Many private rented landlords/agents require students to pay a deposit as a condition of letting accommodation. A deposit is also known as a bond. The deposit acts as security against non-payment of rent, damage to the property, or other breach of the tenancy agreement. Increasingly landlords and letting agents are not charging a deposit. Instead they will ask you to pay the last month or sometimes 2 months’ rent in advance. If this happens the landlord or agent may ask you to pay for damages, or non-payment of rent. If you do not, they may pursue the matter through the county court.
General information about deposits
A deposit or bond is a sum of money which is held against damage to the property, rent/utility arrears, any essential cleaning, removal of large amounts of rubbish, the cost of replacing any locks or keys if not returned on time and anything else the Tenancy agreement might stipulate as appropriate.
If the landlord does not live in the property, you are likely to be an 'Assured Shorthold Tenant'. If the landlord does live in the property, you are likely to be a lodger. There are different rules for deposits depending on whether you are an assured shorthold tenant, or a lodger. This information assumes you are an assured shorthold tenant.
You will usually be asked to pay a deposit as you sign the tenancy agreement. A deposit can be between one - three months’ rent, though can be more if you are unable to provide a guarantor.
If you share accommodation with other tenants under one tenancy agreement, you will have a joint tenancy. Landlords normally take a single deposit for the whole of the joint tenancy. This means that if another tenant doesn't pay their share of the rent, or if they cause damage to the property, your landlord can deduct this amount from the whole deposit. If this happens, you and the other tenants will have to agree on how to divide up the remainder. The deposit protection schemes will usually only deal with the lead name on the tenancy agreement. This person must accept the responsibility as representative of the other joint tenants at a property.
Your deposit must be protected
If you are an assured shorthold tenant, your landlord or agent must protect your deposit in a government-approved Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) Scheme. They should do this within 30 days of receiving it. This is a legal requirement.
There are two types of TDP scheme:
- Custodial scheme - your landlord/agent pays your de
posit into the TDP scheme and the scheme looks after your money.
- Insurance-based scheme - your landlord holds on to your deposit and pays insurance to the scheme.
A TDP scheme will help you get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy if you're entitled to it or help to settle a dispute with the landlord about how much they have deducted from the deposit.
Within 30 days of a deposit being paid, the landlord or agent is required to protect the deposit. The tenant or lead tenant should receive an email from the scheme that includes the name of the tenancy deposit scheme with which the deposit is protected, and an ID number or reference number. If you do not receive this information, then you should contact your landlord or agent immediately via email to request confirmation that the deposit is protected.
Find out if your deposit is protected
You can also contact the tenancy deposit schemes if you're not sure whether your deposit has been protected. You need a postcode, surname, tenancy start date and deposit amount to search.
Deposit Protection Service
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
- Telephone - Insured (landlord/agents holds the deposit): 0300 037 1000
- Telephone - Custodial (TDS holds the deposit): 0300 037 1001
How to make sure you get your deposit back
At the start of the tenancy make sure you have an inventory
An inventory is a record of the state of the property and the furniture and fittings provided in it. It should specify the condition of items and of the property generally. Having an inventory can help prevent disputes about the deposit at the end of the tenancy. It can also be important evidence in any dispute proceedings. It's best to have a written inventory that is signed by you and the landlord when you move in.
If your landlord provides an inventory, check it carefully before signing it. Do not sign the inventory if you disagree with it. If it isn't accurate and you agree to it, the discrepancies could be deducted from your deposit when the tenancy ends.
If your landlord doesn't provide an inventory, you should draw one up yourself and ask the landlord or an independent witness to sign it.
It is also very useful to take photographs to accompany the inventory. If you want extra protection, consider emailing or posting photographs of the property to the landlord/agent by tracked delivery
Make sure your tenancy deposit is protected and if is not contact your landlord or agent immediately to query this.
