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 unpaid rent and bills, 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 must 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 written information about the deposit protection.

The written information must state by law

  • The amount of deposit paid and the property address it relates to
  • The name and contact details of the 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.

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 usually 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 and you may have to take further action to enforce the judgment.

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.

Holding deposits

Some landlords and agents will also ask for a holding deposit.  These are different to the usual type of deposit that is paid to give security to the landlord for damage to the property and non-payment of rent.  Holding deposits are similar to a fee that you pay before you agree the tenancy and are usually paid to ‘hold’ the property for you whilst you are sorting out the tenancy.  The amount you can be charged is limited to a maximum of one weeks rent.

The landlord or letting agent must give you your holding deposit back unless you:

  • decide not to rent the property.
  • give them false or misleading information.
  • fail a ‘right to rent’ immigration check.

Warning! Be careful when paying a holding deposit because if you simply change your mind about signing for the property, the landlord or agent can keep your holding deposit so make sure that you want the property before you hand over any money.

If you pay the holding deposit, the landlord or letting agent can’t rent the property to anyone else for 15 days without offering it to you first. You can ask them to hold the property for more than 15 days but they must agree to this in writing.

Make sure your landlord or letting agent gives you details of your holding deposit in writing. This should include how much you paid and what will happen to the money if you don’t move in.

You should get the deposit back if the landlord or letting agent decides not to rent to you. They must return your holding deposit within 7 days.

If you sign a tenancy agreement – Your landlord or letting agent should pay the holding deposit back within 7 days of you signing the agreement. Alternatively, they can pay you back by putting the money towards your tenancy deposit or first rent payment, if you agree.

Sulets tenancies

At Sulets, we collect a deposit for all of our houses. Our houses have a £300 or £350 refundable deposit per person, this varies depending on the size of your property so please check your contract.

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.

Sulets do not charge holding deposits.

Further information

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

Reviewed 09 February 2024

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