Tenancy deposits and landlord responsibility
Before you start renting a property most landlords or letting agents will ask you to pay a tenancy deposit. At the end of your tenancy the deposit should be returned to you (although landlords can deduct money if you owe any rent or have caused damage to the property).
When you pay a deposit for an assured shorthold tenancy (the most common type of private tenancy agreement) your landlord, or agent, must protect your deposit through a government-backed protection scheme. This applies to all assured shorthold tenancies that started, or were renewed, on or after April 6, 2007.
What protection do tenancy deposit schemes provide?
The protection schemes make sure that the money you pay as a tenancy deposit is kept safe.
They guarantee that you will get your deposit back if you:
- meet the terms of your tenancy agreement
- do not damage the property
- pay your rent and bills
If you’re in a dispute with your landlord/agent at the end of your tenancy, then your deposit will be protected in the scheme until the issue is sorted out.
How should landlords/agents protect tenancy deposits?
Your landlord/agent must put your deposit in an approved scheme within 30 days of getting it.
They must use one of the three government approved tenancy deposit schemes. If any other scheme is used, the deposit is not protected in law.
The three approved schemes are:
If your deposit is not protected in one of the approved schemes you can choose to take your landlord to the county court. Your landlord could be ordered to repay the deposit to you, or to pay it into an approved scheme within 14 days.
How will I know if my deposit has been protected?
When your landlord or agent protects your deposit they need to provide you with certain details, called ‘prescribed information’.
This information should be provided to you within 30 days of the deposit being paid and should include:
- contact details for your landlord or letting agent
- contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme they are using
- items or services covered by the deposit
- the circumstances under which your landlord will be able to retain some or all of the deposit
- how to apply to get the deposit back at the end of your tenancy
- what you can do if there is a dispute about the deposit
You should also be given a copy of the deposit protection certificate, which should be signed by your landlord.
You should be given an opportunity to check and sign the document containing the prescribed information, to confirm that its contents are correct.
The regulations mean that the majority of deposits for new assured shorthold tenancies should be protected, however there are some exceptions.
Landlords are not required to register a deposit with one the protection schemes if the:
- landlord is a resident landlord (lives in the same property as the tenant)
- tenancy has a rental value of over £100,000 a year
- landlord is letting out a property through company lets
- property is student accommodation let directly by a university or college