Landlords take deposits to gain financial security to cover unpaid rent and any damage to their property. Your landlord should confirm in writing what the deposit covers, this may be set out in your tenancy agreement or a document that’s signed by all parties.

Landlords can only deduct money from deposits for breakages or damage caused by misuse of the property or its fixtures or fittings.

‘Wear and tear’ applies to items which grow dirty, frayed or break through normal use and landlords should have savings put aside to account for the replacements and for the general upkeep of the house.

It is not acceptable for them to try to pass this cost on to you.

A damage deposit is paid when you sign for your property, we recommend you get an itemised receipt detailing how much you have paid and for what.

When you move into the property, always ask for the agency or landlord to do an inventory and take photos hopefully on the same day you take occupation.

Keep a copy of the photos and the inventory safe. This should make things easier when it comes to move out.

If the landlord will not agree to do this, then you must do your own inventory, take your own photos and send a copy of all of this to your landlord or agents.

Do the same again when you are about to move out and again try to get the landlord or agents to come round and do this with you. If not, again, do your own checks. Try to reach an agreement as to whether there should be any deductions.

What else do I need to know?

It depends on the agreement you have as to whether your deposit is officially protected. If you are renting from your university, it is likely that you will have a licence agreement.

Some specialist housing providers grant licences or common law tenancies which are not covered by deposit protection regulations, this means they don’t have to protect your deposit. This, however, is rare.

Pretty much all private tenants with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy have the right to have their deposit protected by the landlord or agency with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.

Is my deposit protected?

The tenancy deposit protection rules outline details regarding the protection of your deposit.
Your landlord or agent has a duty to provide you with a copy of the scheme leaflet and explain the rules or provide a written statement.

The written statement must state by law

  • The amount of deposit paid and the property address it relates to
  • The contact details of your landlord or agent and deposit protection scheme used
  • How to get your deposit back and when deductions can be made
  • What happens if you can’t agree about how much should be refunded or if your landlord or agent doesn’t respond

This information must be signed by the landlord or agent that you paid your deposit to.

The deposit scheme provider might give you a repayment ID. Keep this safe and do not share it with anyone. You’ll need it to get your deposit back when you leave.

Your landlord or agent has 30 days to protect your deposit and to provide all of the written information above.

There are three government sponsored schemes:

Your landlord can ask them to hold your money as a custodian or they can hold on to your money and pay an insurance scheme to protect it.

Your landlord has to protect your deposit for the whole time you remain a tenant at the same property.

If your landlord chooses a custodial scheme, the deposit continues to be protected while it remains in the scheme.

If your landlord chooses an insurance scheme, they’ll have to renew the insurance if you stay on after the end of your tenancy’s fixed term. This applies even if you don’t sign a new tenancy agreement.

How do I make sure I get my deposit back?

You must have your deposit returned within 10 days of an agreement as to who should get back what.

Each scheme has a resolution dispute service in case there is a dispute between you and the landlord over whether you should receive your damage deposit back.

Tenants and landlords then put forward statements as to why the deposit should be retained or refunded and an adjudicator will make a decision.

This decision is based on actual evidence, so it is crucial to have photos, inventories and anything else you think helps your case.

Deposit schemes only cover assured shorthold tenancies, if you have a licence, you will not be able to dispute the retention of your deposit through such a scheme. This will apply if you rent from your university.

For licences, you should raise your dispute with the landlord first in writing (and it is definitely worth getting advice to do this) but if you cannot resolve this, your only option is to go to the County Court to issue a claim against your landlord.

Although this is the route to challenge the deposit retention, this is not as easy and there are disadvantages to this:

  • It may incur a cost to you for court fees (which you should ask for back through your claim)
  • There is also no guarantee of success.
  • Even if you win your claim, there is a chance that the landlord will not pay in full straightaway or at all
  • You’ll then need to pursue the claim further (possibly costing you more money)

Non protection

If your landlord or agent is under a duty to protect your deposit because you have an assured shorthold tenancy, they can face penalties if they don’t protect your tenancy deposit.

If they have not protected your deposit or provided you with the written information on time, you are able to take them to the County Court.

This claim can be made at any time even if the deposit has been protected and the written information provided but late.

In response to a claim like this, a court can order your landlord to pay you compensation of between one and three times the amount of your deposit.

In addition, tenancy deposit breaches like this can make an eviction notice under section 21 invalid.

Your landlord may have to refund your deposit in full before they can use a section 21 notice to start the eviction process. Your landlord may be unable to get a court order to evict you using the section 21 notice procedure.

Sulets tenancies

At Sulets, we collect a deposit for all of our houses. Most of our houses have a standard £250 deposit per person. Most of our studios have a deposit of £350 per person.

Where Sulets is the landlord (stated on the contract), we hold the deposit until the end of the tenancy and then return it to each individual tenant named on the contract.  These deposits are not protected in a scheme.  This is because we are a charity and are treated the same way as Universities. Like Universities, we are treated as a trusted housing provider and so the properties that we own or lease are exempt from registration.

Where we are the agent acting for the landlord (it will say the landlords name on the contract), we do place the deposit in a government approved scheme, My Deposits. For this type of property, the first person who applies is automatically assigned the position of ‘Lead Tenant’.  This is an important role as this is the person who agrees the return of the deposit and receives the money from the scheme that they need to distribute amongst the group.  These rules are set by the scheme, not Sulets.

In conclusion

Try to reach an agreement as to the state of the property right from the beginning and get your evidence in place in case you need this later.

Most importantly, if you do have an assured shorthold tenancy, make sure that your deposit is protected with all the necessary paperwork in place – just in case, you need it later!

You can also find further information on the Citizens Advice website.