What is a deposit?
Most landlords take a deposit of around one month's rent when you sign for a property. This is to protect them (and you) if there is any damage or unpaid rent during the tenancy.
Tips for paying a deposit:
- Never pay the landlord/agent any money until you have signed a contract. If you pay and then change your mind about taking the property, it may be hard to get the money back.
- Always get a receipt for any money paid, especially if the landlord/agent wants paying in cash.
- Attach your receipt to the copy of the contract so it does not get lost.
Deposit Protection Schemes and why they matter
Deposit schemes matter because:
- They provide a free dispute resolution service and will help ensure that the landlord does not withhold your deposit unfairly, avoiding the need for court action to get your money back.
- If your landlord doesn't protect your deposit, they are breaking the law and you may be entitled to compensation.
There are two types of scheme:
- Insurance scheme – the landlord or agent keeps the deposit money but pays an insurance premium to the scheme.
- Custodial scheme – the deposit money is held by the scheme.
The four government-approved schemes are:
If your landlord is using any other scheme your deposit is not protected.
In addition to protecting your deposit in a scheme, the law requires your landlord to provide you with the following information within 30 days:
- the landlord's name and contact details
- the amount of deposit paid and the address of the tenancy
- details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme they are using
- a copy of the deposit protection certificate signed by the landlord
- information about the purpose of the tenancy deposit protection scheme
- how to get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy
- what to do if there is a dispute about the deposit
You can find out more about deposit protection from Gov.uk
What happens at the end of the tenancy?
After the tenancy ends, your landlord should either return your deposit or notify you of the reasons for any deductions.
Your tenancy agreement should give your landlord a time frame for contacting you. This is usually within 2 to 4 weeks of the end of the tenancy.
Contact your landlord if you haven't heard anything within a month. If there's a dispute, you'll need to notify the tenancy deposit protection scheme within 3 months, so don't delay.
What can a landlord deduct money for?
The deposit is your money and the landlord will need to provide reasons and evidence to support any deductions at the end of the tenancy. They can also only make deductions allowed within your tenancy agreement.
Examples of expenses could be:
- The cost of removing any rubbish from the house or outside.
- Any outstanding rent - one to watch on joint tenancies.
- The cost of replacing keys if they were not all returned.
- Re-decoration costs, for example, if a room has been painted without permission.
- The cost of cleaning the property to return it to a 'lettable' condition.
- Repairing damage to fixtures and fittings such as furniture/carpets.
- Repairing damage to the property, for example, broken windows.
- The landlord/agent can make additional charges if there are specific clauses in your contract such as administration charges for late rent.
A landlord/agent has to show what it has cost them to get the property back to standard. The amounts must be reasonable, and the landlord must show you the invoices or receipts.
The landlord/agent cannot charge for 'fair and wear' throughout the tenancy. This is the natural depreciation of things like carpets and decor which may need replacing after a certain length of time.
What if I have a dispute at the end of the tenancy?
The first thing to do is speak to your landlord. You may be able to show some evidence that they have overlooked. If this doesn't work, you should always put your side of the dispute in writing.
If you cannot agree, then you should open a dispute with the scheme that has protected your deposit. You will need to send them information and evidence to support your claim.
Each scheme has a slightly different procedure but your landlord should have provided you with information about how the scheme works within 30 days of you paying the deposit.
Follow the links below for details of the specific procedures for each scheme:
For all schemes you will need to contact them register a dispute within 3 months of the end of the tenancy. Make sure you contact them within this deadline, even if you are still waiting for further information from your landlord.
What if the property wasn’t in a good condition when I moved in?
Many tenants try to contest deductions at the end of the tenancy by arguing that the damage was there or the property wasn’t clean when they moved in.
It will be more difficult to challenge the deductions if you don't have evidence of the condition of the property when you moved in. Having said this, it will also be more difficult for the landlord to justify the deductions if they do not have evidence such as an inventory.
Evidence could include:
- Photos taken when you moved in
- Inventory prepared by you and/or the landlord.
- Copies of letters/emails you sent to the landlord notifying them of damage or missing items.
What if my housemate was responsible for the damage?
If you have a joint contract the landlord/agent can deduct communal damage and outstanding rent charges from the collective deposits.
What if I'm graduating?
Student Advice can still provide assistance after you graduate if the issue relates to something that happened while you were a student (e.g. getting your deposit back from your former landlord).