Deposits are usually taken by a landlord/lady or agency to cover any unpaid rent or bills, repairs due to damage/negligence by the tenant, or cleaning necessary after you've left.
Your tenancy agreement or licence should ideally specify what the deposit is meant to cover.
- You should not have any money taken from your deposit to cover fair wear and tear.
- There is no legal maximum deposit, but the amount is normally equivalent of one or two months' rent.
- Don't pay a deposit until you've signed a tenancy agreement or licence to occupy.
- When you pay the deposit, make sure that you get a signed receipt (or scheme certificate) for the full amount paid which clearly sets out what the deposit covers.
- Check how quickly you will get your deposit back once you have left the property.
- If you have a joint tenancy, money can be taken from all your deposits to cover damage, cleaning and bills for any part of the property or share of bills outstanding.
- If you have an individual agreement, you can only have money taken from your deposit to cover repairs or cleaning caused by your actions, or for your share of outstanding bills.
All tenants signing a new Assured Shorthold Tenancy will have their deposit placed into one of three Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes, which will ensure that your deposit is protected. You should receive a certificate which details the scheme protecting your deposit. Deposits held under the scheme should be returned within 10 days of the tenancy ending, unless there are disputes. For full information check out www.direct.gov.uk/tenancydeposit and Deposit Protection and Tenancy Deposit Schemes.
If you are not covered by the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme and you have not had your deposit returned within a reasonable amount of time, or are not happy with the amount that has been deducted, then contact the Advice Centre. We will be able to advise you on the appropriate steps to take and the best course of action to follow.
If you have any questions about your deposit, including whether it is supposed to be protected or not, then contact the Advice Centre. Don't leave it until you are due to move out to sort!
Ensuring You Don't Lose Your Deposit
Moving In and Inventories
On the day that your contract or licence starts, visit the property with the agent or property owner, and fill in and sign an inventory. If the agent or landlord/lady doesn't provide one of these, you can do one yourself. The Advice Centre can provide you with a draft form to start you off! Download this document for more information.
As well as making a record of all the items in the house, make a note on their condition - for example, if a kitchen chair has a ripped back or there are cigarette burns on the carpet, note this on the inventory and make sure that you keep a copy. Also note the overall condition of the property.
It may seem a bit of a hassle but having a completed and signed inventory can really help you out if you have problems getting any of your deposit back when you leave - so take your time and make sure that it is accurate.
If anything needs repairing, tell the landlord/lady or agent immediately and back this up in writing with a letter clearly stating the problem. Keep a copy of this letter and any others that you send during your occupancy of the property.
If there are any serious problems or the house is really messy or dirty upon your arrival, it is worth taking photographs. These can be very useful if problems arise later.
Try to get someone who isn't going to be living in the property to witness that you are taking the photographs on the day that you are moving in, or take photos with a camera that displays the date.
Always take an inventory!
Moving Out Checklist
Contact the landlord/lady or agent a month before you know you will be moving out and arrange for them to do a final inspection of the property on the day that you leave. Make sure that you leave the property clean and tidy, even if it wasn't when you moved in. Download this document for more information.
On the day you leave, take final meter readings and notify the gas, electricity, water, phone companies etc. that you have left and give your new address where the bills can be sent. If anything is damaged, make a list of what is damaged and how. If you are concerned about losing your deposit, take photographs of the damage, preferably with a camera that will display the date.
If you are concerned generally about getting your deposit back, take photographs of each room and get someone who hasn't lived in the house to confirm that the photos were taken on the day you moved out.
Return the keys on time and give a forwarding address to the landlord/lady or agent.
If your deposit is held in one of the deposit protection schemes then it should be returned to you, less any deductions, within 10 days of the tenancy ending. The amount the landlord has deducted becomes the 'disputed' amount and you can proceed to the scheme's free alternative dispute resolution service (ADR) if you wish to challenge the deductions the landlord has made. For more info check out www.direct.gov.uk/tenancydeposit.
What To Do If Your Deposit Is Not Returned
If you are not covered by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme then wait at least 14 days, unless you have specifically agreed something different. Write a letter to the landlord/lady or agent asking for the return of your deposit within the next 7 days. Keep a copy of this and any other letters that you send. If you don't hear from the landlord/lady or agent within this time, or if the reasons you are given for the withholding of any part of your deposit are unfair or unclear, get advice immediately.
You can take legal action to recover your money through the small claims court, which isn't as difficult or as daunting as it sounds and can be done without a solicitor. For more information, see the Advice Centre leaflets entitled 'Moving In', 'Moving Out' and 'Inventory'.
For more information about the return of a deposit please read this blog by Red Brick.
If you are an Assured Shorthold Tenant, the landlord/lady cannot pass on responsibility to you for repairs on the 'exterior, structure or installations of the building'.
- Repairs to the structure, i.e. roof, windows, walls, floors
- Repairs to the outside of the building, i.e. guttering and drainpipes
- Repairs needed on plumbing, toilets, basins etc.
- Repairs on the installations for the supply of electricity, gas, heating, water heating etc.
You will have to do minor repairs like changing fuses and unblocking sinks.
How To Get Repairs Done
The landlord/lady is not responsible for repairs until they have been told that there is a problem. If you tell them verbally, follow it up in writing, clarifying the details. Keep a copy of this and any other letters you send. Arrange a mutually convenient time for the landlord/lady to come and do the repair.
Unless it is an emergency, you have a right to be given notice of when the landlord/lady or their builders will be visiting. Give the landlord/lady a reasonable amount of time to get the work done. Allow 7 days for non-urgent repairs and 24 hours if there is a risk to health.
If you receive no response after a reasonable amount of time, send a second letter by registered post. In this letter, give the landlord/lady a deadline to get the repair done - and threaten to take further action if this deadline isn't met. Don't withhold rent as a way of trying to make your landlord do the work as you could leave yourself open to potential eviction issues.
For more information about repairs, see the Advice Centre leaflet entitled 'Repairs' which can be downloaded here