Moving out of private rented accommodation
Moving out can be quite stressful and time-consuming but rushing it can lead to greater stress and cost later; if you do not clean properly, you risk your landlord deducting the cost of cleaning from your deposit. If you do not take the time to read the meters, you could face high bills and have no evidence to challenge them. Our tips below should help to ensure your move out goes as smoothly as possible and avoids unnecessary costs/charges. Many students have stayed in Cardiff and many returned home during the lockdown, so please see the section relevant to you.
First, you need to plan when you are going to move out and discuss this with your housemates. If you are all going to move out on different dates you need to know that the cleaning will not be left to the last person remaining and, if you all clean the property, the last person remaining will not mess it up.
If you believe your move out plans will be disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, you should ensure that you regularly check the Welsh Government advice and guidelines on moving in and out of properties. More information on this can be found here, but always check the most recent Welsh Government guidance regarding COVID-19 here.
Moving out at the end of your tenancy
When you have planned your move out date, you next need to establish what needs to be done:
- Arrange a group chat with all tenants and come to an agreement as to who will do what and when. As a starting point, the assumption is that you will all clean your own rooms but you will need to agree on shared areas.
- Go through your contract and check what it says about leaving the property. Most contracts state that you must leave the property in at least as good a condition as it was in when the tenancy started. Most also say that furniture needs to be in its original position and the property and garden clean and empty.
- If you live in a shared property and you are all named on the same contract, you will all be jointly and severally liable for any damage done and any cleaning not done. This means that the landlord can argue a deduction from everyone’s deposit and pursue all tenants equally. It is really important that you all work together as much as possible because one tenant can cause all to lose money.
- Make sure you all have each other’s forwarding addresses, in case there are any problems.
- In terms of condition, the next thing you will need to check is your inventory, if you have one. The inventory will be used by the landlord as evidence of the condition and cleanliness of the property when you moved in. If it says that everything was clean and there was no damage, you will need to leave it like that. If you don't, the landlord will have a strong case to argue deductions from your deposit or, if you did not have a deposit, pursue the tenants and the guarantors for the cost of making good.
- You are normally expected to leave a rental property 'professionally clean', which usually includes cleaning skirting boards, windows, windows sills, removing stains from grout in bathrooms and cleaning ovens and defrosting and cleaning fridge freezers. If you have evidence that the property was not clean when you moved in, you can use this as an argument not to clean as thoroughly on leaving.
- The last person in the property will need to read the meters when they leave and inform any companies you use that you have moved out. We recommend that you take photographs of these as proof. Some companies, such as broadband providers, may ask for notice to cancel a contract and you will be liable to pay during the notice period. You can avoid paying for services after the tenancy ends by making sure you give the required notice in advance.
- The last person in the property will also need to take detailed photographs of all cleaning done and the condition of the property and its contents when they left. This includes skirting boards, inside the oven/fridge/freezer, under beds, the walls in the hallway and anywhere else where the letting agent may try to say you haven’t cleaned. Send the photos to the others in your group immediately so you have a record of the time and date.
- Each tenant will need to return their key to the landlord or letting agent.
- If your contract says that you need to send proof of all the final bills being paid for the property, make sure this is done or your deposit return could be delayed.
- Individually, we recommend that you go through any mail you have received at this address and contact the companies to update your address. This is particularly important for any bank statements or confidential post as the new tenants are very unlikely to shred these, and these could be collected by fraudsters if left out in bin bags on the street. You might also want to delete the address off Amazon and eBay just in case you accidentally order post to your old house after you move out.
- Request a return of your deposit.
If you find later that the landlord does propose deductions from your deposit, you can raise a dispute and further information on how to do so is available on our Deposit Dispute webpage.
Leaving in a hurry
It is impossible to say with any certainty what will happen in terms of further lockdowns, social distancing and travelling restrictions. What we do know from this year is that, if you need to leave your student accommodation suddenly, you may be away longer than expected and there are certain things you should do in case you are not able to return by the end of the tenancy/contract.
If you live with others and you are all named on the same tenancy/occupation contract, you will be legally deemed as joint tenants. This means that you are all equally liable for all of the rent, damage and cleanliness of the property. If this is the case, the first thing you will need to do is to discuss your intention to leave the property with the other joint tenants. It is important to decide who is staying or going with the understanding that:
- As joint tenants you will all be jointly liable for any shortfall in the rent. You are not entitled to stop paying rent just because you move out. If any tenant does stop paying, the landlord can pursue all tenants (and usually all guarantors) for the missing amount. The only way to end your liability is with the agreement of the landlord and the other tenants either to accept a replacement tenant or end the contract.
- If you agreed to split the bills equally when you moved in, you will need to continue to do so, or negotiate a new arrangement if some of the tenants are leaving and some are staying. Although you will not be using the utilities if you are not at the property, the agreement to split the bills at the start meant that each tenant could budget and know what they were agreeing to pay. Any tenant who moves out and does not continue to pay their share could be pursued by the remaining tenants.
- If some tenants are staying and some are leaving, all tenants will be liable for any damage or dirt caused, regardless of who stayed and who left. This should only be an issue if the tenants who leave do not return by the end of the tenancy but is an important consideration as you are unlikely to know how long any particular lockdown will last.
- You then must notify your landlord or accommodation provider in writing that you have left or intend to leave the property and explain your reason for doing so. If you do not do this, there is a possibility that your landlord or accommodation provider could claim ‘abandonment’ of the property. This has more complex and serious legal implications, so you must keep your landlord informed if you decide to leave. As above, you will normally remain liable for rent during your absence but you can try and negotiate ending the contract or finding a replacement tenant if you do not plan on returning.
- You should ideally aim to ensure that your property is as clean as if you were leaving at the end of the tenancy. You should take photographs of the condition of the property when you leave so that you are not liable for any damage that may occur when you are not there. Make notes and take photographs of any damage, mould, damp and appliances in the property. If some tenants are staying, the situation becomes more complicated. You can still make sure that your room is cleaned and take photos, but you will need to come to an agreement about the communal areas. You can agree to return and clean at the end but you may not know for certain if that will be possible. You can also agree to clean the house thoroughly when you leave if the remaining tenants agree to keep the property clean thereafter. Be aware though, that if you are not able to return by the end of the tenancy and there are charges for cleaning or damage, all tenants can be pursued
- Finally, you will need to decide whether or not to take your possessions with you. If you do not, we strongly recommend that you make sure your possessions are safely stored in your room and clearly labelled with your name and contact details and a statement that the items should not be disposed of.
If you left Cardiff and will be returning to collect your possessions
If you have chosen to leave Cardiff before the end of your tenancy or have had to leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should ensure that you follow all guidelines and complete your move safely, as well as adhering to the terms of your tenancy contract and ensuring that all steps have been taken to forward your post, cancel your bill payments etc. Importantly, if you do not empty and clean your property at the end of your tenancy, it is likely that your landlord will argue a large deduction from your deposit or, if you do not have a deposit, pursue the tenants and guarantors for the cost of cleaning and disposing of your content. You can dispute these deductions but they may still be enforced, even if you cannot return to the property for reasons beyond your control. If there is any reason you cannot return, contact your landlord immediately and let them know. If you cannot come to a suitable arrangement with them, please contact Student Advice.
If you are returning to a shared property and you are all named on the same contract, you will all be jointly liable for any possessions left, any damage done and any cleaning not done. This means that the landlord can argue a deduction from everyone’s deposit and pursue all tenants equally. It is really important that you all work together as much as possible because one tenant can cause all to lose money.
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410