When you pay a tenancy deposit your landlord or letting agent must protect your deposit through a government-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme.
This applies to deposits paid for assured shorthold tenancies that started, or were renewed, on or after 6 April 2007.
Use Shelter's tenancy deposit rights checker to check if your deposit should be protected.
If you paid a deposit for a tenancy that started before 6 April 2007, and your tenancy has not been renewed since this date, see our pages on getting an unprotected tenancy deposit back.
What is a tenancy deposit protection scheme?
Tenancy deposit protection schemes ensure that deposits paid to landlords are kept safe and that a tenant gets their deposit back at the end of the tenancy, so long as there hasn’t been a breach of the tenancy agreement, such as unpaid rent or charges or damage to the property.
A landlord's duty to protect a tenant's deposit
For tenancy deposits paid to a landlord or agent on or after 6 April 2012, within 30 days of receiving it they must:
- protect your deposit with a UK Government-backed scheme
- provide you with certain information.
For tenancy deposits paid to a landlord or agent between 6 April 2007 and 5 April 2012, they must:
- protect your deposit with a UK Government-backed scheme by 6 May 2012
- provide you with certain information by 6 May 2012.
If you paid a deposit for a tenancy that started before 6 April 2007 and your tenancy agreement hasn't been renewed since, different rules apply for unprotected deposits. However, if your tenancy agreement has been renewed since April 2007, your landlord must protect your deposit with a UK Government-backed scheme. Check to see if your tenancy deposit is protected.
Information a landlord must provide
Your landlord must provide you with all the information the law requires within 30 days of receiving your deposit, including:
- the landlord's name and contact details
- the amount of deposit paid and the address of the tenancy
- details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme they are using
- a copy of the deposit protection certificate signed by the landlord
- information about the purpose of the tenancy deposit protection scheme
- how to get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy
- what to do if there is a dispute about the deposit.
Types of tenancy deposit protection schemes
The two types of tenancy deposit protection schemes are:
Custodial schemes – the landlord or agent pays the tenant's deposit into the scheme, where it will be kept until the end of the tenancy.
Insurance scheme – the landlord or agent keeps the tenant's deposit but pays an insurance premium to the scheme – meaning the tenant's deposit is insured in case of dispute.
These organisations provide government-backed schemes:
From 1 April 2013, Capita Tenancy Deposit Service provided a scheme, but stopped accepting new deposits from 14 September 2013.
Penalties when a deposit is not protected or is protected late
Changes to the law in April 2012 allow courts to order landlords who fail to comply with the law on tenancy deposit protection to pay compensation to tenants. The penalties apply to deposits paid for assured shorthold tenancies that started, or were renewed, on or after 6 April 2007.
A court can order landlords to make a compensation payment of between 1 to 3 times the value of the deposit if a landlord:
- only protect a tenant's deposit after 30 days
- fails to give the tenant details of the scheme used within 30 days
- fails to protect a deposit.
A court can also order a landlord to protect a deposit in a scheme.
Penalties if a tenancy deposit isn't protected by 6 May 2012
Some landlords who took a deposit but delayed protecting it had until 6 May 2012 to protect the deposit. This applies to:
- landlords who had been paid a tenancy deposit between 6 April 2007 and 5 April 2012
- landlords who had been paid a tenancy deposit before 6 April 2007 but renewed the tenant's assured shorthold tenancy between 6 April 2007 and 5 April 2012.
A landlord will have complied late if they protect your deposit or provide the required information after 6 May 2012 - and could be ordered to pay you 1 to 3 times the value of the deposit by a court. A landlord who doesn't protect your deposit at all can also be fined for failure to protect the deposit.
Compensation rights after your tenancy has ended
A court may order a landlord to pay compensation to their tenant or former tenant if the landlord didn't protect a tenancy deposit or protected a tenancy late.
A court can order a landlord to pay compensation of 1 to 3 times the value of the deposit even if your tenancy has ended:
- for deposits paid on or after 6th April 2012
- for deposits paid between 6 April 2007 and 6 April 2012 – if the tenancy ended after 6 April 2012
For deposits paid on tenancies that ended before 6 April 2012, the court can’t order the landlord to pay compensation at all - but you may be able to take action (including court action) to get an unprotected tenancy deposit returned.
Restricted eviction rights if a tenancy deposit is not protected
Normally if you have an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord can evict you simply by giving you two months notice (known as a 'Section 21 notice') and getting a court order once any fixed term has expired. But if your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit or given you details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme used, they cannot always evict you this way.
The landlord may still be able to get a court order to evict you for other reasons though – for example, if you have breached a condition of the tenancy such as not paying your rent.
Find out more about eviction from an assured shorthold tenancy.
Getting a tenancy deposit back at the end of a tenancy
Providing you have paid your rent and left the place in a good, clean condition, your landlord should return your deposit at the end of your tenancy.
Last updated: 1 January 2014