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25 Sep 2020
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

Deposit protection schemes


A lock sitting on top of a pile of coins

Before you move in, make sure your deposit is in safe hands.

You sometimes hear stories about tenants who can't get their deposits back.

And, given that deposits tend to be around five weeks' worth of rent, it's no small amount.

This is why all landlords must put tenants' deposits into a deposit protection scheme.

Here's how it works.


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What is a deposit protection scheme?

A deposit protection scheme is a government-approved safeguard for your deposit. You might also see it called ‘tenancy deposit protection’.

When you end your tenancy, your landlord should give your full deposit back to you. They may make some deductions for valid reasons.

READ MORE: Tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities


What deposit protection schemes are available?

In England and Wales, there are three deposit protection schemes:

In Scotland, the schemes are:

In Northern Ireland, the schemes are:


How do deposit protection schemes work?

Your landlord should put your deposit into a protection scheme within 30 days of getting it from you.

When your tenancy ends, they must give your deposit back within 10 days after you’ve agreed the final amount.

So long as you pay your rent and bills on time and don’t damage the property, you should be able to get your full deposit back.

Your landlord has 30 days to send you information about the deposit protection, including:

  • Details of the particular protection scheme

  • Under what circumstances they might keep some of the deposit

  • How you can get your deposit back

  • How to handle disputes.

For more information, visit GOV.UK.


How do I know if my deposit is protected?

If your landlord has given you the right information:

  • You can check on the relevant protection scheme website with your details to see if the deposit is there.

If not:

  • You can contact the three deposit schemes in your country with your details. They can search for you.


What do I do if my deposit isn’t protected?

The easiest first step is to talk to your landlord and come to an agreement. Write to them so you’ve a record of it.

If this doesn’t work, you can apply to your local county court. If successful, this will force the landlord to protect your deposit, or give you compensation.

It costs £308 to take the matter to court. You might be able to reclaim this cost from your landlord if you win your case. Given the costs involved, this should be a last resort.


Can I dispute it if my landlord doesn’t give me the full deposit back?

Yes, you can.

Even while the dispute process is ongoing, your deposit is still protected.

Your deposit protection scheme should have a dispute service that you can use. Check their website for more details.

There may be a time limit on when you can dispute, so it’s worth getting in touch with them as soon as you can.


Can my landlord charge me to protect my deposit?

Landlords pay a fee to protect every deposit. The amount can vary, but it’s in the ballpark of £25 per deposit.

Given that landlords have to protect your deposit by law, they shouldn’t make you pay to do so.


What can my landlord deduct from my deposit?

Your landlord can use part of or all your deposit to cover:

  • Unpaid rent or utilities costs

  • Damage to the property

  • Any breach of the tenancy agreement that has lost them money

  • Required cleaning, if you leave the property in a worse state than when you moved in

  • Missing items in a furnished property.

  • Any changes to the property made without permission.


Can I claim on my insurance for damage to my landlord's furniture?

Your tenants insurance policy is designed to protect your possessions from fire, theft and accidental damage.

Anything that belongs to your landlord e.g. furniture in a furnished property is their responsibility. They may have separate cover for this on their landlords insurance policy.


How to help get your full deposit back

  • Read your tenancy agreement

  • This will make you aware of any restrictions or exclusions before you decide to do anything. You can ask for written permission from your landlord for anything outside this.

  • Double check the inventory

  • Your landlord should give you an itemised list of what’s in the property, especially if it’s furnished. Make sure you can account for everything on the list and speak to your landlord if anything doesn't add up.

  • Take photos of all existing damage

  • Hole in the wall? Damp patch on the ceiling? Document it all as early as you can. Send the photos to your landlord outlining the existing damage. You’re then in a better position if they try to use this as a reason to deduct your deposit.


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