Rental deposit

Owners must register their rental deposit within 30 working days from the start of the rental.

This page explains everything you need to know about rental deposit systems in Scotland.

What’s New?

What is a deposit?

When you move to a rented accommodation, many private owners or real estate agents ask for a deposit.

Many neighbourhood councils, owner communities, or housing cooperatives do not ask for a deposit. If you are an owner you can consult the rental deposit system in our owners section.

A deposit is an amount of money that acts as a guarantee against:

  • The damage that you, as a tenant, can do on the property.
  • Cleaning fees if you leave the property in bad condition.
  • Invoices that have not been paid, e.g. invoices relating to electricity and gas or telephone bills.
  • Any unpaid rent.

A deposit cannot be used to replace items or objects damaged or worn by use due to normal use. For example, carpets or furniture.

How much can you ask for as a deposit?

Typically, a deposit is usually equivalent to a month’s rent.

However, the owner or real estate agent can request up to an amount equal to the income of two months. Some homeowners or real estate agents may ask you to pay an amount of money to start or renew a rent in addition to your monthly rent and deposit. This amount can be called “Premium”, “key money” or “holding fee”. They may tell you that it is to cover the costs of verifying credit references or any other administrative task and that it is not refundable. This is illegal and therefore, do not deliver any monetary amount. If you have already paid an amount and want to claim you can use our help tool to claim your payments .

What is a rental deposit system?

If you rent to a private owner or real estate agent, a rental deposit system is where your deposit will be kept for the duration of your rental. Rental deposits are run by independent companies approved by the Government of Scotland. There are currently three approved systems:

What will happen to my deposit?

The owner must register the deposit within 30 working days from the start of the rental with one of the available systems. There will be no cost to the tenant when registering your deposit in a rental deposit system.

How do I know that my deposit has been registered?

In the time period of 30 working days from the start of your rental your landlord must give you the following information about your deposit:

  • How much – confirming the deposit amount.
  • Dates – the date on which they received the deposit and the date on which they have paid the deposit in one of the available systems.
  • Address – of the property to which the deposit belongs.
  • Landlord Registration – A statement from your landlord confirming that you have registered.
  • Which system – the name and contact details of the corresponding rental deposit system where the deposit has been paid.
  • Terms – the conditions under which all or part of your deposit is to be saved at the end of the rental.

I do not have information about my deposit

If your landlord or real estate agent has not sent you the information about the corresponding rental deposit system, you can use these letters to ask your landlord for the information.

  • First letter

Use this letter to remind your landlord that it is your responsibility to provide the information on the corresponding deposit

Letter to make the request for the details of registration of the deposit.

  • Second letter

If you have already contacted your landlord by requesting registration details and have not yet received a response, you can use this letter which outlines the sanctions that can be imposed on landlords who do not comply with deposit-related regulations.

Letter to make the request for follow-up on the details of registration of the deposit.

My deposit has not been registered

If you have paid for a deposit and your landlord has not registered it in the time period that corresponds to 30 days and you have not given the information set out above, you can ask the court through this application form and the court can oblige the landlord to pay you up to three times the amount of the base cost of the deposit. You can do this for up to three months after your rental has ended.

If you request anything from the court during the period of your lease, the court can also have the landlord adhere to the current regulations regarding the rental deposit.

Get my return deposit

At the end of your rental your landlord will ask the rental deposit system to proceed with the return of the deposit. The application will include details on withholdings and the total deposit amount that will be returned. You will be contacted by the rental deposit system to see if you agree with the amount of money that will be returned to you. If you agree, then you will receive the agreed amount within a period of five business days (depending on how long the wire transfers take).

If you think that your landlord has not requested the return of the deposit you can make your own application for the system of rental deposits.

Conflicts over the rental deposit

If you cannot reach an agreement with your landlord about any withholding that may have arisen, you can request a dispute resolution process. As part of the process you must prove that you have tried to reach an agreement with your landlord before requesting the process. As a tenant, you do not have to use the dispute resolution process. Either way, if you decide to apply, your landlord has no choice and will have to participate in the dispute process with you.

The dispute will be referred to an independent judge, who will handle any evidence that has been presented to him. The judge will have to reach a decision within a maximum of 20 business days, and if you are not happy with the amount of deposit that will be returned you can request a review. However, after the review the decision will be final and binding for both parties. If your landlord expels you from your rent, the court cannot grant you the deposit but if you are expelled for arrears of rent payments any evidence of this will be notified before making a decision if the dispute resolution process has been used.

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has a guide that can inform you about the costs that changes in carpets or work surfaces can be billed to tenants. You can take a look at link for guidance on the subject.

Will my deposit be protected?

The vast majority of tenants of private rentals will have their deposits registered with the system of rental deposits. However, there are some exceptions:

  • If the owner is a relative.
  • Rent for life.
  • Holiday homes.
  • Properties used by religious organizations.
  • Support housing.
  • A house that is subject to orders of control.
  • A rental property dedicated to agriculture or any type of farm.
  • Where the owner is a resident.
  • Where ownership of the property changes or ownership has been recovered.

If your rental does not belong to any of the points listed above, then the owner must register your deposit. If you are not clear what type of rental you have, use our rental inspector to find it