/ Money

Money matters: how do you get a rental deposit back?

A key with a house shaped keyring

Pulling together a deposit for rented accommodation can be a strain for many. So if there’s a tussle to get your deposit back when you eventually leave, you can end up with a truly unwanted housing hangover.

We know it’s become increasingly expensive to rent a property in the past five years.

Rental costs have risen by 37% and the average weekly rent in England now stands at £181 according to the National Housing Federation.

And with increased rents come increased deposits. In fact, the average rental deposit on a property currently sits around the £1,000 mark.

The dreaded deposit dispute

When I moved out of a shared house at the end of last summer, I had a bit of struggle to get my deposit back from a less-than-helpful letting agent.

I needed the cash for the deposit I was about to put down on my current flat; without it, I wouldn’t have had enough money without raiding my savings account.

After some increasingly stern words over a series of phone conversations with the letting agent, I finally managed to get my money back.

It wasn’t the full amount as I lost a fair few quid to cover the cost of some ‘administration fees’, but I was just so relieved that an agreement had been reached that I took what was left of my money and ran.

House of horrors

However, others have not been as fortunate. One of our members recently wrote to us saying that their son has been struggling to get his deposit back:

‘My son rented a room in private student accommodation. When he came to the end of the year we tried to get his security deposit back from the letting agent, with whom he took out the contract.

‘They said that we had to get it back from the owners of the house but we don’t have their details and the agents are not forthcoming. Who owes us the money? And how can we get it back?’

So, what could our member do to help get their son’s deposit back? Let us know your thoughts below, and soon we’ll tell you what we’d do as well.


My son has had issues as the owner/letting agent (same company) became insolvent. The administrators now tell him they can’t find where his deposit is but they have agreed to offset it against further rents due.

The laws are well intentioned but if tenants don’t know their rights and landlords choose to ignore them they are of not much use.

Bookworm says:
10 July 2013

I thought deposits were protected under some sort of scheme now so that landlords or their agents had to put the money into a scheme and it had to be returned within 10 days of a tenancy ending. If the agent isn’t forthcoming then I think I would write to them and inform them that I would be taking the matter to court as they must be in breach of something, surely!


Yes they are in breach but since becoming insolvent the owners of the company have disappeared leaving behind a financial mess.


Yes they are. But we had to threatened my daughters landlord with legal action as he was very slow in producing proof the deposit has been lodged.

The scheme is only any good if you have an honest landlord/lady.

It would be better if the scheme required the tenant to lodge the deposit with the scheme administrators directly and cut out the landlord/lady.

Threatening with legal action helps if one of the parents works for a solicitor though and can use company headed note paper.


Hi all,

Thank you for your comments. As promised, I’m here to give you a full run-down on deposits and what you can do if you’re having trouble getting your money back.

If you are required to pay a deposit, before you sign a tenancy agreement you should make sure the landlord or letting agent is using an approved deposit protection scheme. If not, they are breaking the law under section 213 Housing Act 2004, as amended by the Localism Act 2011.

There are two ways deposits can be protected. The custodial scheme is where landlords can pay deposits into the scheme for ‘free’ as the scheme uses part of the interest earned from holding the deposit to cover costs. Or there’s the insurance scheme where tenants can pay the deposit to the landlord or letting agent who then get to hold onto it in return for a fee paid to an approved deposit protection scheme like My Deposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

If your deposit isn’t protected by one of these schemes, then you should think carefully before renting.

If you have already rented and your landlord has not protected the deposit within 30 days from the date of receiving the deposit, then an application can be made for the repayment of the deposit plus one to three times the value of the deposit as a penalty payment. Even if the landlord protects the deposit after the 30 days, he/she will still be liable for a penalty payment. For information, the “up to three times deposit penalty” is intended to give the court the power to make an award that reflects the seriousness of the breach and the degree of delay in compliance.

Tenancy deposit protection (TDP) ensures an independent arbiter will consider your case free of charge if you think your landlord or letting agent is unfairly retaining your deposit at the end of your tenancy agreement. If there’s a dispute, and all parties agree to the scheme arbitrating it, the relevant information is collected by the scheme operator. An in-house or external independent examiner is then appointed to recommend a solution.

Remember that the deposit belongs to you. If there is no evidence to support the landlords claim then it should all come back to you. The tenancy agreement would also have to make provision for the landlord to be able to make a deduction from the deposit to cover any specific damage. This would not include deductions for fair wear and tear. If there was no such provision then no deductions can be made.

If you’re in a dispute with your landlord over your deposit, use our template letter to get your deposit back http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/letter-asking-for-your-deposit-back-if-paid-after-6-april-2007/

I hope that helps!


Anon the mouse says:
20 July 2013

Just to add to the excellent advice above,
BEFORE moving any furniture or belongings take photos of the property (preferably with a copy of the days paper visible). When moving out, after emptying the property of your belongings do the same (take photos). While it won’t stop problems arising it may make them go away quickly.

If there is a dispute over returning a deposit issue a Subject Access request to the agents. Request everything. They are legally required to provide everything you have requested relating to yourself. Any additional evidence they produce after fulfilling your request (excluding letters to and from yourself) in support of their claim can be claimed to be false as you have already had a full copy.
Use the land registry to find the landlords details and write to them directly. Most hate tenants knowing their address, and are usually shocked at the tactics the agents are employing.
If there is a dispute over the amount in dispute then the entire process effectively halts as the ADR process cannot start.

Mine got nasty and spiteful from all sides, we fought over everything. They produced letters they had never given to me in my SAR, I turned up at their head office (always good to show you will do anything to resolve it), the landlord demanded the full deposit on no evidence. The agents didn’t do anything but fuel the fire on all sides and lied to each of us in turn.
We resolved it only after I forced all parties to meet (landlord, their agents and I), and air our problems. A completed small claims form was produced by myself, which I offered to use as I was the only one that didn’t pay fees, so that the courts could decide. That was what opened the dialog from the landlord beyond demanding everything.

Patricia Sheridan says:
26 March 2015

I need advise, I have paid a deposit which I know is in a scheme so I will hopfully get it back, However I needed to optain a guarantor as part of the agreement, I sadly can not get anyone to sign the guarantor documnts now and as such have made the agent that I was going to be renting the room from have threatend me with leagal proceedings as I have signed paperwork adivisng I will take on the room as of 01/04/2015 and as I have not given the surficiate time to find someone else to they are also holding me to the rent till they are able to get someone, I am beside myself with worry and have no idea what to do can anyone help at all or give me adivse please


Letting agency is holding on to our deposit and no mention has been made about it, its been 3 weeks now, even after sending e-mails requesting its release in the DPS scheme, they continue to ignore our e-mails.They are causing us stress, because we don’t know what to do, and they continue to ignore it. Please help