Most private rented landlords require students to pay a deposit as a condition of letting accommodation. The deposit acts as security against non-payment of rent or damage to the property.

Tips to get your deposit back

  • get a receipt for the deposit you paid
  • agree an inventory with your landlord before you move in. Note the condition of the property and everything in it.take photographs to accompany the inventory. Add a date and brief description to them
  • keep records about all repairs, when you reported them and what your landlord did.

If you’re an assured shorthold tenant
If you have an assured shorthold tenancy and paid a deposit on or after 6 April 2007, your landlord or an agent acting on their behalf, must protect it in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme.

A deposit protection scheme helps ensure that you get back what you’re entitled to at the end of the tenancy.

What is a tenancy deposit protection scheme
A tenancy deposit protection scheme is a scheme that safeguards the deposit, so that a tenant is guaranteed to get it back at the end of the tenancy, provided s/he is entitled to it. It also provides an alternative dispute resolution service to sort out any disagreements between the landlord and tenant about the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

There are two types of  tenancy deposit protection schemes: custodial and insurance-based schemes. It is up to the landlord which scheme to choose.

In the custodial scheme, the landlord pays the deposit into the scheme. The deposit is held in an account administered by the scheme.

In an insurance-based scheme, the landlord (or a letting agency acting for the landlord) keeps the deposit, but pays a fee to the scheme, which insures against the landlord unlawfully retaining the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Information the landlord must give the tenant
The landlord (or letting agency) must give the tenant certain information, both about the deposit and about the scheme s/he is using. The information should be given to the tenant within 30 days of receiving a deposit.

The landlord must give the tenant the following information about the tenancy deposit protection scheme s/he is using:-

  • the name and contact details of the scheme; and
  • any leaflet that the scheme has supplied giving information about how the scheme works; and
  • how you get the deposit back at the end of the tenancy; and
  • what will happen if either the landlord or tenant cannot be contacted at the end of the tenancy; and
  • what happens if there is a dispute; and
  • details of the scheme’s alternative dispute resolution service.

The landlord must also give the tenant the following information about the tenant’s deposit:-

  • the amount of the deposit paid; and
  • the address of the property to which the tenancy relates; and
  • the name and contact details of the landlord and the tenant; and
  • the circumstances when all or part of the deposit may be retained by the landlord, with reference to the terms of the tenancy.

If this information is not provided, the tenant should write to the landlord requesting it. A tenant can also contact the scheme to confirm whether or not her/his deposit is protected.

A landlord may stop being a member of an insurance-based scheme, either by choosing to leave or because s/he has breached the scheme’s rules and the scheme terminates membership. If this happens to you, get specialist housing advice as soon as possible.

If a landlord, or a letting agency acting on a landlord’s behalf, fails to protect a deposit  or does not give the tenant information about the scheme and deposit within 30 days of the deposit being paid, thelandlord cannot evict the tenant using the assured shorthold procedure (under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, on two months’ notice, without grounds).

If you’re not an assured shorthold tenant
For other occupiers, such as lodgers, there are no special rules requiring your landlord to protect your deposit in a government-approved scheme.

Paying a deposit for a joint tenancy
If you share accommodation with other tenants under one tenancy agreement, you will have a joint tenancy. Landlords normally take a single deposit for the whole of the joint tenancy.

This means that if another tenant doesn’t pay their share of the rent, or if they cause damage to the property, your landlord can deduct this amount from the whole deposit. If this happens, you and the other tenants will have to agree on how to divide up the remainder.

Make sure you have an inventory
An inventory is a list of the furniture and fittings provided in your home. It should specify the condition of items and of the property generally. Having an inventory can help prevent disputes about the deposit at the end of the tenancy. It’s best to have a written inventory that is signed by you and the landlord when you move in. It’s also useful to take photographs to accompany the inventory.

It is important that the tenant and landlord (or letting agency) agree what the contents and condition of the property are at the start of the tenancy. This should preferably be in the form of a written inventory, signed by both landlord and tenant, and should include a list of the furniture and fittings.

If the landlord provides an inventory, you should check this carefully before signing it, as you may otherwise be held responsible for any discrepancies and/or damage and could lose part or all of your deposit when the tenancy ends.

If the landlord does not provide an inventory, you should compile one yourself and ask the landlord to sign it, or have it signed by an independent witness. It may also be helpful to take photographs of the property, furniture and fittings.

What can your landlord deduct from the deposit at the end of the tenancy?
Your landlord should only make deductions for things that cost them money. For example, it’s reasonable for your landlord to take money off your deposit to cover:

  • damage to the property or furniture
  • missing items that were listed on the inventory
  • paying for cleaning because the property was left in a dirty condition
  • outstanding rent owed by you or a joint tenant.

Your landlord shouldn’t deduct money from the deposit to cover damage that could be regarded as fair wear and tear. Wear and tear happens when furniture and contents deteriorate as a result of normal use, for example, carpet becoming worn. Generally, wear and tear takes place over a long period of time through normal use.

Anything which needs to be repaired or replaced should be on a ‘like for like’ basis, so a second-hand desk shouldn’t be replaced with a brand new one.

You can ask your landlord to show you receipts or estimates for anything they want to deduct from your deposit.

Your landlord is usually responsible for returning your deposit even if you originally paid it to a letting agent acting on their behalf.  Once you have agreed how much you should get back, it should be paid within 10 days.

What can an assured shorthold tenant do if they don’t agree with the deductions?
If you have a dispute about how much of the deposit is repaid at the end of the tenancy, the tenancy deposit protection scheme your landlord used will hold the relevant amount until the dispute is resolved. You can also use an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service provided by the scheme, or take court action.

If you find that your landlord didn’t use a tenancy deposit protection scheme to protect the deposit, you can:

  • contact your landlord and use the fact that they haven’t met their legal obligations to negotiate getting your deposit back
  • take court action if they fail to return your deposit.

What can other occupiers do if they don’t agree with the deductions?
Other occupiers, for example, lodgers, who are not assured shorthold tenants may find it more difficult to get their deposit back because there are no special legal rules protecting them.

Your landlord may deduct an amount before returning the deposit to cover certain things, such as damage to the property or furniture. If you disagree with that amount, you can try to negotiate with your landlord to reach an amount you do agree on. Any evidence you have to support your case will be useful, such as the inventory, photographs and anything relating to the condition of the property or the things in it.

Ultimately, if you and your landlord can’t reach an agreement and you think the deductions are unfair or unreasonable, you can use the small claims procedure in the county court to get the rest of the deposit back. Sometimes the threat of legal action will be enough to make your landlord return the deposit.

Follow the link below for more information about deposits:

Citizens Advice Bureau – Tenancy Deposits