Once you're into the second month of your tenancy, do a quick tenancy health check to see if your landlord has given you the legal documents you're entitled to. Make sure
- you've been given a rent book that has your landlord's name, residential address and telephone number in it
- you've been given an inventory with detailed information showing the cleanliness and condition of the property and all furnishings on the date you moved in
- your landlord has given you information about where your deposit has been protected and how to get your money back at the end of the tenancy.
If you're missing any of this information, talk to your landlord or agent about it. If they won't give you the information, report this to your local council.
Checking if your deposit has been protected
Any deposit paid on or after 1 April 2013 must be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme. Your landlord has committed an offence if your deposit hasn't been protected in one of the 3 approved schemes. Your local council can make your landlord pay a financial penalty for failing to protect the deposit or can take the landlord to court. The court can make the landlord pay a maximum fine of £20,000. But the court can only do this if you've reported the landlord within 6 months of him failing to protect your deposit.
Check the paperwork you’ve been given by your landlord. If your deposit was protected you should have been given details about the scheme your landlord is using and some reference numbers that are specific to your deposit. You can use these details to check that your deposit was protected.
If your landlord hasn’t given you information about the tenancy scheme he’s using, he’s broken the law. You can report this to the council, but you need to do it quickly.
What can the council do if the deposit wasn’t protected?
Your landlord has to protect your deposit within 14 days of your tenancy starting and has to give you information about the scheme he or she is using within 28 days of your tenancy starting. If he fails to do either of these things, he has committed an offence and can be prosecuted by the council. Unfortunately, the council can't prosecute the landlord if it's been more than 6 months since the landlord committed this offence.
What does this mean for tenants?
You absolutely need to check early on in your tenancy to see if your deposit has been protected. You can't leave this until you're getting ready to move out. By then, it may be too late for the council to help if your landlord failed to protect your money. The council won't be able to prosecute your landlord for failing to protect your deposit if it's been more than 7 months since you paid it. If your deposit wasn't protected, you can't use the dispute service provided by these schemes. You’ll need to take action against your landlord in Small Claims Court if your landlord keeps an unprotected deposit and you think this is unfair.