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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Getting your deposit back

Most tenants pay a security deposit when they move into a property. This is your money and you should get it back when you move out. Your landlord can keep some of the money if you

  • owe rent,
  • have caused damage or
  • you've broken the tenancy agreement and this has cost the landlord money.

If your landlord has unfairly kept some of your deposit you should try to get this money back.

If you paid your deposit on or after 1 April 2013 you'll need to raise a dispute with your tenancy deposit protection scheme.  If you paid the deposit before 1 April 2013, you'll have to write to your landlord to try to get your money back.  If the landlord won't agree, you may need to go to Small Claims Court. 

Most landlords will ask you to pay a deposit and they have a good reason for asking for this. A deposit is like insurance against something going wrong in the property. However, it's important to remember that this money is your money and the landlord should only keep it if you have caused damage in the property, you owe rent to the landlord or you have failed to keep to the tenancy agreement and this means that the landlord has lost money.

You'll need to negotiate with your landlord to try to get your money back. Any negotiating should be done in writing and you need to keep copies of any emails or letters you send. If you're not able to agree with your landlord, you can go to Small Claims Court to see if a judge thinks you should get your money back.

Your landlord needs to have proper reasons to make a claim on your deposit money. All landlords have a legal responsibility to provide tenants with an inventory at the start of their tenancy. A good landlord should take a detailed inventory when you move into the property and use the same inventory when you move out of the property to check if the condition or cleanliness of the property has got a lot worse.

You can use the Small Claims Court to take legal action against someone if you are claiming less than £3000. You don't need a solicitor to go to Small Claims Court so the costs are much lower than the costs for other types of legal action.

If you paid your deposit on or after 1 April 2013, your landlord must protect it in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. These schemes work a little differently for joint tenants. Even though you might have paid your portion of the deposit directly to the agent or landlord, the landlord will protect the full deposit for the tenancy as one payment. This normally means that only one tenant, the lead tenant, will have the power to start the dispute process if you disagree with how the landlord has returned the deposit at the end of the tenancy.