When you move into a rented property, most landlords or letting agents will ask you for a deposit.
A deposit is a sum of money which acts as a guarantee against:
- damage you might do to the property
- cleaning bills if you've left the property in poor condition
- bills that are left unpaid, like fuel or telephone bills
- unpaid rent
If there are no issues when you move out, the landlord has to pay your deposit back to you in full. However, if any of the above happens, the deposit can be used to cover costs so the landlord doesn't have to pay them.
The deposit cannot be used to replace items that are damaged, or worn, due to normal wear or tear.
The amount that can be charged as a deposit cannot be more than two months' rent. For example, if the rent is £500 a month, you cannot be asked for more than a £1000 deposit.
Tenancy deposit schemes
Once you've paid the deposit for the property, your landlord or letting agent has to lodge it with a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 working days of the beginning of the tenancy.
There are three tenancy deposit scheme providers to choose from in Scotland:
Once your landlord lodges the deposit with one of these providers, within 30 working days, they have to give you in writing:
- the amount of the deposit and the date they received it
- the date the deposit was paid into the tenancy deposit scheme
- the address of the property
- a statement confirming they're registered (or have applied to be registered) as a landlord in the property's local council area
- the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme provider they used
- the conditions in which all or part of your deposit can be kept at the end of the tenancy
- information about sanctions if the deposit is late
If you have an arrangement to pay your deposit in instalments, then your landlord has to give you this information in writing for each instalment.
If your landlord doesn't lodge your deposit, or give you this information, you can contact them and ask them to do it.
If they still do not lodge your deposit, or give you the information, you can make an application to the First-Tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
The Tribunal can order the landlord to pay you up to three times the amount of the deposit. You can do this during the tenancy or up to three months after the tenancy has ended. Find out how to make an application to the Tribunal.
There are some circumstances where your landlord does not have to use a tenancy deposit scheme. They do not need to register your deposit if:
- the landlord returns the full deposit to you within 30 working days of the beginning of the tenancy
- you and the landlord are family members
- the tenancy is a 'liferent' which means the tenant has 'a formal right to use the property during their lifetime'
- the property is a holiday home
- the property is used by a religious organisation
- the property is supported accommodation
- it's an agricultural or crofting tenancy
- the landlord is also a resident in the property
- the property is subject to control orders
- the property has transitory ownership – where ownership of a house is short-term, e.g. a house which has been repossessed by a mortgage lender or a house held for up to 6 months by executors dealing with a deceased person's estate
Getting the deposit back
When a tenancy ends your landlord or letting agent has to get in touch with the tenancy deposit scheme provider and ask for the deposit to be returned. The landlord or letting agent should do this as soon as they can after the tenancy ends.
They should tell the provider how much of the deposit should go back to you and, if there are any deductions, how much of it should go to the landlord.
The provider will then ask you if you agree with their application. You have to contact the scheme within 30 working days to confirm whether you agree or disagree.
If you don't reply, your share of the deposit will stay in the scheme and the landlord will get the share they requested.
The deposit should be repaid to you automatically when the landlord states they are not due any money from it.
At the end of a tenancy, a landlord and tenant should always try to agree on any deductions from a tenant's deposit. If agreements can't be reached, the schemes offer a free dispute resolution service where an independent adjudicator looks at evidence from both tenant and landlord within specified timescales. If the tenant or landlord are still unhappy with the decision of the adjudicator, they can seek legal advice.
Making a decision
They make a decision on how the deposit should be returned. It's usually the landlord (or agent) who submits a repayment proposal, but the tenant can make an application too.
You don't have to use dispute resolution but if you request a referral – a landlord must enter into the dispute resolution process.
Your landlord must prove that they have a claim to retain some or all of the deposit. If they can't – the adjudicator must return the deposit to you.
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