When you rent a property, your landlord - or the letting agent acting on their behalf - will take an initial deposit to cover any losses they may suffer due to your tenancy.
Under the Tenant Fees Act, this is capped at five weeks’ rent for properties where the annual rent is under £50,000 per year, and six weeks’ rent for properties where the annual rent is more than £50,000 per year. You should get your deposit back when you leave the property, providing you have paid your rent and bills, have not breached your tenancy agreement, and have not caused damage to the property.
In order to ensure that tenants are treated fairly, your letting agent or landlord must ensure your deposit is protected if you are in an assured shorthold tenancy (the most common type of tenancy) which began after the 6th of April 2007. They must use a government-backed tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme so that you know your money is safe.
Once you become a tenant, your deposit must be placed in a TDP within 30 days of the start of your tenancy. Within this time, your letting agent or landlord must also formally notify you of:
- Their name and contact details, or that of the letting agency;
- The address of the property being rented;
- The amount of the deposit;
- The name and contact details of the person who paid the deposit if it was a third party (e.g. a parent);
- How the deposit has been protected, including the TDP’s name, contact details for it and information about its dispute resolution service;
- How to get the deposit back at the end of the tenancy;
- Reasons the landlord might deduct money from the deposit;
- What to do if you cannot contact the landlord when the tenancy ends;
- What to do if you and the landlord have a disagreement over the return of the deposit.
- If you’re not sure if your landlord has actually protected your deposit, you should contact the TDP they claim to have put it into to verify this.
If they have not protected it, or have not given you the information listed above, you can apply to the local county court, who will tell the landlord that they must either protect the deposit within 14 days or repay it to you. They may also demand that the landlord pay you compensation, which can be up to three times the value of the deposit.
A letting agent or landlord who fails to protect your deposit, or provide you with the prescribed information, may also be prevented from serving a notice to evict you from the property after the fixed term ends unless they pay the deposit back to you.
At the end of the tenancy, you and your letting agent or landlord need to reach an agreement on how much of the deposit you will get back. They may make deductions for any loss of money they have experienced due to your actions as a tenant – for example, if you owe them rent or have failed to pay the bills when you should have. You and your landlord need to reach an agreement on how much of the deposit you will get back.
It is your responsibility to keep the house in good condition, and if you do not then the landlord can also deduct money from your deposit to make necessary repairs to the property. However, some natural “wear and tear” will always take place when living in a house, and they cannot reduce the amount of your deposit they return because of this.
For example, if an old carpet is getting worn out and they decide to replace it after you move out, a landlord cannot take money from your deposit to pay for this. However, if the carpet was relatively new when you moved in but you have spilled drinks on it and stained it, they may make a deduction from your deposit to cover the cost of getting the carpet cleaned or replaced, if necessary.
Once you and your landlord agree on how much deposit will be returned to you, it must be paid to you within 10 days. If you can’t reach an agreement, then the TDP in which your deposit is protected can provide a dispute resolution service to help. You and your landlord both need to agree to this.
The TDP’s dispute resolution service will listen to both sides of the story and look at the evidence to decide how much of the deposit should be returned to you. Their decision will be final. If you can’t contact your landlord after the tenancy ends, you should contact the TDP and they will look into the matter and ensure that your deposit is returned to you.
The legal advice in this article was provided by DAS Law, part of the DAS UK Group. This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.