A tenancy deposit is the amount of money, normally one month’s rent (legally it can't be more than five weeks rent), that is paid at the beginning of your contract that your landlord or agent keeps until the end of your contract.

The deposit protects them (and you) if there is any damage or unpaid rent during your time in the property. Landlords are required by law to protect your deposit in a deposit protection scheme if you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

If you live in University accommodation or rent a room in a house with the owner (i.e. you are a lodger) they do not legally have to protect your deposit.

The three government-approved schemes are:

If your landlord is using any other scheme your deposit is not protected. Make sure you ask which scheme your landlord plans to use.

Only Deposits Are Protected

If your landlord or agent says they are not taking a deposit but instead want higher administration charges, higher advanced rent payments or some other returnable fee they may be trying to avoid their legal obligations.

Under law a deposit must be protected for the full duration of your contract, but non-deposit alternatives do not have the same legal protection and you may lose your money.

Make sure you're paying a deposit and not an unprotected alternative.

What About Holding Deposits?

You may be asked to pay a Holding Deposit to reserve a property. This can be no more than one weeks rent and is not subject to the same protection a Tenancy Deposit.

Check the conditions before paying the deposit. If you choose not to sign the contract after paying a Holding Deposit you may lose your money.

Before Paying Your Deposit

  • Never pay any money until you have signed your contract, if you change your mind over the house you could lose your deposit.
  • Check how much you're being asked to pay, it should be no more than five weeks rent.
  • If you pay cash for your deposit get a receipt and attach it to your housing contract so it doesn’t get lost.
  • Once you’ve paid a deposit, most landlords will have to protect the money in a tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days. Your landlord has to let you know which scheme they are with when they give you your tenancy agreement.

After Paying Your Deposit

Within 30 days of paying a deposit you must be given the following information:

  • The address of the rented property
  • How much deposit you’ve paid and how it is protected
  • The name and contact details of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme and its dispute resolution service
  • Their (or the letting agency’s) name and contact details
  • The name and contact details of any third party that’s paid the deposit
  • Why they would keep some or all of the deposit
  • How to apply to get the deposit back
  • What to do if you can’t get hold of the landlord at the end of the tenancy
  • What to do if there’s a dispute over the deposit

You can also check that your deposit is protected by following these steps provided by Shelter.

What If My Landlord Doesn't Do What They're Supposed To?

There are a few ways a Landlord can fail to meet the requirements:

  • Take longer than 30 days to protect your deposit.
  • Take longer than 30 days to tell you which scheme they are using.
  • Not protect your deposit.

Any of these could lead to court proceedings to ask for compensation but before you start any proceedings you should get advice from either Your Advice Service or a lawyer as there are risks involved if you do not succeed.

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