What Is a Rental Deposit and How Do I Get It Back?
Almost everyone who rents an apartment in Malta will be required to pay a deposit. This is also the case in the majority of other European countries, including the UK. The total deposit amount is up to the landlord but, for the most part, it will be equal to (or close to) a month’s rent. Having to pay a deposit isn’t always something tenants think about or factor in when calculating the cost of moving. Moving to a new apartment can end up being pretty expensive! You already have to pay the first month’s rent in advance and, most probably, an agency fee. So, why do you need to pay a security deposit as well?
When you rent a flat in Malta, both you (the tenant) and the owner (the landlord) will sign a contract. The contract will outline how much your rent is and what both your responsibilities shall be throughout the lease. Landlords take a rental deposit from new tenants at the beginning of the lease, when the contract is signed. They take a deposit as security, in case you don’t hold up your side of the contract. While the landlord will be responsible for general maintenance and repairs, you will be responsible for the upkeep of the property and paying your rent on time, along with the bills. Sometimes the monthly rent will include internet and/or utilities, but, on the whole, you will have to pay the electricity and water bills.
If, at the end of your lease, there are any outstanding bills or rent, the landlord will deduct these from your security deposit. Some landlords may also charge a late rent fee and, if this is the case, it will say so in the contract. So, let’s say you pay your rent on time every month and you have settled all of your bills. Are there any other reasons that the landlord might deduct money from your deposit? How can you ensure you get the total amount back?
It’s pretty normal for an inventory report to be made before you move in. This will list everything that the rental apartment comes with. The inventory list will include all furniture, linen, crockery, cutlery, glassware, and the like. It will also usually state the condition of the items, as well as the condition of the apartment. If there are any damages in the apartment, these will also be listed. If the inventory list doesn’t match up when you leave, the landlord may want to deduct money from your deposit. That’s why it’s very important for you to double check this inventory report. Is everything that’s listed actually in the apartment? Are there any damages that aren’t listed? If you notice any discrepancies with the inventory report, make sure you notify your landlord right away! You will be held responsible for anything that goes missing or any damages that weren’t there when you moved in.
It might go without saying but if you break something, replace it. It’s best to do this as soon as possible. If you keep putting it off, you might end up forgetting altogether. Luckily, in rental apartments, most things will be pretty cheap. Not many landlords will furnish and fill their rental properties with anything expensive or high-end. This is good for you, if you happen to break anything. Even if it’s just a glass or a plate, replace it. Try to find a matching item. Hopefully, it won’t be too extortionate. But you can bet that the landlord will try to charge you more if you don’t replace it and leave the apartment with something missing!
In addition to the inventory list, the condition of the rental property is very important. The landlord will be mostly responsible for maintenance and repairs. Anything that’s not your fault, i.e. the washing machine breaking down, will most likely be the landlord’s responsibly. Read your contract to make sure you’re clear on who’s responsible for what. If there’s an issue in the apartment that your landlord needs to fix, contact him or her as soon as possible. If something happens and you’re responsible for fixing it, get onto it right away. There’s no upside to delaying repairs. Problems that get ignored are likely to get worse! You’ll be liable for any damage that could have been prevented had you reported the issue in good time.
General wear and tear will be factored in when the condition of the property is assessed. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to look after the place. On the contrary! Try to look after your rental apartment as if it were your own. Don’t leave dirty dishes for ages or let them stain the counter. Use coasters, wipe up spills instantly and keep things clean. You won’t be able to scrub off months’ worth of dirt at the end of your lease, so keep on top of things. If you’re very busy, or you’re always arguing with your roommates about the household chores, you could always hire a cleaner. Once a week is ideal to go over the house, otherwise once every two weeks is fine. Don’t leave it longer than that! It’s also a good idea not to stick anything or hang anything on the walls. Once you remove your poster or picture, all that will be left is a mark… and you will have to pay to fix it.
Right before your lease ends, it’s definitely a good idea to do a deep clean. This will be a big job if you haven’t been looking after the apartment properly! Remember to empty all of the cupboards and the fridge and freezer. Don’t leave anything in the apartment, especially not food or rubbish. When you do your end-of-lease clean, don’t forget to do inside the oven and the fridge-freezer. If you don’t think you’re up to the job, you can pay a professional. They will know all of the places that are usually overlooked by the tenant. You may even end up giving it back cleaner than when you moved in!
There you have it. Paying a security deposit might sound unnecessary, but landlords who ask for one do so for good reason. If you pay your rent and bills on time, and look after the property, you should have no hassle at the end of your lease. Always remember to read your rental contract and stick to it. This way, you shouldn’t have any issues regarding your deposit. If you’re a good tenant, your deposit will be returned to you and you can use it to pay the deposit on the next place.