How to make sure you get your deposit back at the end of a tenancy

One of the biggest worries for a tenant renting a property is whether they’ll get their deposit back.

Often, tenancy deposits are large sums of money and key to a tenant being able to move on to their next rental property.

Since June 2019, deposits taken for tenancies are capped at either five weeks’ rent or six weeks’ rent, depending on the amount of annual rent being paid.

But the capping of deposits doesn’t necessarily ease any fears tenants might have of losing their deposits.

Here, we’ll explain all the rules around tenancy deposits and holding deposits, explain the steps you can take to ensure you get your deposit back and reveal the most common reasons landlords make deductions…

The rules on tenancy deposits and holding deposits explained

Since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act in 2019, tenancy deposits have been capped.

For properties where the annual rent is £50,000 or less, your tenancy deposit should be capped at five weeks’ rent.

If the annual rent exceeds £50,000, landlords can request six weeks’ rent as a tenancy deposit.

If you pay a holding deposit to reserve a property, meanwhile, this should be no more than one week’s rent.

Do you get a holding deposit back?

If you pay a holding deposit on a property and you do end up renting it, your landlord should either return your holding deposit within seven days or put it towards your tenancy deposit or first month’s rent if you agree.

Once you’ve paid a holding deposit on a property, the landlord should stop advertising it for 15 days.

That timeframe is how long you have to commit to the property and sign a tenancy agreement.

If you pay a holding deposit and decide not to rent the property, or you miss the 15-day deadline, your landlord could keep what you’ve paid.

They are also able to keep your holding deposit if:

  • You mislead them, or their letting agent
  • You fail a Right to Rent immigration check

If you fail a credit check, but you’ve been honest about your finances, your holding deposit should still be returned.

Tenancy deposits: What your landlord must do

Your landlord must place your tenancy deposit into one of three government-approved deposit protection schemes when you started your tenancy.

If they failed to do so within 30 days of your tenancy starting, you may be able to take them to court to claim your deposit back in full – as well as up to three times the deposit amount in compensation.

The three tenancy deposit protection schemes also provide a resolution service for landlords and tenants in the event of a dispute.

If you can’t reach an agreement with your landlord over deductions they wish to make, approach the scheme provider with whom your deposit is registered.

The three main deposit protection schemes in England and Wales are:

How long should it take to get your deposit back?

At the end of your tenancy agreement, your landlord should let you know if they plan to make any deductions from your tenancy deposit and what these deductions are for.

If you agree with the deductions they wish to make, or they’ve confirmed you’ll receive your deposit back in full, you should receive the money within 10 days.

If you don’t agree with the deductions your landlord wishes to make, you should speak to them in the first instance and try to find some common ground.

If you’re still unable to agree, you can contact the tenancy deposit protection scheme they use.

Each scheme has a free resolution service that will consider both sides and decide how much of your deposit should be returned.

Can a landlord refuse to give back my deposit?

Your landlord is entitled to make deductions from your deposit if they are justified.

If you disagree with the deductions they’re making, you can challenge them.

For example, if your landlord is deducting £200 to repair ‘damage’ to the property, you can request to see quotes for those repairs.

If you’re unable to reach an agreement with your landlord about your deposit, you can contact the deposit protection scheme used and request their dispute resolution service.

Your landlord should return your deposit, or an agreed amount, within 10 days of an agreement being reached.

Can I get my deposit back if I leave early?

If you leave your tenancy agreement early, without your landlord’s consent, you could risk losing your tenancy deposit.

When you sign an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, you’re committing to a fixed term tenancy – usually between six months and two years.

Sometimes, break clauses are inserted into tenancy agreements.

For example, you might sign a 12-month tenancy agreement with a six-month break clause, meaning you could give notice to your landlord halfway through your agreement.

If you have no break clause, you could request to leave your tenancy early, but your landlord would have to agree, and you would need to reach a resolution on your deposit.

Some landlords will agree to an early departure if they’re able to rent the property out to a new tenant immediately.

If there is a gap between your departure and a new tenant moving in, your landlord can request that you cover the rent for that period, which could come from your deposit if you agree.

What can my landlord deduct from my deposit?

Landlords can make deductions from tenancy deposits to cover:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Damage to their property
  • Cleaning if property was returned below a reasonable standard
  • Missing or broken items
  • Changes made to the property without permission
  • Gardening work if not maintained as per the terms of the tenancy agreement

Things your landlord can’t deduct for

Fair wear and tear in a rental property is potentially a term you’ve heard before.

What it means is your landlord can’t deduct from your deposit for damage to items or the property that has occurred through normal use over time.

A good example would be a worn carpet that has deteriorated naturally through use during a tenancy, or scuff marks on a wall.

If a carpet has a burn mark from your hair straighteners, however, that would be classed as damage.

Your landlord also can’t deduct for damage caused by a repair they failed to fix.

So, if you informed them of a leak during your tenancy and this wasn’t fixed, causing more damage, they shouldn’t deduct from your deposit.

How to ensure you get your deposit back

The best way to ensure a hassle-free return of your deposit is to stick to the terms of your tenancy agreement and take care of your landlord’s property.

Ensuring you do the following will help when it comes to getting your deposit back at the end of your stay:

  • Understand your obligations in the tenancy agreement and stick to them
  • Avoid damaging walls to hang pictures etc
  • Stay on top of cleaning
  • Protect furnishings provided
  • Report problems quickly
  • Don’t smoke or have pets if you’re not permitted to
  • Keep the property well ventilated
  • If you break anything, replace it like for like or own up
  • Pay your rent in full and on time every month

Further reading…

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