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How to Get your Deposit Back as a Tenant

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 5 Mar 2013 |
Deposit Money Back Tenant Landlord Costs

The law relating to tenancy deposits for assured shorthold tenancies changed on 6th April 2007. From that date all new, renewed or replaced tenancies must be covered by the Deposit Protection Scheme. The new legislation is intended to resolve disagreements between tenants and landlords related to the return of the deposit.

There are severe penalties for the landlord in the case of non-compliance – they can be made to pay the tenant three times the value of the initial deposit. There are two types of scheme: the custodial scheme and the insurance scheme.

Custodial Scheme

Under this scheme, the deposit is paid to the Deposit Protection Service, which retains the deposit for the whole tenancy. It is the only custodial scheme, which is funded entirely by the interest earned on the deposits it holds.

The landlord (or agent) must provide the tenant, within 14 days of the start of the tenancy, details as to the deposit scheme, the purpose of the deposit scheme, the landlord’s details, how to apply to get their money back and what to do in the event of a dispute over the deposit.

If there is no dispute at the end of the tenancy, the deposit is divided (if this has been agreed, e.g. to cover cleaning costs) and returned as appropriate. If there is a dispute, the scheme retains the full deposit until such time as an agreement is reached whether through dispute resolution or determination through the courts.

Insurance-Based Schemes

There are two providers who offer this type of deposit protection: The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) and Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd (TDSL.) The main difference with this scheme is that instead of paying the deposit to the scheme, the landlord pays an insurance premium to the scheme. However, the deposit scheme still retains responsibility for the deposit.

As with the custodial scheme, the landlord (or agent) has to provide certain details to the tenant within 14 days of the commencement of the tenancy. These include the details of the deposit scheme and its purpose, how to apply for their money back, the terms and conditions of the scheme and what to do in the event of a dispute – as well as contact details of the landlord (or agent.)

Tips For Getting Your Money Back

When you move into a property, make sure you check the inventory thoroughly before you sign it. If your property is managed by a lettings agency, they may appoint a representative to inspect the property at the time you move in and take photographs of it to prove the condition it was in at the start of the tenancy.

If there is a problem with the property, for example, water starts to leak through the ceiling, make sure you report this to your landlord or agent as soon as possible. At the end of the tenancy, make sure you leave the property in a clean and tidy state. Although your landlord will probably get the property professionally cleaned after you leave, it will be much harder for them to argue that the property needs professional fumigation, for example!

To protect yourself further, take photographs of the property just before you leave (even better, with a copy of that day’s paper in each picture.) In the event of a dispute, you will be able to prove that was the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy.

Tenancies That Started Before April 2007

The only tenancies that will not apply to the deposit protection scheme are those that started before 6th April 2007, and have not been renewed with a new agreement since then (e.g. if there hasn’t been an increase in rent). If this is the case, at the end of your tenancy you will take the matter up directly with your landlord (or managing agent, if there is one) and determine the matter between yourselves.

If the matter cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, you can take your landlord to court. If, as in most cases, the deposit is under £5000, you would lodge a claim in the Small Claims Court.

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