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Deposits and inventories

Most private landlords will require a deposit for their properties as a form of security against damage or against loss of income caused by a tenant abandoning the property.

A landlord will normally ask for between one and two months rent as a deposit. It is illegal for a landlord to ask for more than two months rent as a deposit.

Holding deposits

If you are interested in renting a particular property from a landlord/agent, you may be asked to pay a holding deposit to secure the property if it is not immediately available. The holding deposit should be a small amount and should be deducted from either the security deposit or the first month's rent.

If you are asked to pay a holding deposit, you should know;

  • The landlord should provide a written document or contract which explains what the holding deposit is for and any terms and conditions. You should read over the terms and conditions to ensure they are fair.
  • You should pay by credit card or cheque and the landlord should always provide you with a receipt.
  • If you have paid a holding deposit and decide not to take on the tenancy, the landlord is likely to retain your holding deposit to cover reasonable costs. In most cases, landlords can only legally retain the equivalent costs of re-advertising the property. Landlords cannot retain your holding deposit to offset rent loss whilst the property is empty.
  • If the landlord decides not to let the property to you for whatever reason then the whole holding deposit must be returned.
  • If the landlord has failed to get you to sign a contract which outlines the terms and conditions of the holding deposit, then there are no grounds for the retention of the holding deposit if either party changes their mind.
  • If the landlord changes any of the terms and conditions of the offer of tenancy after the holding deposit has been paid and you decline the tenancy in view of these changes, all of the holding deposit must be returned. 

If you can't afford a deposit

The Rent bond guarantee scheme has been introduced to help prospective tenants who may need financial assistance.

Protecting your deposit

Before you move into a private rented property, you should ensure that you have an inventory which details the furniture and appliances that are left in the property as well as their condition and the condition of the fixtures and fittings. The inventory should be agreed and signed by both parties and the tenant should retain a copy.

Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 introduced tenancy deposit schemes provided by independent third parties to protect deposits paid by private tenants. From July 2012 landlords have had a legal duty to:

  • pay deposits to an approved tenancy deposit scheme
  • provide the tenant with key information about the tenancy and the deposit.

Some available approved schemes include Safe Deposits Scotland and Letting Protection Services Scotland.

Reclaiming the deposit

At the end of the tenancy, the landlord is entitled to use the deposit to offset any monies due by the tenant. In addition, the deposit may be used to replace or repair any furniture, fixtures or fittings that have been broken, damaged or lost.

If there are no monies outstanding or repairs or replacements required, the landlord must return the deposit within a 'reasonable timescale'.

If your landlord is refusing to return your deposit and you think that you are entitled to some or all of it back, you should:

  • Write to the landlord requesting a detailed breakdown (in writing) of the reasons why some/all of the deposit has not been returned
  • If the landlord responds, you should write back stating which items you accept responsibility for and which you do not. You should offer to pay an amount for the items you accept responsibility for and request that the landlord returns the remainder of the deposit. If you do not accept responsibility for any of the items, you should write again, requesting that all of the deposit is returned and stating that you will take further action if the landlord does not comply.
  • If negotiation fails, you will need to raise a small-claims action in the Sheriff Court. This is a relatively straightforward and low-cost process although you should be aware that if you lose the case, the Sheriff may order you to pay the landlord's court costs.