General Legal Advice Clinic

Deposits: How to make the most of your power as a tenant


As a tenant you can often feel helpless and vulnerable when it comes to claiming your deposit back. However, the law provides tenants with rights to protect you in this situation.

Most tenants are required to give a deposit to their landlord. It is required by law that landlords must enter such a deposit into a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. The TDP scheme ensures you’ll get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy if you’re entitled to it.

At the beginning of your tenancy

By law, your landlord must protect your deposit if you have an assured shorthold tenancy. The time limit for this is 30 days. Your landlord is breaking the law if they haven’t told you which TDP scheme they’re using, called the prescribed information, within 30 days of taking your money. Additionally, if the landlord hasn’t complied with these rules they can’t evict you without first returning the exact deposit amount. There is no obligation on you as a tenant to mention the TDP scheme to your landlord and this will not affect your legal rights.

There are 3 main tenancy protection scheme deposit services. You can find out if your deposit belongs to any of the three schemes by contacting them directly by phone.

Deposit Protection Service (Custodial and Insured)
Telephone: 0330 303 0030

MyDeposits (Custodial and Insured)
Telephone: 0333 321 9401

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (Custodial and Insured)
Telephone: 0845 226 7837

When you reach the end of your tenancy

At the end of your tenancy you should get your deposit back within 10 days if you and your landlord agree on the amount to be returned. If you disagree about how much deposit you should get back, then you can contact the TDP scheme and they will be able to help you to resolve the dispute.  If your landlord hasn’t used a TDP scheme, or is late giving you details of the scheme they’ve used, you can claim compensation.

You might not get your full deposit back if you:

  • owe any rent
  • damage the property or furniture
  • take, damage or lose anything in the ‘inventory’ – the list of fixtures and fittings

However, you shouldn’t lose any of your deposit for fair wear and tear that the property has incurred (that would be expected from normal everyday use). If you find any damaged or worn items when you start your tenancy you should:

  1. Take pictures of the items
  2. Write a short description of the condition of each item in the inventory
  3. Agree in writing with your landlord that your pictures and descriptions are a fair representation of the property at that time

Tenants have the ability to take their landlord to court to get their deposit back up to 6 years after the tenancy has ended. As a result, the court can order a landlord to pay back the whole or a proportion of the deposit. Additionally, there is also the possibility to claim compensation if your landlord failed to protect the deposit within 30 days. You will not be able to claim compensation if your tenancy ended before 6 April 2012, however there is still the option of the using the small claims court to reclaim back your deposit.



By Vanessa Gibson, Student Adviser

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