Getting your tenancy deposit back
If you paid a deposit at the start of your tenancy, you have the right to get it back at the end. Your landlord or letting agent can only take money off if there’s a good reason - for example if you’ve damaged the property.
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.
If you and your landlord or letting agent agree how much you should get back, you’ll usually get the money within a couple of weeks.
Before you leave the property
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. The evidence will help you argue you should get all or most of your deposit 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
Check if your landlord can take money from your deposit
Your landlord or letting agent can only take money from your deposit if there's a good reason. For example, they can usually take money off if:
- 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
Your landlord or letting agent should tell you why they're taking money off. Ask them to give you their reasons in writing - that way you can refer back to them if you need to take action to get your deposit back.
Your landlord or letting agent can't take money from your deposit for 'reasonable wear and tear'. This means things that gradually get worse or need replacing over time, for example paintwork, or a piece of furniture.
Your landlord also can'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
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.
If you think you should get more of your deposit back
If you want more information about the money your landlord or letting agent wants to take from your deposit, ask them:
- why they’re taking the money
- how they worked out how much to take off your deposit
For example, if they've taken money off to replace something you damaged, you can ask to see a quote to prove how much the replacement cost.
If you still can't agree with your landlord, there are things you can do to get your deposit back.
The action you take against your landlord will depend on whether your deposit is protected in a tenancy deposit scheme (TDS). They must put your deposit in a TDS if you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.
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 can use your scheme's 'alternative dispute resolution' (ADR) service to help you get your deposit back. It's free and easy to make a claim.
You'll usually have to make your claim to the ADR service within 3 months of moving out of the property. If your landlord or letting agent refuses to use the ADR service you can take them to court instead.
If you agree about part of your deposit, you should get back the money you agree on quickly. You'll usually get your money back in 10 days - it depends on your situation and what scheme your deposit is in.
Jim wants to get his £500 deposit back. Jim's landlord says he will keep £100 from Jim's deposit to get the flat cleaned. Jim disagrees as he's already cleaned the flat. He applies to the ADR service.
The amount they disagree on is £100. This means Jim will get £400 back - usually within 10 days. The ADR service will then decide what happens with the rest of the deposit.
After the ADR service gets evidence from both you and your landlord or letting agent, they’ll send you a final decision within 6 weeks by email or letter. They’ll explain how you'll get any money back that's owed to you.
You and your landlord will have to accept whatever the ADR service decides - you won't be able to challenge it.
Check your scheme's website to find out how to use their ADR service.
Applying to the ADR service
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
If you’re not sure whether some evidence is helpful, it’s best to send it anyway.
The ADR service will also ask your landlord for their evidence.
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.
You'll usually have to pay some court costs to go to small claims court - you should get the costs 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.
Talk to an adviser if you want help taking 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 you agree about part of your deposit, your landlord or letting agent might send you the money you agree on straight away. For example, if your landlord wants to keep £100 of your deposit, you could ask them to send you the rest of the deposit straight away.
If you can’t agree about some or all of your deposit, you might have to take your landlord to the small claims court to get your money back.
You'll usually have to pay some court costs to go to small claims court but you should 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.
Talk to an adviser if you need help taking your landlord to court to get your deposit back.
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