/ Money

Renting? Has your landlord protected your deposit?

Money in purse and house

Millions of tenants don’t have their deposits in a protection scheme. And since there aren’t many rights for renters in the UK, it’s crucial to use free services to stop dodgy landlords withholding our deposits.

Let’s be honest – tenancy deposit protection schemes aren’t the most exciting topic in the world. In the unlikely event that a friend started banging on about it in the pub, you’d be forgiven for dozing off.

And if you’re a renter who’s in the dark about these schemes, you’re not alone. Research by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), one of the organisations that can protect your deposit, shows that the combined value of unprotected deposits in the UK is around £1 billion.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Your deposit

So, plenty of renters aren’t aware that they’re legally entitled to have their deposit protected.

And the need for this type of protection hits home if you’ve ever tried to get a deposit back from your landlord and failed. Like a father who contacted our Which? Legal service after his son received just £89 of his £2,600 deposit.

The landlord requested for the son to move just a few days after giving his notice, as a new tenant was moving in. Yet the landlord took rent for the remainder of his notice period from his deposit. Thankfully, after taking advice from our lawyers and sending an appropriately worded letter, the landlord agreed to pay back £2,070. Phew.

Time to get protected

The Housing Act 2004 says that if you’re renting on an assured shorthold tenancy – the most common form of rental agreement – then your deposit must be placed in one of three government-approved schemes until the tenancy is over.

Each scheme works slightly differently, but the benefits are similar. All three will help resolve any disputes between landlord and tenant over how much of a deposit should be returned. So if that TV was broken when you arrived, the landlord can’t get away with taking the cost of a new telly out of your deposit.

What’s more, you get your deposit back with interest under two of the schemes – TDS and the Deposit Protection Service (DPS).

How to get your deposit protected

It’s up to the landlord or letting agent to protect the deposit in one of the three schemes – the third is mydeposits.

But if you’re not sure whether your deposit is protected or not, contact TDS, DPS and mydeposits to check. If they all say it’s not, it might help to remind your landlord that the ultimate penalty for not protecting a deposit is a fine of three times the deposit’s value! That ought to get them to leap into action.

Have you ever tried to get a rental deposit back and come up against a brick wall? Did you know that they could and should be protected?

Student says:
18 April 2011

We rented a student property in Birmingham. We recieved only £175 of our £350 deposits back, the rest was taken for ‘administration purposes’.

I agree Matt, not getting full deposits back is not unusual. In all my years of renting, landlords would always find a way to keep at least some of the deposit. Friends of mine have had some really tough battles – often with little success. It’s stressful to say the least.

I’m actually shocked that the system works in a way that puts the onus of protection on the landlord – surely if you’ve got a ‘dodgy’ landlord that’s the last thing they’re going to do?

It took my daughters landlord nearly 3 months to get the deposit “protected” and he certainly wasn’t pleased when he was threatened with reporting him to the uni over his tardiness. Not looking forward to seeing how much he keeps when its time to pay it back.

Jono says:
20 April 2011

The whole rental market in the UK is a farce. Houses with mould/damp/dry rot problems are standard and the tenant has little power to do anything about these issues. What’s worse are these awful contracts that lock you in for a year or more and have huge penalties if you need to leave early. In Sweden (where I did an exchange year) contracts have a months notice and no penalties. There the tenants have the law on their side and the living standards are a million times better (but similar prices!). If a house has mould/damp/dry rot because it is a health risk the landlord must pay compensation to the tenant whilst he deals with the problem (not just by painting over it) and arrange alternative accommodation for them. Here my contract is so awful that in its long list of potential charges to my deposit is included the charge of “Other…”. I did have it checked and the contract is legal and normal!!!

