How to get your deposit back

So you’re moving out. As your rental tenancy comes to a close, you’ll have one burning question: will I get my deposit back?

We’ve compiled the best expert tips to make sure you don’t lose your deposit – so the money can be back in your pocket, where it belongs!

Fill in the inventory

It’s dull but necessary. When you move into the house your landlord or estate agent should give you an inventory list. If they don’t, you can request one. Make sure you make a note of any damaged or scuffed items (and photograph them so you have evidence), as well as anything that’s on the inventory but is missing from the house. That way you won’t get charged for that missing dining room chair that never actually existed!

Photograph everything

The camera is your best friend in this situation. When you move in, take pictures (and date these on your phone) of all the rooms and especially of items that have some damage or wear and tear, such as that musty grey carpet in the hallway that has seen better days. Send these to the landlord and the letting agency with your signed contract. When you leave, after giving the house a professional clean, take pictures to prove you’ve left it in a good condition.

Double-check your contract at least two months before you move out

There might be small things on there that you didn’t notice. Did you agree to keep the windows clean, inside and out? If so, you might need to pay a window cleaner to do those hard-to-reach outside bedroom windows. If you agreed to maintain the garden then some mowing and weeding might be in order. Even if you have to pay someone to help you out with these tasks, it’ll still work out a whole lot cheaper than losing your deposit.

Ask for it back

It sounds obvious, right? But if you’re the tenant, it's your responsibility to request your deposit back from your landlord or agency. After telling your landlord that you’re moving out and saying how many months or weeks notice you are giving them (check this in your contract), as moving out day nears send your landlord a letter asking for your deposit back. It’s also worth sending a copy of the letter to the letting agent if they manage the property. Your deposit should usually be refunded within 10 days. Shelter.org.uk has a useful letter template you can use if you’re unsure about how to structure the letter.

Tenancy deposit scheme

These are schemes where your landlord protects your deposit by paying it into a holding scheme for the duration of your tenancy. The Tenancy Deposit Scheme will make sure you get your deposit back if you:

  • meet the terms of your tenancy agreement
  • don’t damage the property
  • pay your rent and bills

You can contact the TDS directly if your landlord paid your deposit money into their scheme. The refund process usually takes 5 to 10 days. Here’s how to check if your deposit is being protected by a TDS.

Taking it further

If you have fulfilled the terms of your tenancy agreement and your landlord still hasn’t returned your deposit after 30 days, you can go to a small claims court to try and reclaim your money. Ensure all your communication with your landlord is done in writing (email counts too) and for more advice go to the Housing Advice.

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 before going to a small claims court.

For more advice, Shelter has some useful information.