Money being deposited into a slot at the top of a house

Deposits

Learn about what your landlord should do with your deposit

When you start a new tenancy your landlord will ask you to pay a security or damage deposit, usually worth a month's rent. This money is held throughout your tenancy in case you are responsible for any damage or fail to pay the landlord any money you owe. It should be returned to you, minus any agreed deductions, at the end of the tenancy.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme has produced a short video about deposits, which you can watch below then read on for more information and how ASK can help you. 

 

The exact amount will depend on what's in your tenancy agreement, but landlords can only ask you for up to the equivalent of five weeks' rent when your annual rent is less than £50,000. Most landlords ask for a month's rent, and on rare occasions they don't take a deposit at all.

Most private landlords must register your deposit with a deposit protection scheme and send you information about the scheme within 30 days. This is a law created to make sure landlords don’t unfairly keep your money. If they don't comply with the law you could take them to court for up to three times the amount of the deposit.

**If you're sharing a house with your landlord then you are a lodger and your deposit cannot be protected. However, if you're living with the family member of your landlord then in most circumstances the deposit should still be protected.**

If you suspect your deposit hasn't been protected check with each of the schemes to see if they have any record of you. You can find information about the schemes at these links:

Shelter has a useful deposit checker page to help you.

If your deposit isn't protected by any of these schemes and/or you're not sure whether it should be, come and see ASK.

Make sure there's an inventory and take plenty of photos of the house at the start of your tenancy – this shows what was there when you moved in and if anything was already dirty or broken so your landlord can’t blame you later and try to keep your deposit.

You can make your own inventory if the landlord doesn't arrange one. Try to get the landlord to sign it along with everyone who lives in the house - if the landlord refuses to sign, get an independent witness to sign instead.

Shelter has more information about inventories.

Make sure you tell the landlord in writing if there is any disrepair in the house so you won't be blamed for it later.

You should leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in. Make sure you clean the property thoroughly, remove all your belongings and empty the bins - your landlord can take money from your deposit to cover reasonable costs for cleaning, replacing broken items, and for removing items.

Take plenty of photos of the property to show you left the house in a good, clean condition. If you paid for any service or bought any products to help you leave the house in good condition, keep the receipts as proof.

If you're responsible for bills, contact the utility companies to let them know the final date of your tenancy. Read the meters on the final day (and keep a record), tell the company to close your account and get the final bill sent on to your forwarding address. Send proof of paying final bills to the landlord, as some won't return your deposit unless they have this proof.

Your landlord should return your deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing how much will be given back. If anything is broken or you owe money they can deduct it from the deposit.

Shelter has great, easy to read information about deposits on their website, but we have summarised the main information below.

Most private landlords must register your deposit with a deposit protection scheme and send you information about the scheme within 30 days. After protecting the deposit, the landlord must also send you details of the deposit protection scheme they have used. See the section titled 'What should my landlord do with the deposit?' for more information.

If your landlord isn't returning your deposit or wants to make unfair deductions, you can use the deposit protection scheme's dispute resolution service. Don’t wait too long - you can only use the scheme for 3 months after your tenancy ends.

 

What can I do if my deposit wasn't protected?

If your landlord was legally required to protect your deposit and failed to do so, you could take them to court to claim 1-3 times the worth of your deposit. This could be useful to use against your landlord, as they may be willing to pay you back the deposit in exchange for you not taking court action.

Shelter has some template letters you can use when writing to your landlord.

If your landlord is accredited with the local councils' Landlord Accreditation Scheme, you can also report them to the scheme for investigation. They may suspend the landlord's membership and this would restrict their ability to advertise to students.

 

What can I do if I was a lodger and the landlord didn't need to protect my deposit?

You can write formal letters to the landlord requesting the return of your deposit and, ultimately, you may want to consider legal action to get it back.

Shelter has some template letters you can use.

Some landlords also ask for a different type of deposit - a holding deposit. Holding deposits are paid to reserve the property before signing the tenancy agreement and they will not be protected by a scheme. The landlord can ask you to pay a holding deposit of up to the equivalent of one week's rent.

The landlord is entitled to keep this money if you pay the holding deposit then change your mind about renting the property; however, you should get your money back if the landlord changes their mind unless you gave false information about yourself.

If you enter into the tenancy the holding deposit will be refunded, usually by reducing the first rent payment, or the landlord could turn it into the security deposit and properly protect it in a scheme.

Gov.uk website has more information about deposits and the protection schemes.

Shelter - a housing and homelessness charity that is a great resource and has its own helpline.

Citizens Advice website has a section about getting your deposit back.