And btw, the deposit schemes are awful. Dealing with them requires A LOT of time and effort and paperwork and phone calls. Something not everyone can maybe be bothered to pursue if it’s a question of £100 which means the landlords essentially win by default because the process is so off putting. And at the end of it they still allow charges for cleaning (most common charge to deposits) without evidence that any cleaning was needed as well as charges for things like removing furniture not listed on the inventory but part of the furnishings of the house. It’s this part private-part public type of institution that is jut rubbish. Anyways, Which? should focus on the terrible state of the laws surrounding tenancy agreements and the awful state of properties. If the sector was cleaned up a bit perhaps the landlords would feel the rule of law and would not constantly try to make some more money through deposits.

Thanks for you comment Jono – we’ve featured it as our ‘comment of the week’ on the homepage 🙂

We rented out our home and had a new bathroom fitted, new carpets and also had it fully decorated before letting it out. We placed our tenants’ deposit in a TDS and when the tenants moved out with no issues at all, it took weeks and weeks for out letting agency who ultimately handle the deposit to release funds to our tenant. We ended up having to threaten them under clauses of the agreement before the deposit was released. Fortunately, I copied our tenants in on all of the emails requesting the return of the deposit so that they were aware that it wasn’t us holding it up!! I am sure this in the cause in many cases. With regard to previous comments on cleaning, we also had our property professionally cleaned prior to tenants moving in and therefore they had to have the same done upon departure. Not all landlords rent out damp/mouldy/dirty properties although I am aware that not all are perfect so it is not fair to generalise.

pauline says:
25 July 2011

we rented a house and paid landlord about 24,000 over period we paid a deposit of 1,300 he held back 1,100 back for a couple of scratches on wood floor .not putting in new downlighters as health risk but bought all brand new for him to replace cost 50.00.small pane glass foir shed .he must be insured for this can anyone out there give me any advise.landlord said he was gona have whole floor done not just marks but he has let property again already and he says he not gona do work yet .hope to hear from anyone thx

Rodrigo says:
20 February 2013

Hi, I’m renting a flat in london, to keep it short I paid 1730 pounds deposit, the first day I moved in there was a note in the bathroom saying to keep the door open at all times so the walls of the bathroom wouldn’t get mouldy, I’ve been doing this since the first day but the walls got mouldy anyway, now the landlord wants to keep that from my deposit and I’m sure he’s the one that needs to install a good ventilation system? also the plumbery is not working after 2 months of using it and he wants me to hire a van pipe to sort it, when I also noticed he had a bucket bellow the sink before i moved in and there’s also two other external sinks connected to the same drain system, one of them is from his ‘workshop’ where he fixes clocks and he told me the main reason the draining system was blocked was because of the excessive use of oil, so I guess it might be the oil he uses to fix clocks? because I’ve never had this problems before in other houses I lived in.

Can someone here please told me what shall I do? he want’s to keep the whole 1730 pounds just for this two things and I’m pretty sure that’s the landlord’s issue.

Also I’m going back home so can’t stay for court meetings etc.

Thanks in advance!

Beware of the mydeposits.co.uk scheme. They do NOT protect the tenants funds.

The security deposit is the tenants money – neither the agent nor the landlord has a right to use the funds during the term of a tenancy as if the money is their own, although they frequently do. That is why, I thought, we have the deposit protection schemes – to protect the tenants money from grasping hands.

However, I have discovered that the landlord has ‘unprotected’ my deposit, during the term of the tenancy, and mydeposits.co.uk has both allowed this to happen and not informed me. So the landlord has more than £2000.00 of mine, and I have no protection.

The tenancy will end this month and as the landlord has already demonstrated that she can not be trusted I expect I will have a struggle to get my money back. It will take time and energy and generally be unpleasant. Why should I, as a tenant, be put in this position?

This so called government sponsored scheme is nothing but a scam for an insurance company to increase their revenue. They have not shown any duty of care to the tenants funds – my funds – and have offered no assistance. Their suggestion is to tell me to contact Shelter or Citizens Advice.

Do not allow your landlord to use an insurance scheme like my deposits.co.uk to protect your security deposit!! Your money is not protected because the landlord can unprotect it at any time and you won’t even know about it.