Your tenancy deposit
A landlord can ask you to pay a tenancy deposit when you start renting a house. The deposit can cover unpaid rent or damage caused to the property during your tenancy.
Your landlord must not charge you to protect your deposit in an approved scheme.
When you paid your tenancy deposit
If you paid your deposit on or after 1 April 2013, your landlord must protect your money in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
They don't need to protect:
- tenancy deposits outside Northern Ireland
- deposits paid before 1 April 2013
Paying rent up front doesn't count as a deposit. If your landlord asks for a rent deposit as security against you not paying rent, they must protect this deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
What your landlord must do
Your landlord must protect your deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 14 days of receipt. They must protect your deposit in an approved scheme during your tenancy.
Your landlord must give you a written tenancy statement:
- with specific written information about your tenancy
- explaining reasons when you will not get your full deposit back at the end of your tenancy
When you pay your deposit, the landlord must give you written information about your tenancy within 28 days.
The statement must include;
- details of the amount of the deposit protected in an approved scheme and your full tenancy address
- the landlord's and any agent's name, address and contact details
- the name and contact details of the scheme protecting your deposit including how you can let the scheme know about a disagreement over the return of your deposit
- the reasons why part or all of your deposit might be withheld at the end of the tenancy
- what happens when you cannot be contacted at the end of the tenancy
Landlords living outside Northern Ireland who receive a deposit for a private tenancy in Northern Ireland must still follow the law.
They must give an address in Northern Ireland to the scheme administrator protecting the deposit.
Protecting your deposit
Once your landlord receives your deposit, they must make sure that the deposit is protected in an approved scheme.
If your landlord uses an agent, the agent is responsible for:
- protecting the deposit within 14 days
- giving you the written tenancy statement and specific written information within 28 days
The scheme administrators must hold the deposits in special bank accounts, regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, to make sure your money is safe and in case their scheme fails.
The three appointed scheme administrators are:
Paying your deposit by instalment
Some scheme administrators may accept deposits paid in instalments. Ask your landlord or letting agent if the scheme they use allows you to pay your deposit in instalments.
A holding deposit
Sometimes a landlord asks for a holding deposit. They take this before you agree a tenancy. In this case, the landlord will reserve the tenancy and keep the holding deposit until you confirm you need the tenancy. If you don't need the tenancy, the landlord should return the full amount to you.
If you agree to rent the property and your holding deposit becomes the tenancy deposit, the landlord must protect your deposit in an approved scheme within 14 days.
Student deposits paid on or after 1 April 2013
If your student accommodation is let under a private tenancy and you paid a deposit on or after 1 April 2013, your landlord must protect your deposit in an approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
Private landlords often take tenancy deposits for student accommodation months before a tenancy starts. Once the tenancy is agreed and the deposit held becomes security for the tenancy, the landlord must protect it in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
If you're an overseas student, the amount of deposit you get back at the end of your tenancy might adjust to cover transaction costs to a foreign bank account. Ask the scheme administrator for more details.
Students living in university halls
If you're a student living in a university hall of residence, you might live there under licence. You don't have a private tenancy. Your deposit doesn't come under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme rules and isn't protected in a scheme.
If the property is let to several tenants on one tenancy agreement, you might need to nominate a lead tenant to deal with:
- the deposit
- any dispute that might arise at the end of the tenancy
Each scheme must allow all tenants to access the scheme and its services.
Your landlord is selling the house you rent
If your landlord is selling the property you rent, the scheme administrator will continue to protect your deposit until the end of the tenancy.
Your tenancy statement should explain what happens if your landlord sells the property. This should include the notice to quit period your landlord must give you.
Your rented home is repossessed
If the property you rent is repossessed, the scheme protects your deposit until you have to move, as long as the landlord protected your deposit in an approved scheme.
Your landlord doesn't protect your deposit
You can contact the Environmental Health office in your local council if:
- your landlord doesn't protect your deposit within the 14 day time limit
- your landlord doesn't give you written information about your tenancy within the 28 day time limit
When a council finds a landlord has broken the law over tenancy deposits, they can fine the landlord three times the amount of the deposit.
The council can also prosecute a landlord for breaking the law. If convicted, a court can fine a landlord up to £20,000.