During your Tenancy
- Report any defects or repair issues via email as soon as you notice them
- Keep the house reasonably clean and tidy
- If a tenant breaks anything where possible, fix or replace it
- Never use bluetack, you will be charged for repainting the whole room or wall
- Be careful of marks caused by bikes stored in hallways
- Pay all utility bills on time
- Keep records of any money paid to the landlord or agent
- Keep records of repair requests
At the end of the Tenancy
- Clean the property thoroughly, and try to leave it in in the same condition it was at the beginning of the tenancy, or better
- Remove all rubbish from the property
- Make sure all furniture is in the place it was at the start of the tenancy
- Make sure the rent payments are up to date
- Make sure all utility bills are paid and that you can prove Council Tax exemption
- Take photographs of each room of the property, detailed picture of damaged items and the inside of ovens, fridges and cupboards
The landlord or agent should meet with one or all of the tenants at the property to agree the condition and any deduction to be made from the deposit. All parties should agree and sign the closing inventory or note where there is a disputed item.
If you do not get your deposit back promptly or there are deductions made that you believe are unreasonable you must raise a dispute within 3 months of the last day of your tenancy. This is very important because your tenancy deposit protection might expire.
What can be claimed from a deposit?
Your landlord should only make deductions from your deposit for things that cost them money. You might not get your full deposit back if you:
- Owe any rent
- Damage the property or furniture
- Lose or damage anything in the 'inventory'
- Leave the property in a dirty condition
- Unpaid utility bills
- Failure to provide evidence of Council Tax exemption
You might also lose some or all of your deposit if your landlord has to pay court costs for action against you.
You shouldn't lose any of your deposit for reasonable wear and tear in the property, for example damage that has taken place over time through normal use. This could be the carpet becoming worn.
Anything which needs to be repaired or replaced should be on a 'like or like' basis, so a second-hand desk shouldn't be replaced with a brand new one at the tenant's expense.
You can ask your landlord/agent to show you receipts or estimates for anything they want to deduct from your deposit.
Disagree with the deductions?
At the end of your tenancy you should get your deposit back within ten days if you and your landlord are in agreement. If you disagree how much deposit you should get back, for example if your landlord deducts money for something you disagree with, you should try reasoning with the landlord/agent first. If that does not work, your TDP scheme can help resolve the dispute without going to court.
Raising a Dispute with Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Find the details of the scheme that should have been given to you within 30 days of the start of your tenancy agreement. Both types of TDP scheme - custodial and insurance-based - offer a free service for landlords and tenants to sort out deposit disagreements. This service is called alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
The ADR service will help you decide how much of your deposit you should get back. Most schemes will have a strict time limit for using ADR and it is important that you are aware of this time limit.
Custodial schemes and Insurance based schemes work differently in resolving disputes. You can find out about the process on the schemes website and there will be an online tool to raise the dispute.
Deposit Protection Service Dispute
Tenancy Deposit Scheme Dispute
If your landlord hasn't protected your deposit
If your landlord hasn't used a TDP scheme, or is late giving you details of the scheme they've used, you can claim compensation.
If your landlord doesn't protect your deposit or give you the details of their chosen scheme you could take them to court. It's better to wait until the tenancy has ended before doing this.
The court can order your landlord to pay you compensation - usually between one and three times your original deposit. The court can also order your landlord either to return your deposit to you, or to pay your deposit into a scheme.
There are now a many law firms providing a “no win no fee “service for claiming compensation for an unprotected tenancy deposit. Student Advice cannot recommend a particular service. If you decide to use such a service be sure to check the fees you will be charged should the claim be successful. Be aware taking a claim to court yourself may not difficult and you should be able to take the case to court yourself. Student Advice can help you. You will find very helpful information on Shelter England’s webpages
What happens if you decide to withhold your rent?
If you think that you and your landlord are likely to disagree about the return of the deposit, you might decide to withhold some or all of the last rent payment.
It's important to remember that you are legally liable to pay your rent and if you withhold it, your landlord may take court action to recover the debt.
If nonetheless, you decide that you want to withhold the rent, you should keep the money in a separate bank account in case your landlord does try to claim it back.