Tenancy deposit schemes

Landlords have to register your tenancy deposit within 30 working days of the tenancy starting. This page explains all you need to know about tenancy deposit schemes across Scotland.

What is a deposit?

When you move into rented accommodation, most private landlords or letting agents ask for a deposit. Most councils, housing associations and housing cooperatives do not ask for a deposit. If you are a landlord, please check out the tenancy deposit schemes in our Landlord section.

A deposit is a sum of money which acts as a guarantee against:

  • damage you, as a tenant, may do to the property
  • cleaning bills if you have left the property in poor condition
  • bills that are left unpaid, for example fuel or telephone bills
  • any unpaid rent.

A deposit cannot be used to replace items that are damaged, or worn, due to normal wear and tear. For example, worn carpets and furniture.

How much can I be charged as a deposit?

Usually a deposit is one month's rent. However, landlord and letting agents can ask for up to two months' rent. 

Some landlords or letting agencies may ask you to pay a sum of money to start or renew a tenancy in addition to your first month's rent and a deposit. This can be called a premium, 'key money' or 'holding fees'. They may say that this is to cover the costs of credit reference checking or other administrative tasks and that it is non refundable. This is unlawful so don't hand over any money.

If you've paid a fee you should use our online toolkit to reclaim your fees.

What is a tenancy deposit scheme?

If you rent from a private landlord or letting agent then a tenancy deposit scheme is where your deposit will be held for the length of your tenancy.

The tenancy deposit schemes are run by independent companies which are approved by the Scottish Government. Currently there are three approved schemes:

What will happen to my deposit?

Your landlord has to register your deposit within 30 working days from the beginning of the tenancy with one of the available schemes. There will be no cost involved for the tenant with registering your deposit with a tenancy deposit scheme.

How do I know my deposit is registered?

Within 30 working days of the tenancy beginning your landlord must give you the following information about your deposit:

  • How much - confirm the amount of the deposit.
  • Dates - the date they received the deposit and the date they paid the deposit into a scheme.
  • Address - of the property that the deposit relates to.
  • Landlord registration - a statement from your landlord confirming they are registered.
  • Which scheme - the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme where the deposit was paid.
  • Terms - the conditions in which all, or part, of your deposit can be kept at the end of the tenancy.

I have no information about my deposit 

If your landlord or letting agent hasn't sent you the required tenancy deposit information, use these letters to ask your landlord for the required information.

Letter one

Use this letter to remind your landlord that he has a responsibility to supply with the required information about the deposit.

Letter requesting deposit registration details

Letter two 

If you have already contacted your landlord requesting the registration details and have received no reply, then use this letter that outlines the sanctions that can be imposed on landlords who do not comply with the deposit regulations.

Follow up letter requesting deposit registration details.

My deposit is not registered

If you have paid a deposit and your landlord doesn't register it within 30 working days and provide you with the details above, then you can apply to the sheriff court, via a summary application, and the court can order the landlord to pay you up to three times the amount of the deposit paid. You can do this up to three months after the tenancy has ended.

If you apply to the sheriff court during the term of your tenancy then the court can also make the landlord adhere to the tenancy deposit regulations. 

Getting my deposit back

At the end of your tenancy your landlord applies to the tenancy deposit scheme for the repayment of the deposit. The application will include details of deductions and the amount of the deposit to be returned. You will be contacted by the tenancy deposit scheme to see if you agree with the amount of deposit that is to be returned to you. If you do agree then you will receive the agreed amount within five working days (depending on bank transfers).

If you think that your landlord has not applied for the deposit to be returned then you may make your own application to the tenancy deposit scheme.

Tenancy deposit disputes

If you cannot come to an agreement with your landlord over any deductions that have been suggested, then you will be able to apply to the dispute resolution process. As part of the process you will need to show that you have tried to come to agreement with your landlord before entering the dispute resolution process.

As a tenant you do not have to use the dispute resolution process. However, if you decide to do so then your landlord has no choice but to enter into the dispute process with you.

The dispute will be referred to an independent adjudicator, who will be handed any evidence that has been submitted. The adjudicator will come to a decision, within 20 working days, and if you are not happy with the amount of the deposit that is to be returned then you can ask for a review. However, after a review the decision made will be final and binding on both parties. If your landlord is evicting you a sheriff cannot award the landlord the deposit but if you are evicted for rent arrears any evidence of that will inform the scheme's decision if you use the deposit dispute process.

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has a guide about how much the costs of replacements of carpets, worksurfaces for example should be charged to tenants. Check the ARLA betterment and apportionment guide for their guidance for landlords.

Will my deposit have to be protected?

The vast majority of private rented tenants will have their deposits registered with a tenancy deposit scheme. However, there are a few exemptions:

  • if the landlord is a family member
  • life rents
  • holiday homes
  • properties used by religious organisations
  • supported accommodation
  • a house that is subject to control orders
  • agricultural and crofting tenancies
  • where the landlord is a resident
  • where the ownership of the property changes hands, such as when the property has been repossessed.

If your tenancy is not listed above then the landlord will have to register your deposit.

Not sure about what kind of tenancy you have, use our tenancy checker to find out.

The important points

  • A tenancy deposit scheme is where your deposit will be held for the length of your tenancy if you rent privately, though there are a small number of exceptions.
  • Your landlord must register your deposit within 30 working days of your tenancy starting and the schemes do not charge you or your landlord.
  • Your landlord has to give you information about your deposit, for example confirming when they registered it and with which scheme, but they must also confirm they (the landlord) is registered with the local authority.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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