Nationwide highlights lottery of experiences on private tenancy deposits - and calls for more pragmatic approach

20 October 2018

  • More than a third of private tenants have lost some or all of a previous tenancy deposit
  • Average time for return of deposit is almost two months – but for more than one in five it takes 3 months +
  • Two in five lose deposit cash to wear and tear or cleaning costs

Finding the cash for a deposit on a new rental property can be a major barrier to moving, particularly when the deposit you’ve already paid for your existing rental home takes some time to be returned or faces substantial deductions. As part of its ongoing focus on the long-term health of the private rented sector, Nationwide is calling for greater consistency in the treatment and return of property security deposits so that tenants leaving properties in a suitable state get their money back promptly.

Rate of return
According to recent Nationwide research among 2000 tenants renting from a private landlord, it can take almost two months (1.8) on average for tenancy deposits to be returned. However, in what appears to be a lottery of experiences, while almost half (46%) of private renters surveyed received their deposit back within a month of leaving, almost one in five (18%) were made to wait more than three months and a further one in 25 (4%) for more than six months.

Paul Wootton, Nationwide’s Director of Specialist Lending comments; “There must be a better way to address the gap in deposits created when one tenancy ends and another begins. 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. Nationwide is already working with other organisations who are equally aware of the need for a practical approach that meets the needs of both tenants and landlords, without being an obstacle to moving home.”

Deposit deductions
While more than half (54%) of tenants who rent from a private landlord had never lost a tenancy deposit, one in 14 (7%) had never actually paid a deposit, rising to one in seven (15%) of those aged over 55 – perhaps because they had rented the same property for a longer period of time. However, more than a third (35%) of renters had previously lost some or all of their tenancy deposit – including one in 50 (2%) who report losing all of their deposit every time they had rented, and one in 20 (5%) who lost at least some of their deposit every time they had rented. A further 28 per cent lost some or all of their deposit on some, but not all, previous rentals.

Debit details
More than two in five (41%) had experienced deposit deductions to cover the cost of end of tenancy cleaning, though this figure rose to almost seven in ten (68%) of 18-24 year olds. Almost two in five (39%) had been charged for wear and tear, and one in seven (15%) had security deposits debited for redecorating costs. One in eight (12%) private renters had been charged for damage to contents, one in 20 (5%) for damage to buildings and one in 25 (4%) for previous rent arrears.

Official guidance suggests that, though landlords must keep deposits in a tenancy deposit scheme, assuming the tenancy started after April 2007, before returning it, they may charge for any repairs or cleaning required to return the property to its original condition at the start of the tenancy. However, deductions should not be made for ordinary wear and tear.

Paul continues; “While our research suggests that the majority of landlords return tenancy deposits quickly and fairly, it also highlights remaining areas of confusion over what can or should be debited from deposit returns. 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.”

Top Tips for Tenants

  • Insist on a detailed inventory – and check it with your landlord, so that 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

Notes to Editor:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2034 respondents (aged 18+) who rent from a private landlord. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th - 23rd March 2018. The survey was carried out online.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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