Your deposit: a guide

Most landlords will request a deposit from you, usually one month's rent in advance. For all assured shorthold tenancies starting after 6 April 2007, landlords must put deposits in a government-backed tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme.

TDP schemes make sure you’ll get your deposit back if you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, don’t damage the property and pay your rent and bills. At the end of your tenancy your landlord must return your deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing how much you’ll get back.

There are three TDP schemes landlords can choose from.

  1. The Deposit Protection Service. The landlord puts the deposit money into this scheme at the beginning of the tenancy.
  2. Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd. The landlord keeps your deposit, but pays an insurance premium against their failure to repay your money.
  3. The Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Same as 2 above.

If you’re in a dispute with your landlord over how much deposit you should receive back, then your deposit will be protected in the TDP scheme until the issue is sorted out.

Your landlord doesn’t have to protect money that you may have paid to hold a property before an agreement is signed. If you become a tenant and this money becomes a deposit, they must then protect it.

Your landlord should tell you about your TDP

Your landlord is required to tell you how your deposit is protected within 14 days of your tenancy starting. They should tell you the contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme they have used, their own contact details, how to apply for the release of the deposit, the purpose of the deposit and what to do in case of a dispute about the deposit.

If you don't get this information, ask your landlord how your deposit is protected.

If your landlord hasn't protected your deposit you can apply to the County Court which may order the landlord or agent to either repay the deposit to you or protect it in a scheme, and they could be ordered to repay three times the amount of the deposit to you. The court may also decide you don't have to leave the property at the end of your tenancy if your landlord hasn't used a TDP scheme correctly.

Safeguarding your deposit

Ensure you understand the circumstances in which your landlord could have a claim on your deposit.

It is your responsibility to return the property in the same condition that it was originally let to you, allowing for fair wear and tear. When you sign your tenancy agreement and move in it is a good idea to keep a detailed list of contents such as furniture and fittings, and record the condition of the property and its contents. Photographs are a good idea.

At the end of the tenancy when you move out, check whether you are leaving the property and its contents in the condition in which it was let to you, allowing for fair wear and tear. Check that you have paid your rent and any other expenses. Then agree with your landlord or agent how much of the deposit should be returned to you.

Resolving Disputes

When you move out, if you and your landlord or agent can't agree how much of your deposit should be returned, there will be a free service offered by the deposit scheme your landlord has used to help resolve your dispute. Check the information your landlord or agent gave you at the beginning of your tenancy for details.

Within 10 days of vacating the property, you should have received the agreed amount of the deposit originally paid.

Your landlord can accept valuable items (eg a car or watch) as a deposit instead of money, but they won’t be protected by a scheme.

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