Most landlords ask their tenants to pay a security deposit when signing up to rent accommodation. A deposit is taken to help cover any losses the landlord could face. Most commonly these are unpaid rent or damage to the property.
There is cap on the amount that can be charged for a deposit. The maximum that can be taken is the equivalent of 5 weeks' rent.
Tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy agreement have specific legal rights when it comes to how the landlord looks after the deposit. Most tenancies fall under this category. Check what type of tenancy you have using Shelter’s tenancy checker or contact us if you are unsure.
Having an assured shorthold tenancy means the landlord is required by law to protect your deposit using a government approved deposit protection scheme. They must do this within 30 days of payment. They must also give you information about how your deposit is being protected within this timeframe. This is called the prescribed information.
The aim of the schemes is to safeguard your money so the landlord doesn't misuse it during your tenancy. Each scheme also offers an independent dispute resolution service if you disagree with any deposit deductions proposed by your landlord at the end of the tenancy.
Each scheme offers two types of deposit protection.
Once the deposit is protected, the scheme the landlord has used may contact you directly. The landlord should also send you the prescribed information. Keep a note of where you deposit it protected.
If you don't receive the prescribed information after 30 days, check if your deposit has been protected.
There are three government approved deposit protection schemes. Each scheme has a website and search facility for you to check if your deposit is protected. If you live in a shared house and have a joint tenancy, you may need to search in each housemate's name.
You will need the start date of your tenancy, the address of your property, tenant surnames, the deposit amount and the payment date.
Access or call each scheme here:
If your deposit hasn't been protected, there are steps you can take to resolve this. If there are other problems with your tenancy, you might be able to use non-protection of your deposit to negotiate with the landlord. Get in touch with the Advice Service for help and support.
As soon as your tenancy has ended, write to your landlord and ask them to return your deposit. Give your landlord at least one week to reply. If you don't hear back after 7 days, chase up your request.
Your landlord may agree to return the deposit in full or they could decide to make some deductions. You will need to decide if you agree with any deductions proposed.
Deposit deductions must be reasonable and realistic. The landlord must have suffered actual financial losses such as unpaid rent or damage to the property.
At the end of the tenancy, you are required to clean the property to the same standard as it was when you moved in. You shouldn't have to pay to make it any cleaner than this.
Your landlord should provide evidence of the charges they are proposing. Damaged items should be charged on a like for like basis.
The landlord must also make allowances for fair wear and tear. Wear and tear is any changes to fixtures and fittings that have happened over time because of reasonable day to day use.
If you accept the deductions, repayment of your deposit depends on the type of scheme being used. If the landlord is using an insurance based scheme, they can repay your deposit directly to you. If a custodial scheme is being used, you or the landlord can ask the scheme to release the money. Visit your scheme's website for more information.
If you disagree with any of the deductions proposed by the landlord, your first step will be to negotiate. The landlord should return any undisputed part of your deposit while you negotiate.
Write to your landlord setting out the reasons you disagree with the deductions. Provide evidence to support your case and ask your landlord to provide invoices / receipts for any charges. Make sure you keep copies of the letters and evidence you send.
If you can't reach an agreement with the landlord, try using your deposit protection scheme to raise a dispute. Don't delay in contacting your scheme if your landlord is slow to respond or doesn't get back to you. Some schemes have a three month time limit for using their dispute service.
If your landlord doesn't agree to use the dispute service, you may need to consider taking court action to get your deposit back.
The Advice Service can offer help and support with a range of housing related issues. Get in touch with us if you have any questions on deposits.
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