Our Workshop On Deposits: Your Q&A


Workshop on Deposits

Our workshop with EFA on 28th November was a success! If you missed it, don’t worry – we have included answers to all the burning questions regarding deposits in this article.

On 28th November, we hosted a workshop on deposits for private renters in Southwark. The workshop was held online and was hosted in partnership with EFA and Southwark Law Centre. Over twenty-three students joined the session remotely to participate and ask their questions to a housing solicitor.

At the end of the workshop, Adela Belacova, teacher and community organizer who helped with the co-hosting of the session, said: “I am very grateful that you took the time to answer students’ questions. We are so fortunate to have been able to benefit from these workshops and learn from the immense knowledge you have on housing law which you make so accessible. It’s so hard to make sense of it otherwise!”

If you missed the workshop, we have compiled a list of questions and answers below.

If you have any further questions, please drop us a line via our enquiry form here

Deposits: Q&A

What is a private tenant and why does it matter? If I rent from the Council, does this advice on deposits not apply to me?

Private tenant is a tenant who rents the property either directly from a private landlord (the property owner) or an estate agent.

Private tenant is NOT a tenant who rents the property from the Council or a housing association.

If you are a social tenant, you need to contact your Council or a housing association directly for any problems related to your deposit.

This is because the law and procedures for private tenants and social tenants are not the same.

My landlord is asking me to pay a deposit. Is this legal?

Yes. However, the landlord is legally allowed to ask you for a maximum of 5 weeks’ rent only. It is illegal for your landlord to force you to pay a deposit of more than 5 weeks’ rent.

How do I calculate the maximum amount of deposit the landlord can ask from me?

To calculate how much deposit the landlord can ask you, follow this formula:

Multiply your monthly rent by 12 to get the annual rent.

Divide the annual rent by 52 to get the weekly rent.

Multiply the weekly rent by 5 to get 5 weeks’ worth of rent.

For example, if your rent per month is £650, then:

£650 x 12 / 52 = £150 x5 = £750 (maximum rent the landlord can ask you to pay).

I am a lodger (i.e. I live with my landlord) / I’m a student living in student halls. Does my landlord need to protect my deposit?

No, your landlord doesn’t have to protect your deposit if you’re a lodger or a student living in halls.

What should the landlord do with the deposit? Is it theirs to keep?

No, the deposit money does not belong to the landlord and they cannot keep it indefinitely. At the end of the tenancy, the landlord is obliged to get in touch with you to discuss the return of the deposit.

The landlord must protect your deposit with one of the three approved government schemes within 30 days from the payment and they must give you:

  1. A prescribed information form (a document that contains information about the scheme, the amount you paid, including your and your landlord’s contact details)
  2. A tenancy deposit certificate (this contains your name, the amount you paid, the address of your property and reference number for the scheme where your deposit is held)
  3. How To Rent Guide (government guide on renting which is available here)

What are the three deposit protection schemes the landlord can use? Can I check if my landlord has protected my deposit?

There are three schemes:

  1. Deposit Protection Service (DPS)
  2. My Deposits
  3. Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)

If you are unsure what scheme the landlord has used, you can visit each website and check by entering your address and personal details.

Are there other deposit protection schemes?

No. Your landlord or estate agent can only protect your deposit with one of the three named schemes (see above).

What are the repercussions of my landlord not protecting my deposit?

This is a problem for the landlord because the landlord legally cannot serve you with a Section 21 notice to evict you.

You can also claim the deposit back in full and get a compensation from the landlord for not protecting your deposit. This may be 3x the amount of your deposit.  Find out more here

I have vacated the property but the landlord has not given me my deposit back. Is this normal?

At the end of the tenancy, the landlord has 10 days to get in contact with you to discuss:

  1. Damage to the property (if applicable)
  2. Unpaid rent or bills (if applicable)
  3. Their intention to keep some or all of the deposit money for either of the above and explain why it is reasonable

You should always follow up with the landlord and enquire. If after 10 days you have not heard back from the landlord, you should contact them to advise that you will be making a claim via the deposit protection scheme to get your deposit back.

All correspondence should be in writing.

My landlord has told me that they will be keeping my deposit and have explained why. Is this legal?

Your landlord can keep back funds from the deposit to:

  1. Cover the cost for unpaid rent
  2. Cover the cost for unpaid bills
  3. Cover the cost of cleaning if you have left the property unclean (as long as it was given to you clean at the start of your tenancy)
  4. Cover any damage that you have caused to the property (but this should not include fair wear-and-tear)

The landlord should prove to you that the amount held back is reasonable, normally, by providing you with proof, for example, receipts or quotes from their contractor. The landlord should return the rest of the deposit money back to you.

If the landlord has not explained why they are keeping your deposit or if the amount doesn’t seem reasonable, you should question the landlord. Landlord does not have any legal rights to keep the deposit on the basis that they simply wish to do so.

My landlord says he will be keeping some of the deposit back for cleaning. I cleaned the property thoroughly when I vacated and it was clean when I left. Do I have to agree with the landlord and let him keep the amount for cleaning?

No. You can write back to the landlord and say that you do not agree with the landlord, explaining why. Provide photographs if possible.

There are two options available:

  1. you and your landlord can renegotiate what is a reasonable amount of money that can be held back from the deposit
  2. if you or the landlord cannot agree, you can raise the dispute with deposit protection scheme to get the money back

If your property is rented through an estate agent, ask your estate agent to raise the claim and follow up. If this is not done within a reasonable time (for example, within 48h), you can do it yourself.

