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, and will instead 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.
Remember: any disputes concerning your deposit must be raised by you. Further guidance on raising a dispute can be found on our Deposit Dispute webpage.
What is a deposit?
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 have a Standard Occupation Contract. There are different rules for deposits if you live in the same building as your landlord. This information assumes you do not.
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.
Deposit Protection Schemes
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. They must also inform you that your deposit has been protected within this time frame. This is a legal requirement.
There are two types of TDP scheme:
- Custodial scheme - your landlord/agent pays your deposit 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 want to deduct. The three TDP schemes are
Make sure your deposit is protected
The landlord or agent is legally obliged to protect the deposit within 30 days of it being paid. 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.
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.
What to do if your landlord has not protected your deposit
If your landlord hasn't used a TDP scheme, or does not you details of the scheme they've used, you can make an application to court to order that:
- your deposit is protected or returned to you and/or
- you are paid compensation of between 1 and 3 times the amount of the deposit.
1. Send a letter warning of legal action.
You will need to send your landlord a 'letter before action' and give them formal opportunity to put things right before you apply to court. The letter should detail
- when you paid your deposit;
- the fact that the landlord/agent are legally obliged to protect your deposi within 30 days receiving it;
- a reasonable deadline in which to protect your deposit and provide the required information about where it is protected; and
- that you will be applying to the court to have the money refunded or protected and to claim compensation up to the value of 3 x the deposit if they do not do so.
Shelter Cymru offer many useful template letters you can use to help you with this.
2. Issue a claim
If the landlord does not protect your deposit after a letter before action, you can apply to the court. To do so, you will need to download an N208 Claim Form and follow the N208A Notes for Claimant.
If you are a joint tenant, all the tenants must make the application jointly. If one of the joint tenants has disappeared, you will need to ask the court to make an order that the claim can go ahead without the missing tenant.
In the ‘Details of claim’ section, set out
- the question(s) you wish the court to decide - this is if and how much of your deposit should be returned to you and if your landlord should pay you compensation;
- the remedy you are seeking - this the return/protection of your deposit and/or compensation;
- the legal basis for your claim - this is your landlord’s breach of sections 213 Housing Act 2004 and the applicable penalties under 214 Housing Act 2004; and
- which Part of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) you are making your claim under - this is Part 8.
- You can ask the court to order that your landlord pays your court fee for starting the application. If you win the case the court will usually agree to this.
- If you are claiming a refund of your deposit as part of the claim, you can ask the court to order that your landlord pays you interest on the amount you are owed, payable from the date the deposit/part of the deposit should have been returned to you.
You should include any relevant evidence you have to support your claim. Relevant evidence could include:
- a copy of your tenancy agreement
- evidence that a deposit was paid and when it was paid
- the tenancy deposit protection scheme certificate (if you have one)
- copies of letters and/or emails to and from your landlord
- details of enquiries you have made with tenancy deposit schemes to see if your deposit is protected.
Make copies of your claim, your evidence and the N208C Notes for Defendant for you, the court and each defendant (the defendant will be your landlord(s)). When you have done this, keep your copy somewhere safe and send the copies for the court and defendant(s) to the court office. The court will send your claim onto your landlord, along with a response pack, which includes forms for them to fill in and return.
You will usually need to pay a fee to issue a claim but you may be able to claim money off your court fees if you are on a low income.
What happens next depends on your landlord:
- If they do not respond to your claim within 14 days, you can ask the court to make ‘judgment in default.’ If this happens, there won’t be a hearing and the judge will make a decision based on the information you have provided in your claim.
- If they admit owing you money, they should complete an admission form with an offer of payment. You can then consider whether you accept their offer and complete the Notice of Admission. The court will then decide whether to list a hearing. You should carefully consider any offers your landlord makes you to settle the case, even if it is not the full amount you have claimed. The court may decide that you should have to pay some of your landlord’s costs for coming to court if you refuse what they consider to be a reasonable offer.
- If the landlord disputes your claim, your claim will progress to a hearing. The court will send you a copy of your landlord’s response and give you a date to attend. You may also be asked to send in extra documents/evidence that you want the court to consider and a written statement setting out the history of what has happened. You will need to include a ‘statement of truth’ on any witness evidence, stating “I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true” and make sure it is signed. The same applies if you have asked anyone else to do a witness statement to support your claim. Usually the deadline for getting the information to the court is 14 days before the hearing.
