You are usually required to pay your landlord/agent a security deposit in case you damage the landlord’s property or furnishings and/or to cover, for example, cleaning, unpaid bills and unpaid rent. If you pay a deposit when you sign a tenancy agreement, this 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. A 'holding deposit' should be no more than the equivalent of one weeks’ rent
The amount of the damage deposit payable varies, but the maximum amount which can be requested can be no more than the equivalent of 5 weeks rent.
Protecting your tenancy deposit
For all Assured Shorthold Tenancies, if you pay a damage deposit, your landlord/agent must protect it using one of three Tenancy Deposit Schemes. The aim of the schemes is to protect tenants' deposits from being wrongfully withheld by landlords/agents, and to help resolve any disputes about the return of deposits.
Make sure you understand what type of deposit you are paying, and how it will be dealt with. You should get a receipt for any deposit you pay. Within 30 days of receipt of the deposit, your landlord or agent must give you ‘Prescribed Information’ which confirms which scheme your deposit is registered with and the process to follow for the return of your deposit.
If your landlord/agent hasn’t protected your deposit, or provided you with the Prescribed Information within 30 days of payment, the county court can order them to either repay the deposit to you or protect it in a scheme. Your landlord/agent can also be ordered to repay you up to three times the amount of deposit as a penalty for failing to protect your deposit in accordance with the deposit rules.
Safeguarding your tenancy deposit
When you move into a property, your landlord/agent should provide you with an inventory which details all the furniture and fittings in the property and their condition. Make a note on the inventory of any problems you find, and return it to the landlord/agent (check your tenancy agreement to see if there is a deadline to return it). You should take a copy and may also want to take date stamped photos. If no inventory is provided, you could draft your inventory – identifying any arrears of disrepair/uncleanliness etc and send this to the landlord.
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 the property is returned in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy (excepting for fair, wear and tear). The deposit should be returned within 10 days of you and the landlord agreeing how much of the deposit should be returned.
What if the landlord withholds all or part of my tenancy deposit?
If there is a dispute over the return of your deposit, you can challenge deposit deductions with the landlord/ agent and the three tenancy deposit schemes offer a free dispute resolution service. The deadline to raise a dispute is usually 3 months from the tenancy end date, or 3 months minus one day from the date that you vacate the property (My deposits scheme).
For more advice and information about deposits and other housing payments, please contact SU Advice.
Directgov: Information about tenancies, deposits and rents in private renting
Citizens Advice: Getting your tenancy deposit back
Shelter: Tenancy deposit protection rules
Unipol – Deposit overview and tips