What if my landlord doesn't return my deposit?

Can my landlord withhold the caution money?

What if my landlord doesn’t return my deposit?

If you rent a house, landlords will often ask you to pay a security deposit (usually equal to the amount of one month rent). This deposit provides some kind of security to the landlord for those situations that you do not fully or partially fulfill the obligations of your rental contract. At the end of the rental agreement, the deposit must be returned to you by the landlord, unless he has a valid reason to withhold (part of) the deposit.

Settlement of deposit with rent arrears

First of all, the landlord can use the deposit if you have not or not fully fulfilled your payment obligations. For example, if you did not pay the rent of the last month of your rental agreement and you did not have any legal reason to not pay, the landlord can withhold (part of) your deposit.

Deliver the house in a good condition

Secondly, the landlord has the right to not return the (full) deposit if you did not deliver the house in a good condition at the end of your rental contract. But what is ‘a good condition’? The Dutch Civil Code makes a distinction between two situations:

  1. The tenant and the landlord made a description of the condition of the rented property at the beginning of the rental contract and;
  2. The tenant and the landlord did not make a description of the condition of the rented property at the beginning of the rental contract

An inspection report was made (1.)

If you did make a report about the condition of the house at the beginning of your rental agreement, you are supposed to give back your living space in the same condition as that in which you have accepted it. An exception exists for changes you made with the permission of your landlord and for the things that were destroyed or damaged by age. In this situation a ‘good condition’ is the same condition as the situation at the beginning of your rental contract.

If your landlord claims that you did not deliver the house in the same condition, he should give you the opportunity to fix this situation before the end of your contract and before he makes any costs to repair the claimed damages. If you were never given the opportunity to fix the problems issued by the landlord, it is not reasonable to compensate these costs with the deposit.

No inspection report was made (2.)

If no description of the condition of the house was drawn up at the beginning of your rental contract, you are considered to have received the rented property in the exact same state as it is at the end of the rental contract. If your landlord claims that you made damages to the house, it’s up to him to proof this. If the landlord cannot proof that you damaged the house, you delivered the house in ‘a good condition’.

If the landlord cannot proof that you damaged the house, you delivered the house in ‘a good condition’.

Recommendation for pre-inspection

In order to prevent a discussion about the deposit, we recommend you to schedule a joint pre-inspection at the beginning of the last month of your tenancy agreement. No matter whether you did or did not make an inspection report at the beginning of your rental contract. This way you might be able to agree upon which reparations should be made by you before the end of your agreement and which damages will be fixed by the landlord himself.

An example

In a court case of April 18th 2013 of the District Court of Noord-Holland (ECLI: RBNHO: 2013: BZ8812), a landlord and a tenant had performed an inspection together on the final day of the rental agreement, but they did not make an inspection report. Months later, the landlord sent an inspection report to the tenant, which was made only by himself. He claimed to have the right to settle his repair costs with the deposit. The court decided that since the tenant and landlord did not make an inspection report at the beginning of the contract and the landlord did not have any proof of what was the condition of the house at the beginning of the contract, he had to pay back the full deposit.

A possibility to repair the damages must be given

The fact that no pre-inspection took place does not always mean that you can’t be in default. You always have the obligation to deliver the property in a good condition at the end of the rental contract. However, if the landlord did not offer you the possiblity to repair the damages yourself, the claim for repair costs can only be granted partly. Only those costs could be for the account of the tenant that would have been present, even if the tenant had repaired the accommodation himself. These costs are often lower than the costs of a professional handyman hired by the landlord to fix the damages.

Do you want your deposit back? Feel free to contact Frently without any obligation.

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