You may be asked to pay your landlord/agent a security deposit in case you damage the landlord’s property or furnishings and/or to cover, for example, unpaid bills and unpaid rent. The deposit paid when you sign a tenancy agreement is usually paid as a holding deposit (which turns into a damage deposit when you move in). If you decide not to move in, you may lose the tenancy deposit.
The amount of the deposit varies from tenant to tenant. Commonly, students are asked for a sum equivalent to a month’s rent.
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Protecting your tenancy deposit
For all Assured Shorthold Tenancies, if you pay a deposit, your landlord/agent must protect it using one of three Tenancy Deposit Schemes. The aim of the schemes is to protect private tenants' deposits from being wrongfully withheld by landlords/agents, and help resolve any disputes about the return of deposits.
Make sure you get a receipt for any deposit you pay. Within 30 days of receipt of the deposit, your landlord or agent must give you certain ‘prescribed’ information.
If your landlord/agent hasn’t protected your deposit, the county court can order them to either repay the deposit to you or protect it. Your landlord/agent can also be ordered to repay three times the amount of deposit to you for failing to protect your deposit.
Safeguarding your tenancy deposit
When you move into a property, you should draw up an inventory, or check the existing inventory if there is one. This means you should list all the furniture and fittings in the property and their condition. Make a note on the inventory of any problems you find and also note the general condition of the property (photographs are helpful). To safeguard your deposit take care of the house and furnishings during the time you are there. Towards the end of your tenancy arrange for the landlord to inspect the property, ensure the property is clean for the inspection, and when you leave, ensure all your bills are paid and return all keys to the landlord.
Getting your tenancy deposit back
When your tenancy comes to an end the landlord should return your deposit to you in full if you have kept the property in good condition. The deposit must be returned within 10 days of you and the landlord agreeing how much of the deposit should be returned.
If you have caused damage to the landlord’s property or furnishings, it is reasonable for them to make a deduction from the deposit to cover their losses. It is not reasonable for deductions to be made for everyday wear and tear.
What if the landlord withholds all or part of my tenancy deposit?
If there is a dispute over the return of your deposit, the three tenancy deposit schemes we mentioned above contain a free Alternative Dispute Resolution service to help you resolve your dispute. Students' Union Advice can provide further advice and assistance if you have a deposit dispute with your landlord.
For more advice and information about deposits and other housing payments, please contact SUA.
National Union of Students: Information for students on deposits
Directgov: Information about tenancies, deposits and rents in private renting
Citizens Advice: Factsheet on tenancy deposits
Shelter: Advice on tenancy deposits