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Tenancy deposit schemes - overview
Your landlord or letting agent will probably ask for a deposit as security against damage or non-payment of rent. They must use a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme to safeguard your money if your tenancy is an assured shorthold.
The TDP scheme ensures you’ll get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy if you’re entitled to it. You might not get your full deposit back if you:
- owe any rent
- damage the property or furniture
- take, damage or lose anything in the ‘inventory’ - the list of fixtures and fittings
In extreme cases, you also might lose some or all of your deposit if your landlord has to pay court costs after getting a possession order against you to end the tenancy. These costs are often taken out of tenancy deposits kept in schemes.
You shouldn’t lose any of your deposit for fair wear and tear in the property, for example damage that has taken place over time through normal use.
If you find any damaged or worn items when you start your tenancy you should:
- take pictures of the items
- write a short description of the condition of each item in the inventory
- agree in writing with your landlord that your pictures and descriptions are a fair representation of the property at that time
How your deposit is protected
By law, your landlord must protect your deposit if you have an assured shorthold tenancy. The time limit for this is usually 30 days. There are 2 types of TDP scheme they can use:
- Custodial scheme - your landlord pays your deposit into the TDP scheme and the scheme looks after your money
- Insurance-based scheme - your landlord holds on to your deposit and pays insurance to the scheme
Your landlord must confirm numerous pieces of ‘prescribed information’, such as:
- the amount of the deposit you paid
- the address the deposit relates to
- how the deposit will be repaid at the end of the tenancy
Read the full checklist for landlords on GOV.UK.
Your landlord loses the right to evict you without returning your full deposit if they don’t give you all the prescribed information. You can also take them to court for failing to provide it.
Your landlord is breaking the law if they haven’t told you which TDP scheme they’re using within 30 days of taking your money.
Your money is not required to be protected by a TDP scheme if you don’t have an assured shorthold tenancy. Check the other tenancy types on GOV.UK.
Getting your deposit back
At the end of your tenancy you should get your deposit back within 10 days if you and your landlord agree on the amount - for example if there are no disputed deductions.
If your deposit is in a custodial TDP scheme, you might need to complete a form provided by the scheme your landlord uses. The form lets the scheme know you and your landlord agree how much you should get back, in case there are issues relating to the full return of the deposit.
If your deposit is in an insurance-based TDP scheme, your landlord must return your money directly to you. If you disagree about the amount of deposit you should get back, the landlord must give the whole deposit (or the disputed amount) to the TDP scheme, which will then decide who gets what.
If you and your landlord don’t agree how much deposit you should get back
If you disagree how much deposit you should get back, for example if your landlord deducts money for an allegedly missing or damaged item, you can get help from the TDP scheme to resolve the dispute.
Your landlord should have given you details of the scheme when you started your tenancy. If your landlord doesn’t protect your deposit within 30 days of receiving it, or give you all the prescribed information, they can’t evict you without first returning it.
You don’t have to say anything if your landlord hasn’t told you which TDP scheme they’ve chosen. The law is in your favour. If you have to, you can take your landlord to court if they don’t protect your deposit or give you all the prescribed information.
Both types of TDP scheme - custodial and insurance-based - offer a free service for landlords and tenants to sort out deposit disagreements. This service is called alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
The ADR service will help decide how much of your deposit you should get back. It’s worth checking to see if the scheme has a time limit for using ADR.
You and your landlord have to accept the decision of the ADR service.
Your deposit is in a custodial TDP scheme
If your landlord has used a custodial TDP scheme, the scheme will hold on to the disputed amount until an agreement is reached. The scheme will then pay you the rest of your money.
Your deposit is in an insurance-based TDP scheme
If your landlord has used an insurance-based TDP scheme, your landlord must pay you the amount that isn’t being disputed.
For example, if your landlord wants to keep £300 of a £900 deposit to replace damaged furniture, they have to pay you the remaining £600 immediately. They must then give the other £300 to the scheme until you have sorted out the disagreement.
If your landlord still refuses to pay you what you’re entitled to once an agreement is reached, the insurance scheme will pay you instead.
If your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit
If your landlord hasn’t used a TDP scheme, or is late giving you details of the scheme they’ve used, you can claim compensation.
If your landlord doesn’t protect your deposit or give you the details of their chosen scheme you could take them to court. It’s better to wait till after the tenancy has ended before doing this.
If you’re still in the property when the issue is resolved, your landlord is then free to take steps to evict you. You should contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help if you’re thinking of using the courts.
The court can order your landlord to pay you compensation - usually between 1 and 3 times your original deposit. The court can also order your landlord either to return your deposit to you, or to pay your deposit into a scheme.
If your tenancy has already ended
If your tenancy has ended you can take your landlord to court to get your deposit back, up to 6 years after the tenancy has ended. The court can order your landlord to pay you back some or all of your deposit. You might also get compensation via the fine the landlord has to pay if they’ve failed to protect the deposit within 30 days.
You won’t be able to do this if your tenancy ended before 6 April 2012. You can still use the small claims court instead to get your deposit back if this is the case, but the court won’t be able to impose a penalty on top of the original deposit.