Leaving.

When the time to leave your private rented home is approaching, the information in this section will help you prepare and minimise the risk of deposit deductionsde. Once you have left your rented home, you will have to actively seek the return of your deposit, during which time knowing your rights will make all the difference.

Private Housing Leaving Guide

New Laws

If your tenancy started after 1 June 2019, the Tenant Fees Ban 2019 means you can opt to clean the property yourself, even if your contract states you have to pay for professional cleaning or your landlord’s cleaning service. As a general rule, you should leave the property as clean as you found it.

“I’m ready to scrub!”

If you’ve kept on top of the cleaning, this shouldn’t be too difficult. If you haven’t, then we recommend you roll up your sleeves and give yourself a week to clean thoroughly.

Look for tips online to make things easier and help you make a shopping list for cleaning products.

If you have left your oven or carpet in a particularly bad state, then we recommend you get them professionally cleaned to avoid deposit deductions.

“Ew…I’m not cleaning that!”

If you’re not known for your cleaning prowess, we suggest you use professionals after removing your belongings from the property. Book a few weeks in advance to avoid disappointment.

If you use professionals, please observe social distancing guidelines:

  • Only one person from the household needs to be present to greet the cleaners, maintaining a 2m distance.
  • Avoid being in the same room as the cleaners- stay outside if possible.
  • Wear protective face-covering if you have to stay inside the property.

We asked around and found some local cleaners recommended by others for you. We cannot recommend a particular cleaners, but we’re happy to share others’ recommendations with you.

If you know any other great cleaners, please share their details with us so we can add them to our list.

Top Tips for Using End of Tenancy Cleaning Services

  • Get a few quotes in writing to secure the best deal. You can always try to negotiate the given price.
  • If one quote is much cheaper than the others, it’s usually a bad sign, unless they have been recommended by someone you know.
  • You shouldn’t have to pay until the job is done, though a small deposit is normal.
  • Someone should inspect the property before paying – if anything is unsatisfactory, you should ask them to please go over it.
  • Good services guarantee in their quote that they will come back to finish the job if the landlord is not happy.
  • Never pay in cash.
  • Take lots of photos of the clean property before leaving, including outside and hall areas and stairs.
  • Contact the Advice Centre if you have problems with the service you use.

What if the Landlord is not happy with the clean?

They should tell you immediately and give you a chance to put it right. Contact the Advice Centre for help if you have problems. If the property is left unsatisfactorily clean, then the landlord/agent can charge you for cleaning - they do have to provide you with a receipt proving the cost though. We have seen many inflated cleaning bills, so please email us with your cleaning bills if they seem unreasonable to you, and we can look into it for you. Unfair bills can be challenged and our Advisors will show you how. The agreed cleaning amount will then be deducted from your security deposit.

See our Private Housing Leaving Guide for how to get your deposit back and other useful information.

WHAT IS COUNCIL TAX?

Council tax is collected by your local council to pay for services in your community, such as bin collection and social care. You can read more about it here.

AREN'T STUDENTS EXEMPT FROM PAYING IT?

Yes, full-time students are exempt when it comes to council tax but you do have to prove your student status. If you haven’t already done this, email your certificate to Runnymede Borough Council now, letting them know when your tenancy ends to avoid problems.

The problem lies in the fact that your full-time student status ends on the last day of your final academic year, which is 12 June for final year undergraduates this year. At this point, Runnymede Borough Council can start charging final year students for council tax.

We think this is unfair and our previous extensive lobbying attempts included delivering over 100 letters from students directly to the council, and writing a letter in partnership with the University to try and resolve the situation. Frustratingly, while numerous other councils around the country use their discretion to not bill students in the last couple of months of their student tenancies, Runnymede Borough Council refused to budge on their position.

This is why some of you have already received your bills and will have to pay council tax from 12 June until the end of your tenancy.

WHAT SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE?

After years of fighting for students' rights on the issue of council tax, our Advice Centre have built up an extensive knowledge and have put together a FAQs document to help you understand this new phase of financial adulting.

Council Tax FAQs

It is common for landlords and tenants to disagree over how much money, if any, should be deducted from the deposit once the tenancy ends. Most student tenants find themselves in a deposit dispute at the end of their tenancy when their landlord proposes a laundry list of unfair charges. Some even find the landlord/agent is ignoring their communications and not returning the deposit at all. So, chances are that you will need the information below, which will help even if you’re abroad!

After moving out, you should seek advice if your landlord/agent is:

  • Unjustifiably withholding all or part of your deposit
  • Denying responsibility for refunding the deposit
  • Ignoring your communications

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Remember that in a typical student house-share (Assured Shorthold Tenancy), your deposit should be protected by law, meaning that no money can be deducted from it without your written consent.

Landlords are legally required to safeguard their tenants' deposits with one of three government-backed deposit protection schemes: Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits, or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. You should have been given this information by the landlord/agent within 30 days of paying your deposit.

Please see our Cleaning Top Tips and Private Housing Leaving Guide for the latest information about your end of tenancy rights and obligations to avoid being overcharged.

