You ask tenants to pay a deposit so that you are protected from any financial loss as a result of their actions. At the moment in Northern Ireland you are not required to register the deposit with an independent body. It is recommended, however, that you keep the deposit in a separate bank account and clearly label the deposit.
At the end of the tenancy term, you should assess the property for damage or disrepair caused by the tenant, bearing in mind the rules about wear and tear and replacing damaged items with items of a similar age and quality. If, during the course of the tenancy, you have had to repair items which were damaged as a result of the tenant's actions you can deduct the costs of the repairs from the deposit.
If you decide to retain some or all of the tenant's deposit to cover the cost of repairing or replacing items damaged by the tenant, you must write to the tenant explaining your actions within 28 days of the tenancy ending. Include copies of receipts which prove that you have paid to have the work carried out. The remainder of the tenant's deposit should be returned.
If the tenant has caused significant damage and the cost of repairs is greater than the value of the tenant's deposit, you can make a claim for compensation through the courts.
If your tenant has caused serious damage to your property you may have ground to being eviction proceedings.
Most tenancy agreements include clauses requiring the tenant to keep the property in a good state of repair or preventing the tenant from using the property for certain purposes. If the tenant has breached these terms, you may be able to serve a notice to quit on the tenant requiring that they leave the property.
You can retain the tenant's deposit to compensate you for the cost of repairs if the damage was the tenant's fault. However, the deposit may not always be sufficient to cover the cost of repairs. If this is the case, you will have to file a claim in court for compensation.
If the damages are less than £3000, or you are happy to write off any amounts owed beyond £3000, you can use the Small Claims Court. In the Small Claims Court you won't need a solicitor. If you wish to claim for an amount greater than £3000 seek advice from a solicitor to find out what other legal options you have.
You need to know your tenant's residential address to take legal action. You can also take action against the guarantor for the tenancy if one was provided. If you don't know the tenant's current address, you may wish to consider hiring a company to trace the tenant's current whereabouts. Some companies offer this service on a fee-free basis if they cannot trace the tenant.
Remember, if your tenant is on benefits or a low income they may only be able to pay compensation back in small amounts rather than in a lump sum.
Contact the police if you believe that the tenant has carried out criminal damage on your property. Failure to contact the police could affect your insurance claim. The police cannot help you to remove the tenant from the property. Only an Enforcement of Judgements official can forcibly remove a tenant from the property and this can only be done after securing a court order.