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Is your tenancy deposit really protected?

Did you know...

By law, if you pay a deposit to your landlord or letting agent then they must protect it in a government-authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme. It applies to all landlords and agents in England and Wales who have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement (the contract) with their tenant.

It was introduced to ensure that you are able to get your deposit back from your landlord or agent when you move out.

These sentences are copied from one of the 4 Tenancy Deposit Schemes in the U.K.

Great words indicating it will put a stop to obnoxious Estate Agnets and Landlords/ladies. Until you realise these schemes do not hold your deposit, this is (still?) the estate agent or the landlord/lady. So they not only hold your deposit, they also hold the strings.

Then if you don't agree with the proposed deductions from the deposit and you raise a dispute with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, the estate agent and/or landlord/lady doesn't agree with the arbitrage of this scheme. And nothing happens, because they (still) hold the strings (and your deposit). The only way then to get your money back is going to court, because the schemes can only arbitrage if all parties agree to it.

This happened to us. Two months before our moving date we informed the estate agent of this. The property we rented from them (Hobbs Parker in Ashford) was the worst of all the properties we’d lived in, but no matter how often we reported various issues, nothing ever happened. So when during this January’s storms roof tiles dislodged we reported this and decided not to pay the last month’s rent until the landlady (who also lives in Great Chart – and keeps horses) took some action to repair the roof. This, obviously, didn’t happen, not even when we reported noticeable moist stains started to appear on the living room’s (old) wall paper.

In the end the estate agent sent us an email with various proposed deductions from the deposit – including the last month rent arrears – and “threatened” to increase these deductions if we didn’t agree with them. We contacted TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme) to start a dispute about this – officially any rent arrears cannot be deducted from the deposit - and got nowhere at all when the agents told them the landlady didn’t agree to any arbitrage.

PiggybankSo it pays to hold the strings yourself especially at the “moving-out” period to get your “protected” deposit back if (and only if) you are dealing with obnoxious estate agents and/or obnoxious landlords/landladies.

In our opinion the only way to hold those strings it to make sure you owe the agent and landlord/lady money. Stop paying rent until the outstanding amount is higher than the deposit, normally this amounts to a bit over 1 month’s rent – so you’ll have to stop your standing order two months before the moving out date.

This is a breach of contract, you’ll have to have some guts and (written) evidence of breach of contract by the estate agent and/or landlord/lady. They could go to court to evict you, but knowing you’ll be moving out soon will make them think twice before spending money and time on this.
If they contact you about the rent arrears, keep mentioning the things the landlord/lady should have done in the property – hence the written evidence on this (you shouldn’t stop paying rent for no reason at all, there has to be ongoing issues).

When you move out, make sure you (or an appointed person you trust) are there during the property check survey and point out all the things that you’ve listed before.

Then, don’t agree to any deductions at all, not even for the rent arrears. Remember, you owe them more money than the deposit it worth. This way you keep the strings firmly into your own hands.
You then raise a dispute with the scheme your deposit is protected with (a certificate should have been sent to you at the beginning of the tenancy with the organisation’s name and an unique reference number), and we want to bet the estate agent and/or the landlord/lady will now definitely agree to the arbitrage.

This method is in our opinion the only way to protect your deposit and to tackle the ludicrous practise by estate agents to deduct money from the deposit for (small) items/issues while during the whole of the tenancy the landlord/lady has not kept their end of the tenancy agreement.

Best would be for the schemes to effectively hold the deposit – as the name suggests – but that will be wishful thinking. 



As a landlord I agree that all things of a maintenance nature should be done within a reasonable and manageable time and that the tenants should do all they can to accommodate the maintenance person(s)and not to be obstructive in allowing access as so many are. At the same time Estate Agent (letting agents)should be doing regular checks on damage done by the tenants so that any damage can be rectified and not left to the end of the tenancy.
Any other monies owed to the Landlord should be taken from the deposit (that's what it's for) whether it be for damage or rent arrears.

Karin H.

But you are not an obnoxious landlord, Peter.

In the above story the landlady - nor the estate agent - took steps to rectify or solve any (large) issues in the property, but did deduct money from the deposit for miniscule items.

And that is not correct IMHO. Therefore the Tenancy Deposit Scheme should really and actually protect the deposit better (for both sides if you like), not the way it is constructed now.

Karin H

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