TAKE ACTION NOW

  1. Request a contract check so we can tell you what you’re legally required to do at the end of your tenancy.
  2. If your landlord/agent hasn’t already sent you instructions, contact them to ask them for any end-of-tenancy instructions that might not be in the contract, e.g. where to leave your keys.
  3. Gather all communications you’ve had with the landlord/agent regarding damages or the deposit into a single folder.
  4. Clean and empty the property, emptying and unplugging all devices.
  5. Take lots of photos of how you left the property, including inside the fridge and cupboards, hallways and outside spaces to create your own inventory.
  6. Move out and return all keys.
  7. Ask for your deposit back in writing the day you move out. (This legally gives your landlord/agent ten days to return your security deposit or send you a list of proposed deductions.)
  8. Email this template message to your landlord/agent, asking them to revise their proposed deductions.
  9. If the landlord is not willing to negotiate with you, or you’re not sure what can and can’t be negotiated, ask for an advice appointment because we’ve got your back.

DEPOSIT DEDUCTIONS

Allowed
  • Cleaning (if you didn’t clean sufficiently)
  • Damage
  • Unpaid rent or bills, including council tax
Not Allowed
  • Fair wear and tear
  • Improving the property
  • Pre-existing damage

WHAT IS “FAIR WEAR AND TEAR”?

A brand new piece of furniture won’t look brand new at the end of a 12-month tenancy. The landlord cannot charge you because something is not in pristine condition anymore. If something was already old when you moved in, then the landlord would probably have had to replace it anyway, and so they shouldn’t charge you for the complete cost.

HOW DO I WORK OUT IF A CHARGE IS FAIR?

For you, it might involve a fair bit of effort, but our Housing Advisor has learned from past cases and can go through it with you in an advice appointment.

If you’re up for the challenge yourself, here are our tips:

WHAT HAPPENS IF NONE OF THIS WORKS?

If you are in a typical student house-share, your landlord will have had to protect your deposit, which gives you access to a free Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which is very fair. You fill out the form (our advisors can help you with it advice@su.rhul.ac.uk) and then the landlord is ordered to return a fair amount of the deposit back to you.

In the meantime, you can ask ADR to tell the landlord to return the undisputed part of the deposit to you.

  • A ‘lead tenant’ should take charge of communicating with the landlord/agent and all communication should be through them only. They should communicate with your group and relay your joint decision back to the agent/landlord. This is because most of you are in a joint tenancy so one of you could end up unknowingly accepting deductions for all of you.
  • The ‘lead tenant’ should keep everybody copied into communications, but this does not mean that they have to do all the work. The whole group should be helping them compile the information they need.
  • If there is a dispute over which housemate damaged what, then simply split the cost equally among all housemates - while this might not be fair, it is fast and it works.
  • If you have damaged something beyond normal wear and tear, e.g. burnt carpet with iron, then that does not mean you have to cover the whole cost of repairing or replacing it.
  • Flag any charges that seem unjustified so you can challenge them.
  • Flag any charges that seem too high and ask for receipts/written quotes to prove the cost. Get some local quotes yourself and compare prices.
  • Flag any charges that are banned (see Private Housing Leaving Guide)
  • Only communicate with your landlord/agent in writing going forward.

DOES THIS EVER WORK?

Yes! Although it can be a bit of a pain, showing the landlord that you know your rights works most of the time. Last year, all students who went through ADR with the help of our Advice Centre won their cases. You have to get started ASAP though - you only have three months after moving out to use ADR. Don’t worry though, we have ‘form-geeks’ who love helping students with ADR forms.

HOW LONG DOES IT ALL TAKE?

  1. You should try negotiating with your landlord a couple of times, and then make a final offer of what you’re willing to pay (a few messages over about a week).
  2. It can take a few days to gather all the information you need for the ADR, e.g. getting dates, screen-shots, emails, or photos from housemates.
  3. The ADR form is all online and can take 15 minutes to an hour to fill out, depending on the number of deductions proposed. You are given two weeks to complete the form once you begin.
  4. Once the form is submitted, you will get the outcome in 1-3 months. However, you can ask for the return of the undisputed deposit.

Please note that it can take this long to get your deposit back, even if you don’t use ADR.

ADR saved RHUL students thousands of pounds over the last few years – check out Alexa’s story from 2019, which was one of a number of our Advice Centre Success Stories.

We know it’s not fair that it’s such hard work to get your own money back, especially when you’ve just finished exams, but we’ll be here for you every step of the way. Once you’ve gone through your first deposit dispute with us, you’ll be able to breeze through it all on your own next time.

Sometimes students have to leave university early due to their individual circumstances. This can have serious housing and financial consequences and so if you find yourself in this situation, we recommend you ask an advisor for guidance.

If you had a bad experience with your landlord or agent, we can help you put in complaints and report them to the relevant authority if they don’t respond satisfactorily. Write a summary / timelines of what happened and how the agent/landlord responded (less than 500 words) and share it with an advisor, who will get back to you with guidance.