The court hearing should be informal and you should be able to represent yourself. Your landlord may be represented by someone else such as a solicitor. The judge will ask questions based on the evidence provided and make a decision about your claim.
Looking after your deposit
Unfortunately, many landlords and agents attempt to deduct from your deposit at the end of your tenancy without good reason. It is important that you take all reasonable steps early on, to make sure you get your deposit back at the end.
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. It is vital that you raise these issues when checking the inventory to save yourselves the hassle at the end of your tenancy.
- 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. A good inventory should also list the condition of the property and its contents, including notes of all damage, dirt and marks, scuffs, mould etc.
- Some contracts may also include a timescale to return the inventory, meaning that issues not reported within that time may be deemed to have been accepted as accurate. This can cause problems when trying to get your deposit back. Make sure that you are aware of any timescales and that you adhere to these - they should be stated on your contract or noted by your landlord/agent on the inventory. If you are in any doubt, ask. The quicker you get a detailed inventory back to the landlord/agent, the stronger your argument for not having caused the issues noted.
- 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. They may dispute the date of the photographs if you fail to send them at the time - alternatively, you could ensure that the camera that you use ensures that the photos are date and time stamped. Further advice is available on our Moving In page.
During Your Tenancy
It is also important that you keep the landlord updated throughout your tenancy to ensure that any defects or disrepair are reported and fixed. If you do not report issues and these cause additional damage to the property, you can become liable for that damage.
- 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 blue tac, or be prepared to re-paint your room if you do. Blu Tac leaves stains in the walls that the landlord can claim as damage and can charge you for repainting the whole room or wall. This can be very expensive.
- Be careful of marks caused by bikes stored in hallways. These can also be argued as damage by the landlord, who can then charge you for the cost of repainting or making good.
- Pay all utility bills on time and keep proof of doing so.
- Keep records of any money paid to the landlord or agent.
- Keep records of all repair requests and responses from the landlord/agency.
At the end of your tenancy
- Make sure the rent payments are up to date
- Go through your contract and check what it says about leaving the property. Most contracts state that you must leave the property in at least as good a condition as it was in when the tenancy started. Most also say that furniture needs to be in its original position and the property and garden clean and empty.
- If you live in a shared property and you are all named on the same contract, you will all be jointly and severally liable for any damage done and any cleaning not done. This means that the landlord can argue a deduction from everyone’s deposit and pursue all tenants equally. It is really important that you all work together as much as possible because one tenant can cause all to lose money.
- In terms of condition, the next thing you will need to check is your inventory, if you have one. The inventory will be used by the landlord as evidence of the condition and cleanliness of the property when you moved in. If it says that everything was clean and there was no damage, you will need to leave it like that. If you don't, the landlord will have a strong case to argue deductions from your deposit.
- You are normally expected to leave a rental property 'professionally clean', which usually includes cleaning skirting boards, windows, windows sills, removing stains from grout in bathrooms and cleaning ovens and defrosting and cleaning fridge freezers. If you have evidence that the property was not clean when you moved in, you can use this as an argument not to clean as thoroughly on leaving.
- Remove all rubbish from the property (don’t just leave it outside - you may still be charged)
- The last person in the property will need to read the meters when they leave and inform any companies you use that you have moved out. We recommend that you take photographs of these as proof. Some companies, such as broadband providers, may ask for notice to cancel a contract and you will be liable to pay during the notice period. You can avoid paying for services after the tenancy ends by making sure you give the required notice in advance.
- The last person in the property will also need to take detailed photographs of all cleaning done and the condition of the property and its contents when they left. This includes skirting boards, inside the oven/fridge/freezer, under beds, the walls in the hallway and anywhere else where the letting agent may try to say you haven’t cleaned. Send the photos to the others in your group immediately so you have a record of the time and date.
- Each tenant will need to return their key to the landlord or letting agent.
- If your contract says that you need to send proof of all the final bills being paid for the property, make sure this is done or your deposit return could be delayed.
- Request a return of your deposit.
The landlord or agent should meet with one or all of the tenants at the property to agree the condition and any deductions to be made from the deposit. All parties should agree and sign the closing inventory or note where there is a disputed item. Landlords then have 10 days from the agreement of the deposit to return it to the lead tenant, but it can be a much longer process if there is a dispute on the amount to be returned.
Further advice is available on what to do if you have problems getting your deposit back on our Deposit Disputes webpage.
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