Tenant's Deposit and How Tenant Deposits Schemes Work including What Happens if There's a Deposit Dispute

Summary: Information for landlords and tenants covering security and use deposits and how a tenant's deposits schemes should work. We also cover what happens if there is a dispute over the deposit. This is all about keeping deposit funds safe and what to do in the event of a dispute - what are the tenants and landlords rights.

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This guide is written by the experts at London Estate Agents Riley Marshall. They are sharing their vast experience of the letting market to ensure you get the best experience as a tenant who is renting a property in the UK.

Keeping your security deposit safe when renting a property

Making it Easy to Rent a Property

The government recognised that some unscrupulous landlords and agents were misusing tenants deposit monies during their tenancies. Some were spending the money, while others were withholding deposits unfairly at the end of the tenancy.

To avoid this problem landlords and agents are now obliged to protect tenants deposits in recognised schemes.

Safeguarding your Deposit

  • Your landlord may be entitled to keep some or all of the deposit if there is any rent owing or damage to the property at the end of the tenancy – even if it's not your fault so make sure you conduct your tenancy properly and keep accurate records to protect your interests.
  • Your landlord or agent should put your deposit into a Deposit protection scheme within 30 days of the start of your tenancy, and must give you details of which one they are using. Check that this is done and you have the details. Keep them safe you will need them at the end of the tenancy.
  • In England and Wales, the three schemes are the Deposit Protection Service, mydeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. In Scotland they are SafeDeposits Scotland, mydeposits Scotland and the Letting Protection Service Scotland.
  • Use and check the inventory. If you are not given one, write one up yourself, get it signed by an independent witness and send a copy to the landlord and/or managing agent if there is one. Shelter has a sample inventory form available on their website
  • Take photographs before and after the tenancy and include a date stamp. Send a copy to the landlord and/or managing agent if there is one.
  • Before signing a Tenancy Agreement, get the landlord to confirm in writing any changes to the property that you have negotiated, including any repairs that the landlord has promised to make.
  • Tell your agent or landlord if there are problems as soon as you notice them throughout your tenancy. Do it in writing, an email is fine.
  • Read the meters before and after tenancy, advise the local council and your utility companies and keep records. Your landlord/agent may ask for proof that bills are settled before releasing the deposit.
  • At the end of your tenancy make sure you clean everything properly. Clear cupboards, clean the fridge, defrost the freezer and clean the oven. Carpets and curtains often need to be cleaned to a professional standard. It is often worth employing a professional cleaner to make sure your deposit is safe. Your landlord or agent may have a cleaner they recommend.


In a nutshell your checklist should include the following pointers:

  • Make sure you know where your deposit is held
  • Make sure you have an inventory
  • Make sure the Tenancy Agreement is right
  • Take photographs before and after the tenancy as evidence
  • Read the meters before and after the tenancy
  • Report any problems
  • Report any damage
  • Deal with any damage you make yourself
  • Clean thoroughly at the end

Get Advice if you Have Disputes

At the end of the tenancy you should get your deposit back within 10 days. The landlord or agent should inform you of any deductions they intend to make and why, within this time.

If you don’t agree with what the landlord is claiming you can appeal first to your landlord/agent then to the deposit scheme ombudsman.

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