I believe that by far the most stressful part of the tenancy is the end of the lease, negotiating the recovery of the rent deposit. Deposit recovery procedures often follow the unpleasant patterns of a divorce case: both parties feel they have been wronged, verbal agreements are forgotten, emotions run high, interpretation of terms such as “wear and tear” become stumbling blocks, and small issues appear bigger than they should.
As a tenant, it is crucial to prepare and follow a “deposit recovery action plan” prior to the end of the lease to ensure all potential issues are addressed proactively.
Deposit Recovery Action Plan
- Notice and inspection date – Send the landlord a written notice that you will be vacating on a specified date, send it on the date outlined in the lease agreement. Request a formal inspection with the landlord, ideally, on the day, you will vacate.
- “Pre-inspection” inspection –yes, it is a headache but it is so worth it! Do it at least 1-2 weeks before the actual inspection with the landlord. Use the check-in inspection document and photos that you (hopefully) kept from your move-in day and compare each item that was marked “in order”. Highlight the items that were marked as faulty on move-in day, keep this list ready to call on when needed. Take plenty pf photos.
- List faults/damages –Prepare a list of items that do not appear the same as on move-in day. Use your judgement and mark next to each of these items whether it is “wear and tear”, “broken” or “missing”. Now, try and replace or fix everything that is faulty before the landlord’s inspection. This will avoid lengthy disputes over costs to replace, or what contractor or paint brand to use.
- Don’t hide legitimate damages –if we live in a property, we are likely to cause some damage. Rather than trying to cover up, fix what you can and own up to what you cannot. You are more likely to be treated fairly by the landlord, if you are yourself fair in this exchange. If this was your own property you would be paying to fix these damages, so it is only fair to reimburse the landlord.
- Garden and pool –If your rental property came with garden and pool, try to ensure the pool is sparkling clean on inspection day and dead grass is replanted. Replace missing plants and ensure no gaps in the lawn or flower beds are visible. The landlord is unlikely to notice new (possibly cheaper) plants replacements, but will certainly get upset over dead patches in the garden.
- Cleanliness –Make sure the property is spotless on inspection day. Clean and neat property gives a very good impression and the landlord will be more lenient to small damages.
- Replace light bulbs –Fill up gas bottles, throw away rubbish, declutter, count your keys and remotes. All these small actions will show the landlord you cared for their property and set you up for a positive exchange.
- Pay up your bills –make sure all your utility accounts are paid up to the date. Get your check-in and check-out water and electricity readings and present a paid-up account. Same applies to the last month’s rent.
- Letter of acceptance –Prepare a short “letter of acceptance” to be signed by the landlord on inspection date. The letter should state that the property was handed over in good condition and that the deposit will be returned with no deductions and with interest accrued on a specified date. Try and get the landlord to sign this letter on the day. If your pre-inspection uncovered any damages that you could not fix, list them in the letter and propose a fair amount to rectify. This will gain you credibility with the landlord and likely prevent other items added to the list.
- Inspection day– based on my experience, if you followed the pre-inspection steps above, and arrived at your inspection day with a positive attitude and all supporting documents, it is highly unlikely that you will meet with resistance regarding the return of your deposit. If, however, things get out of hand, keep calm no matter what, stick to your check-in inspection comparison and photographs, draw on the facts, and, if necessary, walk away to prepare an objective response. The law provides you with sufficient protection from unreasonable demands and a heated debate is not likely to reach any positive results.
The deposit recovery process can be stressful and unpleasant or it can be surprisingly easy. Taking some time to focus and prepare beforehand ensures 85% of the work done. Going into the negotiations with a positive, professional and fair approach will do the rest.
Expats On The Globe has years of experience in property negotiations. We have concluded hundreds of deposit recovery procedures and are here to help should you need our advice and assistance. Call us for all your property needs, we will focus on getting things done.