When you move into a property your landlord (or the letting agent, if your landlord uses one) will normally take a deposit from you to cover the cost of any damage you make to the property while you live there.
A typical deposit will be between one month and six weeks' worth of rent.
By law, anyone renting through an Assured Shorthold Tenancy in England and Wales (this will apply to most people who rent their property) should have their deposit protected in a deposit protection scheme.
There are three deposit protection schemes:
- Deposit Protection Service
- Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Your landlord will decide which scheme to use, but your deposit should be equally protected whichever one they choose.
- Scotland and Northern Ireland operate separate schemes, but they work in the same way as detailed below. You can find out more on the Scottish and Northern Irish government websites.
Deposit protection schemes: your rights
Your tenancy agreement should include information about which scheme your landlord or letting agent is using.
Within 30 days of paying your deposit your landlord should confirm the following information in writing:
- 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’s 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.
If your landlord does not protect your deposit using a TDP scheme, or does not provide you with the required information, you could take them to court.
However, before taking court action you should first write to your landlord to give them the chance to protect the deposit and/or to provide the information.
Deposit protection schemes: end of a tenancy
At the end of a tenancy, provided you've stuck to the terms of your tenancy agreement, you haven't done any damage to the property and you've paid all your rent and bills, you should be entitled to your full deposit back.
If you haven't met all of these terms your landlord may wish to withhold some or all of your deposit to cover any costs they incur, eg if they need to repair damage you have made to the property.
As well as protecting your money, deposit protection schemes can help resolve disputes that arise between you and your landlord.
For example, if you think your landlord wants to withhold an unreasonably high amount of your deposit to cover their costs, you can complain to the scheme's dispute resolution service.
It will then investigate the facts and recommend a solution. If you use the dispute resolution service, you and your landlord must do what it recommends - its decision is final.
Once you and your landlord have agreed how much deposit you will be getting back, it must be returned to you within 10 days.
Know your rights: my landlord won't return my deposit - find out what you can do to get your deposit back