The following information is for people living in private rented accommodation with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy - NOT for people living with a resident landlord or in University-managed accommodation.
A deposit is a returnable payment taken by the agent or landlord which is held against any arrears of rent at the end of the tenancy, damage to the property or its contents, or any cleaning and maintenance that the tenant should have carried out. If you leave the property in the same condition it was let to you in (minus any reasonable wear and tear) and there is no rent outstanding, you should get all your deposit back.
Most private agents or landlords will ask you to pay a deposit which usually amounts to 1 month’s rent, but it could be more and it must be protected.
For more information on what deductions can be made from your deposit, take a look at the Shelter page.
When you pay a deposit, your agent or landlord must protect your deposit through a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.
The approved schemes are:
Once you pay the deposit, the landlord should provide you with the necessary Prescribed Information within 30 days of receiving it. A Deposit Protection Certificate alone is not sufficient for the landlord to comply with the requirements. If they do not provide you with the information below, you may have grounds for making a monetary claim against them.
The information you receive should include:
- The address of the rented property;
- How much deposit you’ve paid;
- How the deposit is protected;
- The name and contact details of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme and Its dispute resolution service;
- Their (or the letting agency’s) name and contact details;
- The name and contact details of any third party that has paid the deposit;
- Why they would keep some or all of the deposit;
- How to apply to get the deposit back;
- What to do if you can’t get hold of the landlord at the end of the tenancy;
- What to do if there’s a dispute over the deposit.
A landlord’s failure to comply can be used in any future negotiations, or you can start proceedings in the County Court asking for compensation. Before starting any proceedings, you should get further advice from either the SU Advice Centre or a Lawyer as there are risks involved if you do not succeed.
If you are successful, there are two orders a court can make:
- A compensation order against the landlord of between 1 to 3 times the value of the deposit.
- An order requiring the landlord to protect a deposit in a scheme if it has not already been done.
Securing your deposit
Securing the safe return of your deposit starts from the day that you decide you want to move in to a property. When initially enquiring about a property, ask the landlord/agent which scheme they use to protect their tenants’ deposits. If they are unable to tell you, they may not do so! In this instance, contact the SU Advice Centre before committing yourself to the tenancy.
If you have any doubts about the protection of your deposit, at this or any stage, you can check to see if it has been protected. If you cannot find your deposit online, you should still contact each Scheme, preferably by e-mail, to make absolutely sure.
Getting your deposit back
- At the start of your tenancy, take as many photos as you can of the property. If anything is damaged or has not been cleaned properly, take photos and report your concerns to the landlord. You might need these photos as evidence should there be a dispute regarding the return of your deposit at the end of the tenancy. Concentrate particularly on areas such as the oven, microwave, shower/bath, windows, carpets and curtains.
- If your landlord/agent provides you with an inventory, do not sign it unless it accurately describes the condition of the accommodation. If it is not correct, only sign it once it has been agreed upon. The landlord/agent will use this document to help prove the condition of the property and as a reference point to show any damage you have caused.
- Towards the end of your tenancy, check again online that your deposit is protected. On the day that you are moving out, review the photos you took at the start of your tenancy to check that, excluding any reasonable wear and tear, the property is in the same condition as when you moved in. Take additional photos to show the condition you are leaving the property in for if you need to prove this.
- Once you have left the property and returned the keys, e-mail or text the landlord/agent to request the return of your deposit. The landlord should either return your deposit or contact you to say they are not doing so and why, within 10 days.
If your landlord/agent fails to return your deposit or intends to make deductions that you disagree with, contact your landlord/agent, stating that you disagree with them and provide any evidence such as photos, e-mails or texts that will support your viewpoint. Any communication should be in writing in case you need to use this at a later date.
- If you fail to reach an agreement with the landlord, you are able to raise a dispute with the deposit scheme that has been protecting your deposit, using their Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme (ADR). This is a service that is free to use. Details of how to do so can be found via these links:
Deposit Protection Service (DPS)
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)
- You are also able to raise a dispute with the deposit scheme if the landlord did not provide you with the prescribed information within 30 days of the receipt of your deposit. However, before doing so, check that none of your housemates were given this information as it is often only sent to one tenant (known as the ‘lead tenant’).
- If you are facing a situation where you need to raise a dispute regarding the return of your deposit, seek help from the SU Advice Centre.
- If your landlord failed to protect your deposit and either does not return it or tries to make deductions, you can make a claim through the courts to get all of your money returned. Unfortunately, this process can take a long time and there will be an initial cost which will vary according to the amount of your deposit. However, if you win your claim, these costs may be refunded, along with anywhere between one and three times the value of your deposit. For information about making a claim through the courts please see our page on Taking a Money Claim to Court.
- If a letting agent was managing your property for a landlord and failed to protect your deposit, you could also consider raising a complaint with the agent’s Redress Scheme. All letting agents are required by law to be a member of such a scheme. Raising a complaint is free and, if successful, could result in the agent being instructed to return your deposit and pay compensation to you. Redress schemes will also deal with any complaint you wish to raise about the conduct of a letting agent.
To find out which Redress Scheme your letting agent belongs to, take a look at the Shelter page.