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.
A security deposit belongs to a tenant. You should look at this money in the same way that you would an insurance policy. You have no right to the money unless you have suffered a financial loss which was caused by the tenant failing to do something that he or she was contractually or legally obliged to do.
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.
Tenants should usually tell you in writing if they're planning on moving out. They may not have to do this if they're leaving at the end of their contract. You'll need to arrange a time to inspect the property, return the deposit and decide whether to rent the property again or not.
You'll usually have to pay out quite a bit of money when you first move in. Most landlords will expect a month's rent as a security deposit and insist on rent being paid in advance. If you're on a low income, you may be entitled to housing benefit to help you meet the cost of your rent, but this is always paid in arrears. Make sure you get receipts for any money you pay out and keep these safe.
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.