If you're renting a condo or an apartment for more than a month in Thailand, you'll definitely be asked for a deposit.
At one time, a 1-month deposit used to be standard, but in recent years it is quite common to be asked for two month's rent as a deposit, particularly on the higher end condo blocks.
For the purpose of this post, I'll define the loose difference between a condo and an apartment:
The difference between a condo and apartment is to do with ownership: A condo is rented from an individual owner, whereas an apartment is owned by a single entity, often a corporation, and then leased out to individual tenants.
Apartments in Thailand usually have an office on site, where, after an invoice is put under your door, you pay your rent each month.
When renting from a individual condo owner, you'll most likely set up a bank transfer, or he or she will arrange to pop round and collect the rent each month.
Either way, condo or apartment, you'll pay a deposit.
Having rented numerous apartments over the years, I know the renting game inside out.
Depending on the rental fee, the deposit can be a big chunk of money, and getting it back in full isn't always the easiest thing to do.
No matter how clean and tidy you are, it's easy to run into unexpected charges because you haven't understood the rules around the deposit and your tenancy in general.
So here's some top tips to help you manage the process, avoid conflict and maximise the chance of getting your deposit back.
A deposit is a monetary guarantee against any damage losses incurred by the owner while renting you the property. So it makes sense to ensure that you aren't accused of damaging anything that was done before you moved in.
In this respect, it is advisable to take pictures of the apartment once the rental contract is agreed.
Strangely, people usually neglect to do this – probably due to the excitement of moving in.
It is best to do this when the key-handover takes place; that way the owner or apartment manager knows that A) you have taken pictures, and B) that you're an astute individual and not someone who is going to be messed around in the future.
Taking pictures on a phone is ideal because a date is embedded in the data. It's advisable to back them up on a USB stick and print out copies for future reference.
When inspecting the property and taking your pictures, look out for the following and take snaps accordingly:
- Cracks in walls
- Broken cupboards
- Broken tiles in the bathroom
- Aged shower curtain
- Burns, holes, wear and tear on the sofa and chairs
- Stains on mattresses
- Worn paintwork
- Broken light fittings and plug sockets
- Water damage in the bathroom and on ceilings
Get a Written Agreement & a Translation
Unbelievable, I know, but some people do hand over deposits without getting a written agreement. Of course, reputable apartments will have agreements as standard, but private condo rentals may not and handshake agreements aren't uncommon.
Make sure you get a tenancy and deposit agreement.
Make sure the amount you have paid, what the amount represents (1 or 2 month's rent), and the date it was paid is included on a deposit agreement and signed by you and the office manager or landlord.
It may be that the terms of your deposit are listed on the tenancy agreement. If so, that's fine.
Make sure you get a copy of all the documents and, if the text is in Thai, consider getting a translation done.
It costs around 500 Baht per page to get an official translation done in Thailand, but for this purpose, you could get it done on Fiverr.com for peanuts.
I'm serious. If you get a tenancy agreement handed to you in Thai and you don't understand a word, get it translated.
Don't be lazy.
Knowing what the fine print says will help you understand exactly what is expected of your tenancy. This will save conflict later down the road.
For example, many apartment tenancy agreements include things like:
- No noise after 10pm
- No “extra guests” without notifying the office first
- No smoking in rooms
- No durian fruit inside the room
- No chucking stuff off the balcony
- No flip flops left in the corridor
It's worth knowing what you cant do, so that you don't break the rules and end up falling out with the management.
Ask for a List of Repair Costs (Apartments)
Most apartments will have a list of what it costs to replace something, should you break it.
If you don't get a list when you move in, ask if they have one.
This is important, because if you don't know what an item costs to replace, they can quote you any price they like when you break it.
When you see the list (if there is one), you will notice that a number of the items are things you could replace yourself for a third of the price.
For example, my old apartment management listed a cost o 3,000 Baht for a replacement shower curtain. Within a few months of me being there, the curtain started to get mildew spots due to poor ventilation.
I figured it probably had mildew on before I moved in but they had scrubbed it out. The thing with mildew is that the spores pretty much always reappear. So instead of getting charged for a new one, I bought one for 100 Baht at a local shop and called in the office manager to watch me replace it.
She could see why it needed replacing, and I wasn't going to wait until they went out and bought one because it presented a health hazard. So she was cool with the replacement.
Swallow the Mandatory Cleaning Charge
You will never get your whole deposit back, quite simply because of the “cleaning charge”.
This is pretty much standard everywhere in Thailand, and ranges from 500-1000 Baht. If you check your tenancy agreement, it will most likely say that you will be charged a flat fee for cleaning when you move out.
Even if you keep your apartment spotless, you can still expect to pay this charge.
The joke is: they don't pay for a special deep clean from a private company. No, it's just the same housekeeping lady they employ to clean anyway; and if you pay the apartment for a weekly cleaner, it's probably the same person.
I don't know about you, but when I leave an apartment or a hotel room, I always leave it clean and tidy. It's just how I was brought up.
My clean is really clean, not “Thai clean”. So I do get frustrated by the cleaning charge because I know that the three-year-old mop they're going to use to clean the apartment will make it dirtier than I left it!
Anyway, you'll have to suck up the cleaning charge – so don't bother kicking up a fuss.
Be Upfront About Damage You've Caused
If you damage something during your stay, you'll be far better off being upfront about it. Here's why:
1. Honesty is usually the best policy. The fact that you owned up will go a long way in terms of maintaining a good relationship with your landlord. Moreover, you might even get away with a “mai bpen rai” (never mind), depending on how expensive the damage is!
2. If you wait until you move out, this will present the perfect opportunity to withhold a portion of your deposit.
Psychologically, taking a deposit is easy – it's like storing someone else's money, but giving it back feels like you're paying out of your own pocket.
I've also found that it seems to be a bit of a chore for the office/landlord to get your deposit money out from the bank (see the next section); so it's always easier to find an excuse not to give you your money back.
The big point here is, don't wait. If you damage something, own up and deal with it there and then. moving out is always a hassle anyway, so having this type of issue to deal with on a stressful move-out day is bound to cause some conflict.
Understand How Your Deposit Will Be Returned
Here's a last tip for you: make sure you understand the process for paying the deposit back. By that I mean, is it paid on the day you move out, or is there a waiting period? Is is paid into your bank or in cash?
I was in my last apartment for 3+ years, yet I didn't know that the deposit would not be paid back to me on the day I moved out.
I paid them a cash deposit when I moved in, but the day before I moved out it was revealed that the deposit would be forwarded to my bank account at the end of the month.
No way. I was flying back to the UK on the same day I was moving out, so I wanted that cash back in my hand.
I argued the case that I had paid them cash, and also said I might not be returning to Thailand. I could have said I didn't have a Thai bank account for them to pay it into, but that might have been a difficult lie to swallow since I'd been in Thailand so long.
Anyway, long story short, they arranged for me to have the cash on the day I moved out.
So take time out to double check that your deposit will be returned on the day you move out, and via what means.
In a country where you probably don't speak the language very well, and authority and rules are rarely flexible, it makes a lot of sense to fully understand your tenancy agreement and the terms around the deposit.
All said and done, don't get me wrong, Thailand is a great country to rent in and by and large my experiences have been positive. But like renting in any country, you should always endeavour to fully understand your contractual obligations – and theirs too!
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