How to deal with your dodgy-ass Edinburgh landlord, by the people who’ve got their deposit back

…or agency, tbh

We’ve all been there. You’ve finally moved out of your flat, forgotten about your old landlord and are getting on with your summer when all of a sudden you get a bill made up of things you have no recollection of owning. £24.76 for a lamp you never knew you had, £150 to replace a kitchen light that worked for 3 months of the year and £7,672 for a missing ikea mug?

We wish we could say that it’s rare that students in Edi come upon dodgy landlords and agencies, but it seems like everybody has a story. So, here’s a few tips to prevent things souring with the person who owns your abode, and how to deal with it if they do – from those of us who’ve been there, done that, got the deposit back. Eventually.

Take pictures as soon as you move in

This has got to be the biggest downfall for anyone renting a property. If you don’t take dated pictures of your flat when you move in, you have no evidence to back yourself if your landlord was to say you damaged or broke something, no matter how much you insist “but it was like that when we moved in??” If you haven’t done it, go and do it now.

Put everything in writing

If you’re with an agency then usually most of your correspondence will be in writing, but when it comes to a landlord, if they say anything to you in person it’s definitely worth making a note of it, and even emailing it to them.

This is definitely the case if they’re verbally aggressive to you, or say that you should do something to the flat, or that they’re going to fix something. So, when they still haven’t fixed your buzzer six months later, you can refer back to the initial contact. Also, if you think things are going badly and that they’ll try to illegally keep your deposit or evict you, having a log of every incident with them will back you in the long run.

Let me live

Only give a deposit if it’s going to a scheme

Deposits in Scotland legally have to be held by a government-approved scheme, so if your landlord is suggesting he keeps it for your lease, this is a red flag. It also makes it much harder to get back if he decides to keep it at the end of your lease.

On the other hand, a lot of agencies ask for a ‘holding deposit‘ before you’ve even signed a lease, and then may refuse to refund it if you decide not to take the flat, and it is illegal af. If they’re asking for this, question them on it and get them to put it in writing that any deposit is refundable if you change your mind before you sign the lease.

Try to keep in contact-ish with the previous tenants

We’re obviously not calling them once a week to check in, but if you can, try keep at least an email address or number from one of the previous tenants. This may come in useful if things go badly at the end and you need someone to back you up. After all, if they’re treating you badly, chances are they treated them badly as well.

Previous tenants can come in handy for lots of stuff, especially if they’re also students. When you’re deciding on flats they’ll probably let you come have a second look, giving you chance ask them the truthful questions without the glare of the agency staff or landlord, i.e. how many mice? how cold does it really get? are any of the neighbours absolute cranks?

Check Movem to see if anyone gave them a bad review

Like a tripadvisor for renting, Movem allows people to leave a review of their flats and landlords. Founded by someone who had an awful experience as a student at Bournemouth Uni, it’s a great tool to allow you to double check your landlord before you sign the lease and can only get better the more that people leave reviews.

Know your rights

Knowing what your landlord and agency can and can’t do is another way to protect yourself. Don’t let someone a lot older than you who acts like they know what they’re talking about intimidate you. If you’re not sure, check. For example, landlords aren’t allowed to rock up at your flat uninvited, they have to let you know that they’re coming and, unless it’s an emergency, they have to give you at least 24 hours notice.

Don’t be scared to complain if you have to

Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you have any less rights when renting a property. If your landlord or agency are dragging their feet over something getting fixed, for example, a good thing to do is to ask yourself if you think they would have dealt with it the same way if it were your parents inhabiting your flat, and not a couple of Edi students.

If your agency is treating you unfairly, you can complain to the government approved redress scheme which they legally have to belong to. There’s three: the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services and Property Redress Scheme. When it comes to landlords, you can complain to your local MP, a councillor or your local authority.

If all else fails ask The Advice Place or Citizens Advice

To be honest, EUSA’s Advice Place is pretty good on providing info on almost anything to do with being a student. They are, however, particularly good at dealing with problems with dodge landlords and agencies, and if they don’t know the answer to the issue, they’ll at least know who will. Whether you phone or email them they get back to you really quickly, and if it really can’t wait you can always pop into their offices.

The Citizens Advice Bureau also have a ridiculous amount of info on renting, whether it’s with a landlord or agency.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is

If your rent for the middle of Newington is £310 in cash a month for a four bed, don’t be surprised if you don’t get your deposit back from your landlord who lives in the Cayman islands.