1. Read your contract
The first thing you should do is dig out your tenancy agreement. This agreement will outline what you’re responsible for, and under what conditions you will have your security deposit deducted. Make sure you know what all the legal jargon means, and check what you’ve agreed to: a signature on that document means you have to do whatever you said you would - else you might not get all your deposit back.
2. Review the details of the survey when you moved in
Next, dig out another important document: the details of the survey that was conducted when you moved in. Your letting agency should have given you a record, calling it an itinerary, for example. This will record what was already damaged, marked, scuffed, stained or broken. It’s useful for you to refer to as you’ll be able to point to specific things in the event that your agency or landlord tries to deduct money from your security deposit.
3. Find the photographs you took when you moved in
Did you take any photographs of the place you’re renting when you moved in? If so, now’s the time to take a fresh look at them. Doing so will help you to ‘put everything back together’ in the way that it was when you found it, and these photos will also arm you with an extra kind of defence if you need to show the landlord or agency if you end up in a dispute. If you didn’t take photos, don’t worry – but consider doing it next time.
4. Put back any changes you’ve made
Next up, start rectifying any changes you made. For instance, if you took down the original curtains in favour of your own, return the originals back to their place and do the same for other things too. Move the furniture back into position, and if you’ve done anything drastic like painting without permission while you were living in the house, repaint it in the colour it was when you signed the lease.
5. Clean, clean, clean!
Once the ‘bones’ of the house are back to its original state, it’s time to clean it from top to bottom! That’s because more than half of deposit disputes (56%) are the result of insufficient cleaning. Set aside a generous window of time to do this properly: every nook and cranny will need washing as well as simply dusting and vacuuming. Aim to make it cleaner than it was when you originally found it: it might not feel ‘fair’ to do so, but you’ll boost your chances of getting your security deposit back if you go the extra mile.
6. Watch out for the areas people often miss
While you’re cleaning, make sure to give some thought to the places where agencies and landlords typically check, though tenants forget. For instance, be sure to pull out the fridge and freezer and clean behind it. Deep clean the oven (often a place where tenants lose their deposits), and dust the tops of the kitchen cupboards too.
7. Consider paying the professionals
Of course, sometimes it can pay off to just get the professionals in. While that will mean spending a bit of money, it could be a smaller amount than the figure deducted from your deposit for not enlisting the help of people who know what they’re doing. So, think about approaching a cleaning company to come in, get in touch with a window cleaner, a carpet cleaner, and perhaps even someone to sweep the chimney too.
8. If the agency says you’re having some of your deposit deducted, negotiate
Once you’ve done all of these things, you should – with any luck – be receiving 100% of your security deposit. But, what if you don’t? Well, be reasonable about the matter and try to see if from your landlord or agency's perspective: if there’s something they need to fix, repair or clean, a portion of your deposit will be used to pay for it. However, if you think they’re being unfair on you, why not try to negotiate? They might be prepared to settle for a figure you feel is more reasonable.