What can a landlord deduct from your deposit UK?

What can a landlord deduct from your deposit UK?

Hearing the word “deposit” is something lots of renters dread. Paid before moving into a property, a deposit is a hefty sum for most renters – usually around four or five weeks’ rent. They’re designed to provide the landlord with a financial commitment that you will uphold the terms of the Tenancy Agreement.

But the good news is that you’re not waving goodbye to this money forever; it’s refundable. As long as you don’t damage the property, your bank balance shouldn’t be damaged by your landlord.

Before you rent a place, it’s important to understand what landlords can deduct from your deposit, so you can avoid deposit deductions when you move out. This guide will explain the ins and outs of deposits to help you get yours back at the end of your tenancy.

What can a landlord deduct from a deposit?

When you pay a rental deposit, your landlord should protect it by putting it in a tenancy deposit protection scheme. This has been a legal requirement since 2007, to make sure landlords don't spend your money during a tenancy. Within 30 days of moving in, you should receive a certificate confirming that the deposit has been placed in one of the schemes – this is where it should stay until the end of your tenancy. However, getting your deposit protected and getting it back are two different things.

There are many reasons why your landlord can make tenancy deposit scheme deductions. When it comes to deposits, one of the most common questions renters ask is: can a landlord keep a deposit for unpaid rent (UK)? The answer is yes. It’s one of the most common reasons for losing part or all of your deposit. The other reason being for unpaid bills. If you leave your landlord short of finances through any period of your tenancy, they will probably deduct the amount owed to them from the deposit.

Even if you pay all of your rent and settle your bills, other things might jeopardise the return of your deposit. So, what other reasons can a landlord keep a deposit? Here’s a list of some common examples we’ve compiled:

  • Stolen furniture or appliances belonging to the landlord.
  • Damage to the property and contents, like stains, burns, breaking things, or picture holes in the walls.
  • Damage related to negligence and lack of maintenance, like not airing the bathroom after showering, allowing mould to form and build up or allowing the garden to become overgrown.
  • Not cleaning the property at the end of the tenancy.
  • Leaving your belongings in the property after the keys are returned, without arranging their pick up.

Landlords and unfair deposit deductions (UK)

Having detailed the reasonable deductions a landlord can make, there are of course some unfair deposit deductions a landlord may try to make from your deposit. However, a landlord shouldn’t be able to make deposit deductions for the following:

  • Fair wear and tear
  • Any fees related to the letting of the property once you have given notice
  • Improvements to the property
  • Structural damage to the property
  • Damage that occurred before you moved in

If a landlord makes a claim against your deposit that you think is unfair, the best way to resolve it is by taking a look at your rental inventory as this details and proves the condition of a property at the start of your tenancy. Once you've referred to your rental inventory, and if you still think the proposed deduction is unfair you should talk to your landlord to try and resolve any disputes. You can dispute deposit deductions if you and your landlord can’t agree on deductions to be taken. And if you find yourself in this position, you can get in touch with Citizens Advice for more help.

How long can a landlord hold a deposit?

At the end of your tenancy, you’ll be itching to get your deposit back – whether it's to help pay for moving costs or using the money to pay for a deposit on a new place. Hopefully, you and your landlord have agreed there’s been no damage to a property, or you’ve agreed that some of your deposit should be deducted. Either way, you’ll want that hefty sum back ASAP. To get your deposit returned to you, you need to ask for it back in writing. The simplest way to do so is to send a short email to your landlord or agent when you’ve moved out asking for its return. After that, your landlord has 10 days to return your full or partial deposit.

Things are a bit different if you’re in a dispute with your landlord. If that happens you won’t be able to get your deposit back until the dispute is sorted, but it should remain in a tenancy protection scheme until the issue has been figured out. And remember at the start of your tenancy, your landlord or letting agent should send you a certificate confirming that your deposit has been entered into a protection scheme.  

A final few things

The most common reasons a landlord will keep a deposit is for unpaid rent or bills. If you cause damage to the property a landlord might be able to keep part of your deposit too. Want more tips to avoid deductions from your deposit? Read our 20 top tips on how to keep your rental deposit.

The easiest way to ensure you get your deposit back is to leave the property in the condition you found it at the beginning of your tenancy. When it's time to move out, you should make sure you clean the property from top to bottom. Check out our end of tenancy cleaning tips: a checklist to a spotless home to help you do so.

Avoid deposit disputes by ensuring you get a rental inventory when you start your tenancy. For the lowdown on why you need one, take a look at our ​​Rental Inventory Guide 2022.