5 things you need to know about tenancy deposits

5 things you need to know about tenancy deposits

Deposits can be a tetchy topic. They’re designed to provide the landlord with a financial commitment - that you’re going to uphold the terms of the tenancy agreement. So before moving into your new rental property, you have to put down a hefty chunk of cash - normally the equivalent of 5 week’s rent.

But remember - you’re not parting with this money forever, it is refundable. If all goes smoothly and you leave the property in the same condition as you found it, you should get the full amount back when you move out. No damage to your bank account - phew!

However, deposits can be pretty costly if you don’t treat the property as you should, or if your landlord claims unfair deductions. Therefore, it’s important to understand the ins and outs, and know what your rights are. From protection schemes to disputes, here are the 5 things you need to know about tenancy deposits.  

1. Deposit protection

It’s now a legal requirement for rental deposits to be protected in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme. Your money will then be kept safe for the duration of your tenancy - it won’t be sitting in the landlord’s bank account, for them to get their hands on.

There are 3 tenancy deposit schemes in the UK:

Once the landlord or letting agent receives your deposit, they must register it with a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days, and let you know which one they’ve used. If they don’t tell you, drop them an email and ask for a copy of the tenancy deposit certificate. If your landlord refuses to use a scheme, you can find advice on what to do from gov.uk ‘If your landlord doesn't protect your deposit’ here.

2. How to get your rent deposit back

When your tenancy comes to an end and you’re all moved out, contact your landlord or letting agent and ask for the deposit to be returned. It’s best to do this via email, as you then have a record of when you requested it.

If all goes to plan, you should receive the full deposit money back within 10 working days. However, the landlord is entitled to make deductions for any significant damage you caused. If you disagree with the landlord’s deductions, it can take significantly longer to sort out.

3. Deposit deductions

In order to stand the best chance of getting your full deposit back, you should look after the property and leave it in the same condition as you found it.

Therefore, it’s crucial to read the inventory report when you move in and when you move out. And yes, you really should read all of it...you might just want to grab a coffee first.

It will detail every room and the contents within it, covering any marks or flaws that were there before you came along. Consider it your guide book, telling you what condition you need to leave the property in when you move out.

If anything has been missed off the inventory report, even small things such as scuffs on a skirting board or a slightly wobbly bathroom handle, request to have them added. Send them across to the landlord or letting agent as soon as possible after you’ve moved in, and make sure you give them photos too.

At the end of your tenancy, the inventory report will be used as a basis from which the landlord makes deductions from your deposit. Most landlords allow a fair amount of general ‘wear and tear’, but they will charge you if they have to cover the cost of repairs.

End of tenancy cleaning can also be a deposit killer; to prevent this from happening have a read of our ‘End of tenancy cleaning tips’. If you’ve failed to pay your latest rent or utilities bills, that will be taken out of your deposit too. To put yourself in the best possible position to get the full amount back, have a read of our ‘20 top tips on how to keep your rental deposit’.

4. Unfair deposit deductions

It is important to remember that landlords cannot take unreasonable amounts of money from your deposit.

For example, they cannot claim money for re-decorating a whole room if you’ve only left a few scuff marks that can be touched up with paint. Also, they cannot claim for damage caused by issues you previously flagged to them and they didn’t get round to fixing.

5. Deposit disputes and how to get help

Things can get sticky if you disagree with the deductions; so first, try to have a conversation with the landlord or letting agent to see if you can come to a mutual agreement.

Again, it’s best to get this in writing. Email them asking for specific details as to why money is being taken off. If they’re charging you the cost of repainting the walls, ask them for a quote to prove how much the work will be.

If they won’t budge and the deductions are unfair, you’ll need to open a formal dispute through your tenancy deposit scheme. All three schemes have their own free ‘alternative dispute resolution’ services, also known as ADR. They then act as an impartial judge, weighing up the evidence to decide whether or not the deductions are reasonable. The final decision is legally binding.

Both you and the landlord will need to give relevant evidence to support your case. You might want to include:

  • The inventory report, along with photos of the condition when you moved out.
  • Copies of letters or emails you sent to the landlord reporting problems that needed to be fixed (e.g a leaky tap), but weren’t, and as a result caused more damage.
  • A receipt if you paid for the property to be professionally cleaned.

You should make your claim within three months of moving out. Once the ADR service has received all the evidence, they’ll make a decision within 28 days. You have to accept whatever the ADR service decides, you cannot challenge it, so fingers crossed for a good outcome!

Whilst you’re here, why not read about ‘How to negotiate rent’ or ‘Does renting boost your credit score?