Deposits and deposit protection schemes

Most private landlords and letting agents will 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 leave the property in poor condition

  • unpaid bills, such as energy 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. This includes worn carpets and furniture.

Property Mark’s guide to fair wear and tear.

When paying your deposit

Make sure you get a receipt for the amount paid.

Check the property and the items on the inventory when you move in. Take photos of their condition. This can help if there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy.

You can create your own inventory if your landlord does not provide one.

Deposit amount

Landlords can ask for a maximum of two months rent as a deposit.

A landlord or letting agency can only ask you to pay rent and a deposit when starting a tenancy. Any other money could be an unlawful fee.

Unlawful fees

These are sometimes called:

  • a premium

  • a holding deposit

  • key money

A landlord or letting agent may say that this is for administrative costs and that it is not refundable.

This is unlawful. If you decide to pay this money to get the tenancy, you should then ask for it to be refunded.

If a letting agent does not return the money, you can complain to a letting agent over an unlawful fee.

Tenancy deposit schemes

Private landlords, letting agents and student accommodation providers have to protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme. They must do this within 30 working days of your tenancy starting.

A tenancy deposit scheme is where your deposit money will be stored during your tenancy. It protects your deposit. It prevents the landlord taking money out of the deposit during your tenancy.

There is no cost for the tenant when a landlord protects a deposit.

There are three schemes that are Scottish Government approved.

Be wary if a letting agent or landlord asks you to use any scheme for deposits other than those listed above. Read any small print before agreeing to use any other scheme as they will not offer the same protection.

Not all deposits need to be protected

If you live with your landlord they do not need to use a deposit scheme. Find information on when a deposit does not need to be protected.

What your landlord should do

Your landlord must tell you:

  • how much the deposit is

  • what date the landlord received the deposit

  • what date it was protected with the deposit scheme

  • which scheme it was protected with and contact details for the scheme

The tenancy deposit scheme should get in touch with you directly to confirm that the landlord has done this.

If you think your deposit is not protected

Contact each of the three deposit schemes and ask if your deposit is protected with them.

Each scheme has an enquiry form to request this information. You can also call them. These telephone numbers may not be free to call.

MyDeposits Scotland

Deposit enquiry form
0333 321 9402

Safe Deposits Scotland

Deposit Enquiry Form
03333 213136

Letting Protection Service Scotland

Deposit Enquiry Form
0330 303 0031

If the deposit is not protected with any of the schemes you will be entitled to compensation. Getting written confirmation from each scheme is important evidence to have when applying for compensation.

Compensation if your deposit is not protected

The First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber can order the landlord to pay you compensation. You are entitled to this if your deposit is not protected within 30 working days. The compensation can be up to three times the amount of your deposit.

You can apply to the tribunal:

  • during your tenancy or

  • up to three months after your tenancy has ended

If you apply during your tenancy, the tribunal can also order the landlord to protect your deposit with a scheme.

How to apply for compensation

You can apply to the tribunal for compensation by filling out application form G.

In section 7a of the application form, write “rule 103”.

What to send to the tribunal:

  • your completed application form

  • a copy of your tenancy agreement

  • evidence that your tenancy has ended if you are applying after you have moved out

  • written evidence from each of the three schemes that your deposit is not protected with them

Getting your unprotected deposit back

If your landlord does not return your unprotected deposit at the end of your tenancy you can claim the money back. The tribunal can order the landlord to pay the money back to you.

Use application form F to apply to the tribunal. Include in your application:

  • what money you believe you are owed

  • evidence of you paying the landlord a deposit, such as a bank statement or receipt from the landlord

  • evidence that it was not protected with a scheme

If you have a private residential tenancy the tribunal rule number is 111. For an assured or short assured tenancy it is rule 70.

This is separate from applying for compensation. It can be made at the same time if you want to get your deposit back and get compensation as well.

Getting your protected deposit back

Your landlord should tell the tenancy deposit scheme when your tenancy ends. They will tell the scheme if they want to make deductions from your deposit before it is returned to you.

The deposit scheme will ask you if you agree with the deductions. If you do not agree then you can request a dispute resolution.

Dispute resolution for protected deposits

If you ask to use the resolution process then your landlord has to enter into it with you.

You may need to show that you have tried to negotiate with your landlord first.

The scheme will take into account evidence that you and your landlord give them. A decision should be reached within 20 working days.

You can ask for a review if you disagree with the decision.

Last updated: 16 September 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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