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The Cash Back Method

9/4/2012 5:24:58 PM

The Cash-back Method


When you’re moving out of a rented property there is always plenty to think about – have you changed your address, is the property clean, have you handed in the keys?  The list goes on.


One thing you can look forward to, however, is getting your deposit back. But unfortunately some tenants find that money has been deducted from their deposit for entirely avoidable reasons.


The deductions may have come as a result of issues such as the property being left in a poor state, excess rubbish not being removed, stained carpets or damaged furniture. Simon Sewell, Lettings Director at Lighthouse Property Services, said: “It’s a common misconception that agents will do anything to retain tenants’ deposits. In reality, if a house is left in a reasonable condition, then their deposit will be returned in full which is far less work and hassle for us.


“We do everything we can to ensure tenants do get their full deposit back, but they also need to take responsibility for the property and the condition it as well as fixtures, fittings and furniture are left in. Cleaning tends to be one of the most contentious issues as often tenants don’t realise the true cost of hiring professional cleaners. On average a cleaning contractor will charge around £15 per hour so if you have a house needing a top to bottom clean, you can see how the costs mount up.


“One example of a tenant not understanding their rights and responsibilities was a case where a student had moved out a month before the contract ended, while the other tenants were still living there. While he gave it a good clean before he left, the other tenants did not leave it in a good condition when they finally left a month later. 


“The result was a cleaning charge split between all tenants as they are all jointly liable for the communal areas of the property until the end of the tenancy agreement, regardless of when they leave.  I’d always advise doing a final clean together once the property is vacant. The only area of the property where there won’t be a joint charge if anything needs rectifying is your bedroom – you are solely responsible for that.


“It’s also important to understand that charges can be different from one tenant and property to the next, so comparing notes won’t always make sense.  In one case, we had two tenants in the same house who were unhappy about being charged different fees for replacement mattresses which were stained. We explained that mattresses have a five year life and the point during that cycle that it gets damaged will determine how much they would pay. One of the mattresses was only a year old, so had in effect lost four years’ use, so the charge was higher than for the other mattress which was three years old.


“In almost all cases we manage to resolve the issue and once the tenant has had a chance to fully understand why they are being charged, they are more than happy.”


Tips to ensure the cleaning is done properly include wiping all skirting boards, doors, frames and surfaces including shelves, desks, tables and windowsills; cleaning all windows; vacuuming and moping floors; removing cobwebs and checking behind radiators to make sure they’re clean.  It’s also important to clean under furniture.


Bathrooms and kitchens also need to be cleaned thoroughly. Tenants must make sure they clean baths and shower cubicles, basins, taps, toilets, tiles and mirrors.  Other areas people often fall down on are damage to the property caused by things like Blu-tack or holes in the walls.  You need to remove all traces of Blu-tack from the walls and fill in larger holes with polyfilla and paint them the same colour as the rest of the walls. It will almost always be more cost effective to do it yourself rather than us fixing it.


 “We always take photos of the property so that we can show the tenant what the problems were if a deduction is queried,” said Simon. “On one occasion we had a tenant who claimed the kitchen was clean and tidy when they left, but in fact, a quick look through our files showed that the cooker and oven were dirty, there were food stains and even mouldy food in the fridge, as well as rubbish in the bin and around it.


“Tenants need to be sure they clear any waste away, otherwise it will be necessary for us to call a company to clean it for you, which again will amount to a charge.  You should also try to make sure all furniture and equipment is back in its original location and any extra furniture you have brought in is removed.  Little things often get forgotten, but you do need to make sure that pots, pans and utensils are left clean, the microwave, toaster and kettle are free from grease and kitchen tables and chairs are wiped down – essentially, if you can see it, then you need to clean it, and then clean in, under and around it.


“We would always encourage tenants who have an issue to come to us directly so that we can conduct the proper investigations and give a satisfactory answer.  We are proud of our record having been on the approved list of student accommodation providers at the University of Lincoln since it began.”


To find out more about renting through Lighthouse Property Services, either visit or call 01522 780020.

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