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Getting your tenancy deposit back

This advice applies to England

You'll need to contact your landlord at the end of your tenancy and ask them for your deposit. If your home is managed by a letting agency, you'll need to contact them instead.

It's best to write or email when you ask for your deposit back - if you do, you'll have a record of when you asked for it.

Before you leave the property

You'll have a better chance of getting all or most of your deposit back if you leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in.

It's a good idea to get evidence of the condition of the property when you leave in case you and your landlord disagree on how much deposit you should get back.

If possible, you should:

  • take photos of the property to show how it was when you left
  • get a check-out inventory and ask your landlord to sign it - this could include things like the condition of carpets and walls

Money your landlord might take from your deposit

You might not get the full amount of your deposit back if, for example:

  • you owe rent
  • you've damaged the property - this could be something like a spill on the carpet or a mark on the wall where you've hung a picture
  • you've lost or broken some items from the inventory, like some cutlery or mugs

Money your landlord shouldn't take from your deposit

Your landlord shouldn't take money from your deposit, for example, to:

  • replace a worn carpet with a new one if it's worn out gradually over time
  • fix any damage caused by a repair they didn't do when they should have, for example a leak you told them about that got worse and damaged the floor
  • decorate a whole room if there are a few scuff marks on a wall that have appeared while you've lived in the property

Your landlord can't take money from your deposit for 'reasonable wear and tear' - this means things that would gradually get worse or need replacing over time, for example paintwork, or a piece of furniture.

If your local council paid your deposit

You probably won't get any money back from your deposit if your local council paid it for you or guaranteed it in a bond scheme.

If your landlord takes money from your deposit for any damages or rent that's owed, your local council will have to pay it. You'll probably have to pay them back.

Challenge your landlord

Your landlord can't take unreasonable amounts of money from your deposit. They should tell you why they're taking money off - if they don't, ask them.

It's best to get your landlord's reasons in writing if you can - that way you can refer back to them if you need to take action to get your deposit back.

Ask them for more information about the money they're taking from your deposit if it's not clear. For example, if they've taken money off for decorating, you can ask to see a quote from the decorator to prove how much the work cost.

If you still can't agree with your landlord, you can take further action.

The action you take against your landlord will depend on whether your deposit is protected in a tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) - most deposits should be.

If you're not sure if your deposit is protected, or you don't know what scheme your money is in, find out how to check your landlord has protected your deposit.

If your deposit is protected

You should usually get your deposit back within 10 days of agreeing on the amount with your landlord. It can take a lot longer if you and your landlord disagree on the amount that's being taken off.

Your landlord should have told you what scheme they used - Deposit Protection Service, My Deposits or Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

Use the scheme's free service to get your deposit back

You can use your scheme's 'alternative dispute resolution' (ADR) service to help you get your deposit back.

You should use the ADR service if you can - it's free and easy to make a claim.

You'll usually have to make your claim within 3 months of moving out of the property. Check your scheme's website to find out how to use their ADR service.

You'll have to accept the ADR service's decision.

Explain why you should get your deposit back

You'll need to fill in a form to explain why you think you should get your deposit back. You should give any evidence you have, for example:

  • photos showing the condition of the property when you moved out
  • copies of check-in and check-out inventories if you have them
  • a receipt if you paid for the property to be cleaned professionally
  • letters or emails about problems you reported to your landlord that should have been fixed, for example a leaky toilet that caused further damage

The ADR service will also ask your landlord for their evidence.

Then they'll decide how much money you should get back. They'll make a decision within 28 days of getting evidence from you and your landlord.

You'll get an email or letter within 10 days of the decision. If you have a joint tenancy, the ADR service will write to the person who made the claim.

The ADR service will explain how you'll get any money back that's owed to you. You'll have to accept whatever the ADR service decides - you won't be able to challenge it.

If you're only disputing part of your deposit

If you're only disputing part of your deposit, you'll get the rest of your money back straight away. You'll usually get your money back in 10 days but it'll depend on your situation and what scheme your deposit is in.

Example:
Jim paid a deposit of £500 when he moved into his flat. He's left the flat now but Jim's landlord says he needed to spend £100 on getting the flat cleaned, so he's keeping £100 from Jim's deposit.

Jim disagrees as he's already cleaned the flat so says he wants to use the ADR service. His landlord agrees to use the ADR service.

The amount that's being disputed is £100. This means Jim will get £400 back - usually within 10 days. He'll get the money back from either his landlord or the scheme - it'll depend on what scheme Jim's landlord used.

The ADR service will then decide what happens with the rest of the deposit. Jim will have to accept their decision.

If your landlord refuses to use the ADR service

You'll need to take your landlord to the small claims court to get your money back.

Going to court can be expensive and stressful. You'll have to pay court costs upfront - you might get them back if you win your case.

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you want to take your landlord to court to get your deposit back.

If your deposit isn't protected

Not everyone's deposit needs to be protected. It doesn't need to be protected if, for example, you're a lodger or a student in halls.

Check your landlord has protected your deposit if you're not sure.

If your deposit should be protected

If your deposit should be protected but isn't, you might be able to claim compensation of 1-3 times the amount. You'll also get your deposit back, though there may be money taken off for any damage you've caused or if you owe rent.

You'll have to go to court to get any compensation but you'll probably win your case if your landlord should have protected your deposit. Find out more about getting compensation if your landlord didn't protect your deposit.

If you're not sure, you can find out if your landlord should have protected your deposit.

You can also get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If your deposit didn't need to be protected

If your deposit didn't need to be protected and your landlord refuses to give it back, you might have to take them to court.

Going to court can be expensive and stressful. You'll have to pay court costs upfront but you might get them back if you win your case.

If you lose, you might have to pay your landlord's costs - this could be for things like travel expenses and court fees.

You'll need to take your landlord to the small claims court to get your money back.

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