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.
Lead tenants in joint tenancies
If the tenancy agreement is a joint agreement, the deposit for the property is regarded as one deposit, even if it is made up of of individual payments from different tenants. Your individual deposit will not be protected independently.
You will all have to agree to appoint one tenant to act as the lead tenant. This lead tenant will be responsible for all communication relating to the deposit. The lead tenant is the only tenant who can ask the deposit scheme administrator to adjudicate if you and your flatmates disagree with the landlord’s decision to withhold some or all of your deposit.
When a landlord protects the deposit in a scheme, he or she will give the lead tenant’s name to the deposit scheme administrator and confirm that the other tenants have all agreed to the appointment of the lead tenant.
What happens if the lead tenant has to leave?
The landlord can appoint a new lead tenant, as long as you and your flatmates have agreed to this. If one of you want to change the lead tenant, you’ll have to ask the landlord to organise this. The landlord can nominate one of the other original joint tenants to be the new lead tenant and will have to confirm that all tenants have agreed to this change.
What happens at the end of the tenancy?
When a tenancy ends, the landlord will normally make a proposal to the scheme explaining what the scheme should do with the deposit money. A copy of this proposal will be sent to the tenants of the property. The lead tenant has 30 working days to reply to the landlord's proposal. The lead tenant can say that he or she disagrees with the landlord and can ask to use the dispute resolution process.
If the scheme hasn’t received a response from the lead tenant within 15 working days, they will write to the other tenants offering them the opportunity to appoint a new lead tenant.
Do all tenants get an equal share of the money back?
The landlord’s repayment proposal can specify that different amounts be returned to different tenants. This could happen if one tenant is solely responsible for damage to the property.
The lead tenant can dispute
- the amount returned and
- how the amount has been divided between tenants.
If the lead tenant accepts the amount but disagrees with how it has been split, the deposit scheme administrator will divide the returned money equally between all tenants.
What happens if the lead tenant doesn’t return the money to the other tenants?
At the end of the tenancy the money is paid into an account specified by the lead tenant. It is then up to the lead tenant to ensure that all other tenants receive their fair share of the deposit money.
If a lead tenant does not return the money to the other tenants, they may have to take legal action against the lead tenant in Small Claims Court. It is essential that all the other tenants in the property have a forwarding address for their lead tenant.
Deposit protection in Northern Ireland
Only three companies are authorised to provide deposit protection services in Northern Ireland. They are:
- TDS Northern Ireland
- My Deposits NI and
- the Letting Protection Service
Your landlord has to give you information about the scheme he or she is using to protect your deposit within 28 days of this money being paid over. The scheme leaflet should explain the exact procedures you need to follow to get your money back at the end of the tenancy.
TDS NI has produced a useful guide, explaining exactly how it deals with joint tenancies.