Return of the Deposit

Added on November 13th 2020

Lots of tenants worry that they won’t get all of their rental deposit back, or, in the worst-case scenario, any of it at all. Rental deposits in the UK can run into several thousand pounds, so losing some or all of it can be a huge deal to tenants.

In 2007, the government introduced deposit protection schemes to prevent landlords from withholding some or all of their tenants’ deposits and while these schemes have provided some reassurance, many tenants don’t know where they stand. They fear they’ll be at the mercy of an unscrupulous landlord with nowhere to turn. 

Here’s what you need to know, as a tenant, about your rental deposit.

Using a reputable letting agent is vital

If your letting agency has a good reputation to uphold then it’ll only want to work with equally reputable landlords. A good letting agency will filter out unscrupulous landlords so you can be more confident about finding one who will honour the terms of your contract and deposit. 

Always look for letting agencies that are members of ARLA PropertyMark, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or safeagent, as they have to abide by a strict code of practice when dealing with rentals.

The law is on your side

It’s the responsibility of the landlord to place your money in a scheme and to give you the scheme’s details. The scheme should also tell you under which circumstances your landlord can retain all or some of your deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Take the inventory very seriously

There’s no statutory requirement for you and your landlord to agree on a full inventory at the start of your tenancy, but it’s a good idea. If you have a full inventory, with photos of larger items and white goods, then you can argue against claims of excessive wear and tear if they arise.

Fair wear and tear is to be expected and you aren’t, as a tenant, legally-bound to leave the property in exactly the same condition as it was when you moved in. Your landlord should expect some wear and tear and budget accordingly for things like paint touch-ups and new microwaves.

Your landlord has 10 days after the end of the tenancy to return your deposit

Your landlord is legally obliged to return your deposit – minus any reasonable deductions – to you within 10 days after your tenancy ends.

If your deposit returns minus deductions that you think are unreasonable or excessive then you should contact your letting agency ASAP as they can usually help you to resolve the issue.

Making a formal complaint about your landlord

You should make your complaint via email to your letting agent if you have one. If not, you need to complain directly to the landlord

Try to gather photographic evidence, as well as records of phone calls and emails, to back up your complaint. Your agent or landlord should also give you a copy of their complaints procedure.

Most often, complaints are resolved within eight weeks, but if you’re not satisfied or the complaint is taking longer to sort out you can approach the Housing Ombudsman Service.

You have six months from the last response from the landlord or lettings agency to file your complaint.

There’s also the tenancy deposit scheme dispute resolution service

If you decide to use this service then your landlord also has to agree to use it. The service will look at the evidence from both parties and its decision about the deposit is final.

Your last resort is court action

If you believe that your landlord has acted illegally by, for example, not placing your deposit in a protection scheme, then you can take them to court after you’ve complained to your Trading Standards office. 

This can be very stressful for both parties, however, so try to exhaust all other avenues first. Finding a good letting agent is the best preventative measure you can take!

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