Guide to Tenant Deposit Protection Schemes

What are tenant deposit protection schemes (TDP)?

TDP schemes are there to protect tenants and ensure you get your deposit returned to you when the tenancy ends as long as you have:

  • Paid your rent and household bills
  • Met all the terms of your tenancy agreement
  • Not damaged the property during your tenancy

How do TDP schemes work?

If you’re an assured shorthold tenant in England or Wales and pay a deposit when you start a tenancy, by law, your landlord must put your deposit in one of the three UK government-backed tenancy deposit schemes (TDP) within 30 days of receiving the money. These are:

Landlords in Scotland must have their tenants’ deposits placed with any of:

Landlords in Northern Ireland must place their tenants’ deposits with any of:

These schemes are independent, so the money is essentially held by an impartial third party, which is important if there are any disputes between the landlord and tenant when the tenancy ends.

At the end of your tenancy, your landlord must return your deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing on the amount to be returned. There may be deductions due to damage within the home, cleaning or gardening charges etc. However, if you, as a tenant, don’t agree with the deductions that your landlord wants to make, you can dispute them and your deposit is safely held by the TDP scheme until things have been resolved.

How do I know if my deposit has been protected?

Once you have paid the deposit to your landlord, they have 30 days in which to correctly protect it with one of these schemes. You should receive ‘prescribed information’, usually by post or email, which includes these details:

  • The address of the property you are renting
  • The amount of deposit that you have paid
  • The TDP scheme it is being protected by, their contact details and their dispute resolution service
  • The landlord or letting agent’s contact details
  • If the deposit was paid by a third party e.g. a parent or employer, the paperwork should contain their details too
  • Information about of why some, or all, of the deposit could be withheld at the end of tenancy
  • Details of how to apply for the deposit to be returned
  • Details of what to do if the landlord can’t be contacted at the end of the tenancy
  • Details of how to proceed if there is a dispute over the deposit

Can I check my deposit has been protected?

If you have not received any confirmation that your deposit has been protected or you have reason to believe that your landlord may not have done this correctly, you can check by contacting the three different TDP schemes in your region to ask if the deposit for your home has been placed with them.  Some of the schemes have online tools for you to quickly search for your details, or you can ring them to check. Visit their websites to find out more.

When doesn’t a deposit need to be protected?

If you are a lodger, a student living in university halls, or a private renter with an assured or protected tenancy, your landlord does not need to protect your deposit.

Is a holding deposit protected?

If you pay a holding deposit in order to ‘hold’ the property until you sign the official paperwork, this is NOT protected by a TDP scheme. However, when you do become a tenant, if this money then forms part or all of the true deposit that you pay when agreeing to rent the home, then it will require protecting at this point.

If you do pay a holding deposit to your landlord, make sure you get a receipt and have the landlord’s contact details. Make sure that you also have written confirmation of what will happen to this holding deposit money if you either proceed or decide not to proceed with the property e.g. if it’s refundable, or whether it will be deducted from the tenancy deposit payable when you sign the tenancy agreement. Legally, the landlord cannot just keep a holding deposit if the tenancy goes ahead, however, they may not return it until all other costs have been paid in full. Often, landlords will deduct the holding deposit from other fees or deposits due when you sign the tenancy agreement.

What can I do if my tenancy deposit has not been protected?

If your landlord has not correctly used a TDP scheme, a court can force them to repay you, as the tenant, not only the full deposit that you originally paid, but up to three times the deposit amount in total. You will need to apply to your local county court for this and if you require information or legal assistance to do so, CEL Solicitors can help, with our team of highly experienced housing solicitors helping many tenants to get back their wrongfully held deposits, and more.

Can my landlord evict me if they haven’t protected my deposit?

If your deposit should have been protected and wasn’t, was protected late (after the 30-day deadline) or if they didn’t ever give you the ‘prescribed information’ mentioned earlier in this guide, they cannot issue you with a section 21 eviction notice without first paying your deposit back to you.

If you have reason to believe that your landlord has not protected your deposit and they have still issued you with a section 21 eviction notice, you can seek legal advice as it may be possible to challenge or delay the eviction. You can contact CEL Solicitors for free initial advice today.