Your Deposit: How To Keep It Safe!
August 11, 2012
By: Elena Bella
“You cost me HOW much?”
I’ve been swearing a lot this week. I wrote a little while back about the problems I was having with my house mates. The worst thing about difficult house mates is that they continue to be difficult even after you’ve moved out and closed the door forever.
As those of you who have lived out of halls will know, everyone has to pay a security deposit when they rent a property (usually a month and a half’s rent). My mum lent me the money for my security deposit when I moved in so I did everything in my power to make sure that she got it back: I never blu-tacked anything to the walls, I made sure not to lose my keys, I even hoovered my curtains. I felt I owed it to my mum to look after the house and, by proxy, her money.
I got the inventory check list back from the estate agent this week, expecting minor deductions for wear and tear. What I got was a request for MORE money because the damage to the property was so extensive that our combined deposits didn’t cover it. Included in the enormous list of things that resulted in deductions was £1,200 for carpets that needed replacing (not cleaning: replacing), a door that needed replacing, professional cleaning, repainting and half a month’s rent that had gone unpaid by one of my house mates. Having pored over the list of damages the only room that needed no work done was, surprise, surprise, mine. Not even a chip in the woodwork. So, understandably, the fact that I’m not even getting a penny of my deposit back really irritates me. In fact, I’d go further and say that I’m furious.
I’m currently locked in a battle of wills with my former landlord and house mates (one of whom still owes me money for unpaid bills). While that’s all going on, I’m also planning to move into my new house with new house mates. They say hindsight is 20/20, and with that in mind I have a few hints and tips to help you protect your assets – and your friendships.
When looking at properties:
It’s a bit late for me now, but there are a few simple things to look out for when you’re first scouting out houses:
- Avoid houses with brand new/white/deep pile carpets. They’re far harder to keep clean.
- Pick a house with a small/easily maintained garden. You will most likely be responsible for its upkeep.
- Choose a house that’s in good condition. That way you’ll know that if something gets broken, it IS your fault.
- Choose your house mates very wisely. You need to know that you can talk frankly to the people you’re living with when it comes to things like bills, damages and unpaid rent.
- If you’re having a professional inventory check (which you should), walk around with them and point out every single bit of existing damage, or you’ll find yourself getting billed at the end of your tenancy for things that were broken when you moved in. Once it’s been done, insist on seeing a copy to make sure everything is written down. It’s a lot better to speak up and be pedantic than it is to keep quiet and get whacked with a hefty bill.
- Take photos of existing damage with time stamps and email them to your landlord so that they don’t try to bill you for it later.
- Get a rug, especially if you ignored the carpet rule.
- In the living room, put a throw over the sofa to protect it from spills, shoes and other damage.
- Don’t strut around on lino, wood floors or light carpets in your tallest stilettos. In fact, try to avoid wearing shoes inside at all. Get some nice slippers instead.
- Make sure there’s a mattress protector on under your sheet. Mattresses aren’t cheap if they need replacing.
- Don’t use sellotape or cheap adhesive tack to put up posters. They can tear off paint and wallpaper and leave greasy stains on the wall. Try adopting a minimalist approach with a few hung pictures (especially if there are already picture hooks on the walls!)
- Clean the bathroom thoroughly and regularly. I highly recommend Viakal. It removes the kind of stains that you’ll get billed for.
- Don’t have raucous parties. Call me a killjoy, but I’d rather go to the SU and avoid a £400 bill per carpet.
- Use tablecloths and coasters on tables to avoid burns and watermarks. Try a Cath Kidston-style oilcloth (around £12 a metre at your local fabric store).
- Bring your own crockery and cutlery. Especially things you don’t mind getting lost, damaged or broken. Scour flea markets and charity shops for cute, quirky, eclectic pieces.
- Do a deep clean of the whole house every few months to avoid stains and ingrained dirt.
- Report any problems with the house as soon as they happen. Obviously if you break something then it is your responsibility to pay for it, but if the house falls into disrepair, the boiler develops problems or pipes leak, it is not your responsibility but it is your problem. Call your landlord immediately and have things put right.