Unprotected deposits

The vast majority of deposits will need to be registered with a tenancy deposit scheme. However, there are a few exemptions. This page explains which deposits don't need to be registered and how to get your unprotected deposit back at the end of your tenancy.

Should my deposit be registered? 

Most deposits will be protected by being 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.

What is a deposit?

When you move into rented accommodation, most private landlords or letting agents ask for a deposit.

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

  • damage you 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, such as, worn carpets and furniture.

Usually a deposit is one month's rent. However, landlords can ask for up to two months' rent. 

When you pay your deposit

When you pay a deposit you should make sure you:

  • get an agreement on the deposit in writing (including what it may be used for)
  • receive a receipt for the amount paid
  • understand how it will be returned at the end of your tenancy
  • check the inventory of contents of the property as well as their condition. Take photographs of contents listed on the inventory, as you may be held responsible for any damage. 

You can download an inventory If your landlord does not provide one.

Getting your deposit returned

At the end of the tenancy there may a slight delay in the return of the deposit so that your landlord can inspect the property and check any outstanding bills. It is reasonable for the landlord to make deductions to cover damage to property, furniture or fittings, missing items listed on the inventory, and outstanding rent or fuel bills.

Your landlord cannot make a deduction from your deposit where the only damage to the property is as a result of the normal wear and tear of having someone live there. This is where the your inventory can be useful, since it will provide details of what the property and its contents were like when you moved into the property.

If there a dispute about the amount withheld by the landlord, you can take your landlord to the small claims court.

Deposit instead of the last month's rent

If the landlord has not guaranteed to return the security deposit at the end of the tenancy, or you believe there may be a dispute with the landlord over its return, then you might think about withholding rent up to the amount of the deposit before leaving the property.

This is not recommended, and if you do decide to withhold rent, you should keep the money in a specially created savings account in case your landlord decides to take court action. If court action is taken, then it is unlikely that you will lose out financially provided there is no evidence of unpaid bills, wilful damage etc, as the most likely outcome is that the court will order the landlord to return the deposit.

If you decide to take this course of action it's important to be aware that there is the possibility that if a decree for money is awarded in your absence, this could affect your credit status.

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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