This has to be the biggest area of contention. There’s a smudge on the wall that is costing £200 to repaint. Really, though? The Government got wise to dishonest landlords trying to scam their tenants by withholding deposits, so now all deposits need to be ring-fenced in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme. The rules are here - https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection. These schemes should make sure you get your deposit back within 30 days as long as you have a) met the terms of your tenancy agreement, b) not damaged the property and c) paid your rent and bills. As a tenant, you have to play fair as well.
What if you have done all those things?
Houses suffer wear and tear, but that does not give a landlord carte blanche to charge what they like for repairs. As a tenant, you have the right to challenge excessively high costs. The landlord needs to be able to justify that any charges made are not excessive. They need to be able to show invoices and receipts for the work done. If the charges seem unfair, you are allowed to refuse payment until you’ve seen the evidence.
Real Life Story: Cleaning costs
Ahmed, London: “When we decided to leave our last flat, we cleaned the place and handed it over. The landlord said that cleaning was not up to standard and he hired a professional cleaner charging us a lot of money. I think it was in the hundreds of pounds. It was astonishing that the landlord charged so much for cleaning a one bedroom flat.
“I think he wanted to charge £200 but when I objected he charged £150. The flat was clean and was in a very good condition. We really kept the place in shape and it was a shock when the landlord wanted so much for cleaning an already clean flat.”
Real Life Story: Scuff marks?
Turtle, Manchester: “I’ve had a few dodgy landlords, but one particular classic was a landlord trying to charge me £40 to dust the picture frames. I challenged it and she couldn’t produce receipts. I’m pretty sure she’d just got the figure out of her head. She backed down eventually, but it created a lot of bad feeling and meant I couldn’t ask her for a reference for my next tenancy. Irritating.”
Fact: As a tenant, you have the right to see receipts from any work your landlord has asked you to pay for. It’s a good habit to get into and will establish the expectations you have early on in your tenancy.