My landlord claims that they will be take some funds out of my deposit to fix the leaking toilet. Is this correct?

Unless you broke the toilet through misuse, the landlord should not hold funds back from your deposit to fix it. Misuse does not mean using the toilet. Misuse means if you, your flatmates or your visitors caused damage to the toilet, for example, by flushing down unsuitable items (e.g.  nappies, sanitary towels, or other objects other than toilet paper).

This is because it is expected that all things within a property will eventually deteriorate due to age and use. In law this is often referred to as “fair wear-and-tear”, meaning that tenants should not be paying for items that have broken down due to their age.

If the landlord can prove that you misused the toilet, causing it to leak (for example, by flushing down children’s nappies), the landlord will likely be able to hold back funds from your deposit to make the damage good.

My landlord has not given me back the deposit money after 10 days. What should I do?

Remind the landlord or their estate agent and ask why. Allow them a few working days to get back to you to explain.

If they do not get in touch with you, notify them that you intend to raise the claim through the deposit protection scheme and raise the dispute with your deposit protection provider.

How do I raise a claim with the deposit protection scheme if I haven’t received my deposit back, landlord or estate agent have not replied back to me, or if I disagree with the landlord?

Find out what scheme your landlord has used to protect your deposit. Go to the scheme’s website and follow the steps to raise a claim.

My landlord has not given my deposit back for months. Can I still raise a claim with the deposit scheme to get it back?

You have 3 months to raise the claim with the deposit protection scheme, so don’t delay. The sooner you do it – the better.

What happens when I raise the claim with the deposit protection scheme? What do they do and do I have to pay to the protection scheme?

No, you do not have to pay the deposit protection scheme, it is free.

First task is to raise the claim. This is easy – you need to enter your address and details on the deposit scheme’s website. They might ask you for details such as the length of your tenancy and what the dispute is.

The scheme will also ask you for evidence, for example:

  1. photographs – if the dispute is about cleaning or damages
  2. documents – for example, your tenancy agreement, last utility bills or copy of your bank statement if the dispute is about unpaid rent or bills
  3. written communication with landlord – for example, emails or letters showing that you have communicated with the landlord

The scheme will then take the claim and evidence, and will start working on the case. They might get in touch with you and the landlord during the process to clarify some details. Always ensure that your email address and telephone number provided to the scheme is correct, so that they can get in touch with you if needed.

The scheme will decide how much deposit will be rewarded back to you or the landlord based on the evidence. Their decision is final and cannot be disputed by you or the landlord.

How long does it take for the deposit protection scheme to reach a decision?

Each case is different but most decisions are made within 28 days.

What if I disagree with the decision made by the deposit protections scheme?

The scheme makes careful and unbiased decisions which are based on the evidence given to them. It is very unlikely they will reward the landlord with your deposit money if the evidence showed otherwise.

If you disagree with the deposit scheme’s decision, you can raise a complaint on the deposit scheme’s website.

The landlord has raised my rent and has asked me to pay more towards the deposit. Is this correct?

No. The deposit amount which you paid at the start of the tenancy does not need to be “topped-up” even if the weekly rent is now higher than at the start of the tenancy.

I have paid the deposit at the start of the tenancy but I have not received any documents from the landlord and/or my deposit has not been protected. The landlord has not given me back my deposit. What should I do?

You have few options:

First, write to your landlord and explain that they legally should have protected your deposit. Because your landlord did not protect the deposit, they must return the deposit back to you in full without deductions. If you are confident, you can also remind your landlord that if your deposit is not retuned back to you in full, you will seek compensation from the courts – this may cost the landlord 3x of the deposit amount.

If your landlord still does not return your deposit, you can make a claim via small claims court.

If I wanted to make a claim via court, what should I do?

There are couple of things to consider before you raise a claim through small claims court:

  1. going to court to claim compensation can be expensive and can take a long time
  2. you have to pay court fees upfront which may be expensive
  3. The amount you have to pay depends on how much compensation you could get. It could be over £1000 or under £1000.
  4. You could get court costs back if your claim is successful. But this will not always happen.
  5. Winning the case at the court does not always guarantee that the landlord will pay you the money. If your claim is successful but your landlord does not pay you, you might need to take steps to enforce the money judgment. You will need to pay another fee to do this.

Always get advice first if you are not sure how much your costs will be.

If you are confident, make a court claim. Citizens Advice has guidance on how to do so here

If I wanted to make a claim in small claims court, how much money should I ask for?

You can ask for between 1 and 3 times the deposit amount.

The court looks at how the landlord or agent has behaved. For example, the court could reduce how much compensation you get if the:

  1. landlord protected the deposit as soon as they realized their mistake
  2. deposit was protected on time and only the written information was late

Please note that if your tenancy has not ended, making a claim via court would likely not provide you with any compensation. The court will normally order your landlord to protect your deposit in a scheme.

I am not confident in writing to the landlord/estate agent to request my deposit back. Are there template letters I can use?

Yes. Shelter has good examples for this. See here

You can download the template in Word and input the needed information.

It is difficult for me to move because I do not have a lot of money and paying a deposit upfront is very expensive. Is there any help for me?

Yes, there are options such as Zero Deposit Schemes, help from local government and grants. See some of the options here

You can also contact local organizations here to see if they have local projects which help with deposit payments or other costs. Our website has a list of local organizations which may be able to help. See here

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