Tenancy Deposit Protection

Advice from our Student Advice Centre team.

Types of Protection Schemes

Did you know that each deposit protection scheme provider operates 2 types of scheme? Do you know which one are you looking for? Your contract will often not make this clear so it is very important you understand the difference between the two.



Your landlord or Agent will keep the deposit during your tenancy

The landlord or Agent will send the money to the scheme

They will take out an insurance based policy, for a fee, with one of the 3 protection scheme providers

The custodial scheme is completely free to landlords or agents regardless of which scheme they use

The Landlord or Agent is charged by any of the 3 scheme providers to protect this way

The Landlord or Agent is NOT charged by any of the 3 scheme providers to protect this way

Insured schemes only give you 3 months in which to raise a dispute about deposit deductions from when you vacate the tenancy/the tenancy ends

Custodial schemes are not time sensitive and you can raise a dispute at any point but be careful your landlord or agent doesn’t attempt to reclaim it without your knowledge

Regardless of which type of scheme your landlord or agent chooses they have to provide you with Prescribed Information regarding the scheme provider and its procedures within 30 of receiving your deposit. Have a look at our web pages for more in-depth information or book in at the link at the bottom of this page.

The Basics

If you live in the private rented sector, in a house, a flat or Hall and have paid a deposit it is very likely that this should be protected. 

The Housing Act 2004 introduced a number of measures to improve the private rented sector, including the introduction of mandatory Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes for all Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST's) in England and Wales, effective from 6 April 2007.

This type of tenancy is the default tenancy in England and Wales and so it is highly likely that if you are renting then you will have this type of tenancy. 

University owned and managed Residences are not let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and therefore they do not have to protect the deposits through a protection scheme. It is advisable to still enquire about whether they take deposits and if so how they deal with deposit returns or disputes.

There are 3 possible schemes so find out which scheme is protecting your deposit and look up the scheme rules / terms and conditions (each scheme is different) and be clear on the process to follow. Disputing a deposit return can take time but stick with it and adhere to the deadlines as necessary.

What is a deposit?

An amount of money taken by the landlord/agent as security if you do not meet all your obligations under the tenancy. 

Your contract might be more specific about what the deposit can be used for, but typically it is used to cover any unpaid rent, cleaning or damage to the property during your term. The landlord must be able to evidence their claim.

You cannot be charged for ‘fair wear and tear’. Speak to the Student Advice Centre for assistance with this is your feel you are being charged unreasonably.

What does a landlord/agent have to do?

They must protect the deposit in full by one of the authorised protection schemes

It has to be protected within 30 days of it being received

They must give you Prescribed Information detailing: – the amount of deposit paid; the property it relates to; contact details of your landlord/agent and deposit protection scheme used; how to get your deposit back; when deductions can be made; what happens if you can't agree about how much should be refunded and what if your landlord or agent doesn't respond

They must give you the relevant scheme leaflet explaining the rules  

This information must be signed by the landlord or agent that you paid your deposit to

What do I need to know when paying a tenancy security deposit?

This is not the same as a ‘holding deposit’ - often requested to halt the advertising of the property after a viewing before you sign a contract. 

Don’t pay any security deposit or advance rent until you have signed a contract.

Always get a receipt for any money paid, especially if the landlord/agent wants paying in cash.

Attach your receipt to the copy of the contract so it does not get lost.

Understand what the deposit is being taken for - this might be explained in your tenancy agreement.  

The Protection and Prescribed Information must be within 30 days of the deposit being received. NOT 30 days from the start of the tenancy or the date the money has cleared into accounts.  Providing the Prescribed Information has just as much legal weight as the actual protection of the money.  

If you are on a joint contract and jointly and severally liable, it is one overall deposit. If one of your housemates damages something or doesn’t pay rent then it will come out of the overall sum and then be distributed evenly.

Lead Tenant will sometimes be identified - sometimes mentioned in the tenancy agreement but not always - often the first named tenant on the agreement. Ensure this person will be in the UK when the contract ends in order to deal with the deposit return.

The schemes offer free dispute adjudication service in the event of a dispute regarding its return.

 If your landlord doesn't protect your deposit, they are breaking the law and you may be entitled to compensation of up to 3 times the amount of the deposit.  

How can tenants check if their deposit has been protected?

You can contact each scheme or make an online check to see if your deposit has been protected.  

It is advisable to email or write to the schemes to seek written confirmation of protection. 

Shelter also have a large amount of information on their website.

If you wish to discuss non protection of deposits in more detail and what action you can take contact the Student Advice Centre to make an appointment.

When will I get my deposit back?

At the end of your tenancy you should be notified by the landlord or agent about the return of your deposit. This often follows a check out procedure where the agent or landlord will look at the state of the property and compare this against the check in report made at the start of the tenancy. You should be returned the money in full or told of any deductions they wish to make for damage and dilapidations.

Contact your landlord if you haven't heard anything within a month maximum. Some schemes only protect for 3 months after the end of your tenancy so don’t leave it longer. Bear this in mind before you all disperse for the summer months.

If you are an International student you can raise a dispute from outside of the UK and deposits can be returned to overseas bank accounts but there might be a charge for this.

What if there is a dispute about the deposit return?

No one likes to lose money. Consider whether the suggested deductions are fair and reasonable. 

If you believe the charges are completely unwarranted or that the amount you are being charged is too high they you can dispute the deductions. Try to find some comparative costs and ask your landlord or agent to provide proof of costs. If you can't reach agreement invoke your deposit scheme arbitration process so they can decide for you. If you need assistance with this please speak to the Student Advice Centre.

How do I start a dispute with the scheme?

Firstly speak to your landlord/agent. Challenge in writing anything you believe to be wrong or unreasonable.

Don't wait too long though - remember the timescales can be sensitive.  You also don't have to wait for a landlord/agent to do this.  You can start a dispute by contacting your scheme provider. 

Collate as much evidence as you can to support your claim.  You will not get a hearing, they will base the decision on what evidence you can send them.

Follow the scheme process/rules on how to make a dispute - outlined on their respective websites. 

What do I do if my deposit is not protected?

Contact your landlord or agent in writing to enquire if it is protected.

Contact each of the schemes to check if your deposit is protected. You can check by putting your details into each scheme’s website or by using Shelter's deposit checker tool. You can also contact the schemes by phone or email.

If you don’t get a response, you might have to consider making a court claim.

If you become aware it is not protected, write to your landlord using a Letter Before Action (LBA) to ask why it is not protected and to request this is done immediately. There are sample letters on the Shelter website.

If you want to discuss making a claim against the landlord please discuss this with the SAC.

Last updated: 17 November 2020