything has been damaged in the first place!

One of the most common complaints by landlords is that the property has not been properly cleaned at the end of the tenancy. Make sure you clean everything carefully including the oven and fridge! Consider hiring a steam cleaner or get professional cleaners in. This will often be cheaper than your landlord doing it.

If your landlord is not right and the damage pre-existed your tenancy then make this point. If your deposit was protected then provide this evidence to the Deposit Protection scheme. If your deposit wasn’t protected and your landlord won’t back down then contact us! We will look into it for free for you.

Step by step advice of what to do when a deposit is not returned

Unfortunately, it is very common for deposits to be withheld by landlords but we have put together this useful guide to follow if you have money deducted from your deposit.

1. Check that your deposit was protected in one of the Government’s 3 approved Deposit Protection Schemes – please see the useful contacts list

If your deposit wasn’t protected then your landlord is not legally allowed to withhold any of it AND you would be entitled to compensation of up to 3 times the deposit sum. You can use our free letter service to ask the landlord if the deposit was protected by clicking here:

If your landlord is not able to provide a Deposit Protection Certificate then you should make a demand as per our letters page OR you can contact us and we will do it for you! Click here to contact us about making a claim against your landlord.

2. If your deposit was protected, check the reason for the deduction carefully.

If rent was owed, check this is correct. If the landlord alleges damage to items or walls etc then check their evidence. Do you have photos which show the damage was present when you moved in? Use our letter available here to send the evidence and request that the deposit protection company judge what would be a fair reduction.

3. If items have been damaged or lost, consider getting them fixed yourself.

A landlord will usually get professional tradespersons in to re-paint a wall etc. so, if the damage is something you can fix, why not do it yourself and send proof to your landlord. If you have moved out then offer to go back and replace the item or paint the wall. Your landlord may let you do this.

Alternatively, get your own professional quote for the work and, if cheaper, send the quote to your landlord. Often the landlord’s complaint will be in relation to cleaning so get a professional cleaner or a quote to do the work.

4. Ask the Deposit Protection company to assess the deduction – also referred to as 'raising a dispute'

If your deposit was protected then put your case to the Deposit Protection company’s arbitration service. Get your own professional quote or provide evidence to show that the damage was not as severe as the landlord is making out. They will negotiate on your behalf with the landlord but be prepared to compromise. If you did damage the property then apologise and try to agree a reasonable deduction with your landlord

Step by step guide to making your own claim for compensation

Tenants are allowed to make a claim for compensation from landlords who haven’t protected their rental deposit in one of the Government’s 3 deposit protection schemes. The Law protects tenant’s rights and even allows you to claim for old tenancies up to 6 years old!

Before you make a claim, you will need:

• A copy of your rental agreement
• The landlord’s name and address [this should be on the rental agreement] – which is one of the reasons why you must make sure it’s on there!
• Proof of the deposit paid [a cheque stub, bank statement showing the payment or receipt from the landlord]

Step 1 – Send our letter ‘Requesting a copy of the Deposit Protection Certificate proving deposit protected’

You will need to amend the letter with your landlord and your details [note you can create a quick log in and we will store these details for you AND set up diary reminders]. Remember you can send this to landlords of all of the properties you have been in for the last 6 years.

Our free letter is available here to download:

Step 2 – Assess the landlord’s response

If your landlord sends you a copy of the deposit protection certificate then check it carefully:

• Does it relate to the correct property?
• Are the dates of your tenancy correctly recorded?
• Is the deposit sum correct?
• Is it dated less than 30 days from the date you paid the deposit?

If anything is wrong with the certificate then you may have a claim. If you contact us we can help you.

If the landlord tells you he/she does not have a Deposit Protection certificate OR doesn’t reply then proceed to Step 3.

Step 3 – Send our letter ‘Demand letter seeking compensation when deposit not protected’

Our letter sets out a claim for up to 3 times the deposit which the law says a landlord should pay where they have failed to protect a rental deposit. Remember you can send this letter to your current landlord but also to old landlords for rentals up to 6 years ago.

You normally have to give a landlord 21 days to reply to you so make a note of this. If you set up a quick log in we will automatically send you a reminder.

Step 4 - Assess the landlord’s response

If your landlord denies the claim and sends you a Deposit Protection Certificate then go back to Step 2.

If the landlord replies but doesn’t send you any certificate or does not reply then go to Step 5

Step 5 – Send our letter ‘Final warning letter that you will be seeking legal advice if compensation not paid’

This letter gives the landlord another 14 days to either pay you the compensation or you will seek legal advice with regard to legal proceedings.

Although this sounds scary, it isn’t. You don’t have to go beyond this stage if you don’t want to but, if your landlord doesn’t pay and you want to take it further, the next step would be to issue Small Claims Court proceedings against your landlord or contact us. We would do this for you on a no-win, no-fee basis and only charge a percentage of the compensation we obtained for you.

Again we can remind you of this time limit by setting a diary reminder and can then discuss with you whether or not you wish to take things further.

Useful Contact list

Tel: 0203 621 1488
Text: Deposit to 82228

Tel: 03 30 303 0030

Tel: 03 00 037 1000

Tel: 00 33 321 9401

Citizen’s Advice Bureau
Tel: 03444 111 444

Tel: 0808 800 4444

Note that you can also go to your Local Authority for advice

Useful Links:
Shelter - how to take court action for the return of a lodger’s deposit

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