One in five private renters ‘have waited three months to get deposit back’

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Nearly a fifth of private renters say they have waited more than three months to get their deposit back, a survey has found.

Some 18% of renters said it took more than three months and one in 25 (4%) said the process lasted longer than six months, Nationwide Building Society found.

Nearly half (46%) of renters surveyed received their deposit back within a month of leaving.

Highlighting the cash gap tenants face when one tenancy ends and another starts, the building society said on average, the waiting time for the return of a deposit is nearly two months.

Paul Wootton, Nationwide’s director of specialist lending, said: “To ensure all private tenants have a better and more uniform experience, we need to consider more pragmatic solutions, including transferring deposits from one tenancy to the next, providing appropriate short-term loans or a guarantee.”

The survey of more than 2,000 private renters also found that, while more than half (54%) had never lost a tenancy deposit, 7% had never paid a deposit, rising to 15% of over-55s – perhaps because they had rented the same property for a longer period of time.

More than a third (35%) of renters had previously lost some or all of their tenancy deposit – including 2% who reported losing all of their deposit every time they rented and 5% who had lost at least some of their deposit every time they rented.

The survey found that 18 to 24-year-olds were particularly likely to say money had been deducted from their deposit to cover end of tenancy cleaning costs.

Renters also said they had money deducted from deposits to cover redecorating costs, damage to the contents of the property or the building, or previous rent arrears.

Mr Wootton continued: “Both landlords and tenants can take simple steps at the start and end of each tenancy to protect against discrepancies and understand their own responsibilities – resulting in a better experience for all.

“However, where end-of-tenancy issues cannot be resolved, we need a specialist housing court, equipped to provide fast and effective arbitration, as well as greater confidence of equitable experiences for all.”

Here are Nationwide’s tips for tenants:

– Insist on a detailed inventory – and check it with your landlord, so you can note and agree any discrepancies at the outset.

– Take photographs and/or video, both as you start and as you leave, to confirm the condition of the property.

– Ensure you leave the property in the same condition of cleanliness as it was when you moved in.

– Understand that, if you rent with others, you will all be liable to cover the cost of any damage.

– If damages occur, inform your landlord as soon as possible to agree repairs and prevent the problem getting any worse.

– Check with your landlord before redecorating.

– Understand that any rent arrears will be deducted from your deposit.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “By capping deposits and abolishing unfair charges we are making renting fairer for private tenants.

“Our tenancy deposit protection system ensures that money is protected and requires landlords to return deposits within 10 days.

“If there are any delays the tenant can use the free dispute resolution services provided by their deposit scheme.”

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