If you rent your home, your landlord or letting agent will usually ask you for a deposit. You pay a deposit as a promise you will follow the terms of your tenancy agreement (for example, the tenancy agreement may specify that you need to: pay a certain amount of rent every month, make sure the property is as clean when you move out as it was when you moved in, not damage the property or its contents, etc.). There should be a deposit clause in your tenancy agreement which specifies what terms will be included in your tenancy - not all tenancy agreements are the same, so read the terms of yours carefully before you sign it. If you don't stick to the terms in your tenancy agreement, your landlord may want to keep some or all of your deposit after you move out.

However, if your landlord says that you have broken a term of your tenancy agreement which you don't think you have, you can refer the repayment to our adjudication service. This means we'll ask you and your landlord for further information about the tenancy, and an impartial person will decide what repayment is fair based on that information. For example, the type of disagreements which our adjudication service is able to look at include:

  • If your landlord says you didn't pay rent but you say you did;

  • If your landlord says the property wasn't as clean when you moved out but you say it was;

  • If your landlord says you broke something which you say was broken when you moved in.

The type of information the landlord can submit includes:

  • A tenancy agreement to confirm which terms you have signed up to;

  • Check-in and check-out reports which show if the condition or cleanliness of the property has deteriorated since you moved in;

  • A rent statement to show if you haven't paid any rent.

You can view the evidence which the landlord submits and respond to it. You can also submit any evidence you may have (e.g. photographs you took of the property before you moved out).

While tenants pay a deposit as a promise they will follow the terms of their tenancy agreement, there are occasionally times when a tenant may feel that their landlord hasn't upheld their responsibilities. For example, if the boiler breaks and the landlord doesn't fix it for a considerable period. If a tenant feels the landlord hasn't upheld their responsibilities as agreed in the tenancy agreement, the tenant can approach the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).

Chamber President, Aileen Devanny, advises: 'A landlord in the private rented sector has a duty to ensure that the house they rent out meets the repairing standard. If a tenant or third party (for the time being a Local Authority) believes that a rented house does not meet that standard, an application can be made to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) for a decision by a tribunal on whether or not the landlord has complied with that duty. The tribunal can then order the landlord to carry out the necessary repairs. Various enforcement powers apply if the landlord then does not do so. A house meets the repairing standard if:

(a) It is wind and watertight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation;
(b) The structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external pipes) are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
(c) The installations in the house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
(d) Any fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
(e) Any furnishings provided by the landlord under the tenancy are capable of being used safely for the purpose for which they are designed;
(f) The house has satisfactory provision for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire;
(g) The house has satisfactory provision for giving warning if carbon monoxide is present in a concentration that is hazardous to health.

An application form and guidance can be downloaded from the Housing and Property Chamber website.'

If there is a dispute over the deposit at the end of the tenancy, sometimes tenants will say, for example, 'Yes, I didn't pay my rent, but I didn't have a boiler for over a month'. As the deposit is protection for the landlord in case the tenant breaks the terms of their tenancy agreement, the adjudicator is only able to consider if a term has been broken, not any 'counter-claims' against the landlord or letting agent. For example, if the dispute is over unpaid rent an adjudicator will only be able to consider evidence which substantiates if the rent has been paid or not, not the circumstances or reasons behind it. If there were any housing related problems during the tenancy, these have to be resolved outwith SafeDeposits, such as through the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).

Please note however that if there is a problem during the tenancy, we recommend tenants let their landlord or letting agent know as soon as possible and keep a record of the communication in writing. If there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy, the tenant can use this record as evidence that they tried to minimise any issues in the property. For example, if a window frame is loose and becomes weather damaged because of the wind and rain, if the tenant has let the landlord know about the problem, but the landlord hasn't done anything about it, the adjudicator can take this into consideration when considering a landlord's claim for damage.

Useful links

Renting Scotland: https://rentingscotland.org/
Citizen's Advice: http://www.cas.org.uk/
First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber): https://www.housingandpropertychamber.scot/home