A renter’s guide to tenancy deposits

A renter’s guide to tenancy deposits

author: Bryony Pearce

By Bryony Pearce


From how much you have to pay to settling a dispute, in this guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know about tenancy deposits.

If you’re renting a property, more often than not, you’ll be asked to pay a tenancy deposit before you move in. If you’re not sure about the who, what, when, why and how of tenancy deposits, then this blog will put any questions to bed.

Who has to pay tenancy deposits?

If you’re renting from a private landlord, you’ll usually be asked to pay a tenancy deposit. A private landlord is someone who owns a property, and then rents it out to make money from it. A private landlord could be:

  • A company that owns a number of properties;
  • An individual or family who own one or more properties; or
  • A charity who rent properties to disabled people.

Why do you have to pay a tenancy deposit?

A tenancy deposit is essentially a safety net for landlords. If you damage the house or flat you’re renting or, for whatever reason, you’re unable to pay your rent, this deposit can be used to recover the costs.

Although it won’t be in your possession, the tenancy deposit you put down belongs to you. So, providing you don’t damage anything and stick to your rent, it should be returned to you in full at the end of your tenancy agreement.

How much does a tenancy deposit cost?

There’s no such thing as a set sum when it comes to tenancy deposits. Generally speaking, most landlords will ask for a deposit that’s equivalent to one or two months’ worth of rent, so the more your monthly rent is, the more your tenancy deposit is likely to be.

That said though, there’s no limit to how much landlords can charge. If you have a bad credit rating and they’re concerned that you won’t stick to your monthly instalments, a landlord may choose to increase your deposit as added security.

Whatever tenancy deposit you’re presented with, it’s really important that you get a receipt once you’ve paid it so that you can evidence how much you put down at the end of the agreement (just in case there are any disputes).

Who do you pay the deposit to?

Usually, tenancy deposits are paid directly to your landlord. However, in some cases, you might be asked to pay it via a letting agent if that’s who you’re renting the property through.

Once you’ve stumped up your deposit, your landlord has 30 days to give you certain information, like:

  • The address of the property
  • How much deposit you’ve paid and how it’s protected
  • The name and contact details of the Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme
  • Either their or their letting agent’s contact details
  • Contact details for any third party that’s paid the deposit
  • Reasons they’d keep all or some of your deposit
  • How you go about getting the deposit back
  • What you should do if you can’t contact the landlord at the end of the tenancy
  • Steps to take in the event of a deposit-related dispute.

Is the deposit protected?

The quick answer to this question is yes. If you have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, either your landlord or letting agent (whichever’s managing the property) must protect your deposit in a government-backed TDP scheme. The available schemes vary depending on which country you’re in:


Available schemes

England and Wales

Deposit Protection Service; MyDeposits; and Tenancy Deposit Scheme


Letting Protection Service Scotland; Safe Deposits Scotland; and mydeposits Scotland

Northern Ireland

Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland; My Deposits Northern Ireland; and Letting Protection Service NI

As we touched on earlier though, your deposit’s only protected if you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, don’t damage the property, and pay your rent and bills. If you fail to meet all these requirements, you risk losing your tenancy deposit.

Once your landlord or letting agent has received your tenancy deposit, they must place it into the relevant scheme within 30 days. If you’re worried this hasn’t been done, you should contact your country’s TDP schemes to see if your deposit is being held with them.

Getting your tenancy deposit back

Assuming you’re eligible to retrieve your tenancy deposit, it should be returned to you within 10 days of both parties agreeing how much will be returned.

Your landlord is within their rights to take reasonable deductions from your deposit which, along with damage and unpaid rent, include missing items and cleaning costs. A list of what activities can result in a deduction should be included in the tenancy agreement you both signed at the start.

If deductions are made, your landlord should give you a breakdown of what each deduction is for, along with how much is being deducted. Any outstanding money should then be returned to you.

What happens if there’s a dispute?

If there’s a dispute over your tenancy deposit, then the TDP scheme it’s held in offers a free (yes, free!) dispute resolution service to help you iron the disagreement out.

It’s not mandatory that you use the TDP scheme’s service, but if you do, both you and your landlord must agree to it, and you’ll both have to provide evidence to support your case for them to make a decision about your deposit – it’s worth noting that the decision they make will be final.

Absent landlords

If you can’t get hold of your landlord to get your deposit back, then you should raise a dispute with the relevant TDP scheme. Providing the dispute resolution service gives them the nod, they will then refund you your deposit.

Unprotected deposits

If your dispute is over the fact that your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit, you should apply to your local county court. They may then order one of a few things:

1)  The landlord must repay your deposit

2)  The landlord must pay your deposit into a TDP scheme within 14 days

3)  The landlord must pay you up to three times the deposit amount within 14 days of their order

4)  You don’t have to leave the property at the end of your tenancy agreement.

We hope you’re now feeling a little more clued up with all things tenancy deposits. And if you haven’t already found your future home, happy house hunting!

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Bryony Pearce

By Bryony Pearce

A renter’s guide to tenancy deposits A renter’s guide to tenancy deposits