If you paid a security deposit for a tenancy on or after 1 April 2013 the agent or landlord has a legal responsibility to protect that deposit in an authorised scheme run by one of the 3 companies who have been approved by the Department for Communities. Deposits taken before that date do not need to be placed with one of these schemes.
Protecting a deposit in Northern Ireland
Your landlord has to protect your deposit in an authorised scheme run by one of the 3 companies who are approved to provide a tenancy deposit scheme in Northern Ireland.
The Department for Communities has approved 3 different companies to provide tenancy deposit protection schemes in Northern Ireland. They are
- My Deposits
- Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland (TDS NI)
- Letting Protection Service Northern Ireland (LPS NI)
If your landlord tells you that your deposit has been protected in a scheme run by anyone other than the 3 approved scheme administrators, he or she has failed to comply with the law. You should report this to your local council. Your landlord, or the agent managing the tenancy, must protect the deposit within 14 days of getting it from you. There is also a list of information that the landlord is required to provide to the scheme administrator.
How will you know your deposit has been protected?
Your landlord must give you information about your deposit within 28 days of you paying the money over. Your landlord must give you the following information
- the amount of the deposit and the full address of the property in question
- your landlord’s full name and date of birth
- your landlord’s contact details, including your address, telephone number, mobile number and a valid contact email address
- a correspondence address for the landlord, which must be in Northern Ireland, if this differs from the address above
- the name, address and contact details of any agent operating on your landlord’s behalf
- confirmation of your contact details including contact details of any relevant person who is acting on your behalf
- details of the scheme in which the landlord has placed the deposit including information about how to resolve a dispute
- details of how the deposit will be refunded and the circumstances under which the landlord can retain some or all of the deposit
- what will happen if you cannot be contacted at the end of the tenancy and
- a copy of an information leaflet produced by the tenancy deposit scheme administrator.
Your landlord has to certify that the information he has given you is correct and give you an opportunity to sign the document to show that you are happy with the information provided. If the landlord hasn't given you this information by the end of your first month in the property, he or she may not have protected your money.
Landlord hasn’t protected deposit
Contact your local council if you haven’t received the information above within 28 days of handing your deposit over. It is an offence to fail to provide this information or to provide some, but not all, of the information required. Your landlord could face a fixed penalty of 3 times the amount of the deposit or end up in court.
When can the deposit be used?
Landlords take deposits as a type of insurance against any financial loss they might face because of the tenancy. Deposit money can be used to cover any unpaid rent or any genuine damage to the property or the furnishings provided.
When making deductions from the deposit a landlord has to be reasonable and can’t make deductions for the sort of damage which could be due to fair usage of an item or “wear & tear”. A landlord should never be better off as a consequence of using the tenant’s deposit so, for example, a landlord can’t use your deposit to buy a brand new sofa if the sofa you damaged was five years old. In this instance, the landlord could bill you for half the cost of a new sofa.
Your landlord shouldn’t take money from your deposit to cover any repair or maintenance costs resulting from his legal obligations. Check your tenancy agreement to see what it says about repairing obligations.
You can’t use your deposit to cover your last month’s rent.
It’s in your best interests to look after the property you’re renting properly. There are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of losing your deposit at the end of the tenancy.
- Make sure the landlord takes a detailed inventory at the start of the tenancy. Go over the place with a fine tooth comb and note down any damage or disrepair, regardless of how small it seems. An inventory is not much use unless it is agreed by both you and the landlord so make sure any comments you’ve made are noted down.
- Report any repairs immediately and, if possible, in writing. This will help your landlord keep on top of any disrepair in the property and will mean your landlord is aware of any outstanding issues.
- Keep your rent account up to date. If you’re going to be late with a payment you need to let your landlord know. Keep receipts of all payments you make, including any top up payments if some of your rent is paid through housing benefit.
- Always give notice in writing if you want to end your tenancy. Your landlord may accept verbal notice but, legally, your liability to pay rent doesn’t end until the tenancy does. You need to give at least 28 days’ notice to quit to end your tenancy.
- Go to the check out inspection. Your landlord will inspect the property against the inventory which was taken at the end of the tenancy. Deductions made from your deposit will often be based on the information taken at this checkout interview so it’s in your interest to attend the inspection.
- Discuss what will happen to the deposit at the check out inspection. Make a note of what the landlord says.
- Make sure your landlord has a forwarding address for you. If the deposit scheme administrator can’t track you down at the end of the tenancy you won’t get your money back.
Getting your deposit back
If, at the end of the tenancy, your landlord decides to keep some of your deposit and you disagree with this decision, you'll need to follow your scheme's dispute procedure. You can choose to go to Small Claims Court instead, but get advice first if you're considering taking your landlord to court.