Most landlords will ask for a security deposit from each tenant in a property. This money is used as insurance against any damage you may cause or rent you may owe at the end of the tenancy. Any deposit paid on or after 1 April 2013 has to be placed in a tenancy deposit protection scheme.
The Housing Amendment Act (NI) 2011 introduced a legal requirement for any deposits taken as part of a residential tenancy to be registered with a tenancy deposit protection scheme. This requirement will apply to any deposits taken on or after 1 April 2013. Find out more about the requirements and appointed scheme administrators.
The custodial scheme is free for both landlords and tenants to use. There are strict time limits within which you must give the scheme administrator the deposit and a list of prescribed information. You must also provide the tenant with a list of required information within a set time limit. Failing to protect the deposit or provide the current information can lead to a fixed penalty or prosecution. Find out more about the requirements of the Custodial Scheme.
If you use the insurance based scheme you'll be able to hold on to the deposit but will have to pay a fee to the scheme administrator. You will also be subject to strict time limits for registering the deposit and giving prescribed information to the scheme administrator and the tenant. Like the custodial scheme penalties will apply if you fail to act within the required timeframe. Find out more about the requirements of the Insurance based Scheme.
A tenancy deposit is the tenant's money and should be returned at the end of the tenancy. The deadline for returning this depends on whether the deposit was protected or not. You can make deductions from this deposit where you have suffered a loss as a result of the tenants' action or inaction. However, a deposit cannot be used to reimburse you against normal wear and tear and any deductions made from the deposit must be justifiable in court.
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.