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.
If, at the end of the tenancy, you and your tenants are unable to agree on how to refund the deposit you will be referred by the scheme administrator to a Dispute Resolution Service. The adjudicator will look at the evidence and decide how the money should be returned. Find out more about adjudication and how to avoid disputes.
Your tenants are entitled to serve you with a Notice to Quit and must do so if they wish to vacate the property. This can happen with periodic tenants or tenants in a fixed term who wish to end the tenancy early. If your tenants leave during the period of their tenancy agreement, you can take court action against them to be reimbursed for unpaid rent.
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.
Any deposit paid on or after 1 April 2013 must be protected in one of the 3 authorised Tenancy Deposit Schemes approved by the Department for Communities. Your landlord or agent must provide you with information on the deposit scheme he or she is using and a list of other prescribed information within 28 days of you handing the money over.
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.