Landscape view not supported, please use portrait view!

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) – Definition, Overview & FAQ

What is a tenancy deposit scheme (TDS)?

Definition: The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government-backed program in the United Kingdom designed to safeguard tenants’ deposits during the period of their tenancy and to ensure the fair handling and return of the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

It’s a legal requirement for landlords who take a deposit from their tenants under an assured shorthold tenancy.

Landlords are required to place tenants’ deposits in one of the approved TDS within 30 days of receiving it. This ensures the deposit is protected throughout the tenancy.

There are three main schemes where deposits can be held: the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), MyDeposits, and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own separate approved schemes.

How does the tenancy deposit scheme work?

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) operates as a protective measure for both landlords and tenants in a rental agreement, ensuring that the deposit paid by the tenant is securely held and fairly administered throughout the tenancy.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

  1. Deposit Collection: At the start of a tenancy, the landlord or letting agent collects a deposit from the tenant as security against damage to the property or unpaid rent. The amount is usually capped by law, often at no more than five weeks’ rent.
  2. Deposit Protection: Within a specified time frame, usually 30 days from receiving the deposit, the landlord must place it into one of the government-approved TDS. In the UK, there are two types of schemes:
    a. Custodial Scheme: The entire deposit is handed over to the scheme to hold for the duration of the tenancy. This service is typically free, as the scheme funds itself by earning interest on the deposits.
    b. Insurance-Based Scheme: The landlord retains the deposit but pays a fee to insure it. If the landlord fails to return the rightful amount to the tenant at the end of the tenancy, the scheme will refund the tenant and then reclaim the amount from the landlord.
  3. Providing Information to the Tenant: After protecting the deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with prescribed information. This includes details about the protection scheme used, how to apply for the return of the deposit, what to do if there is a dispute over the deposit, and the conditions under which the deposit may be withheld at the end of the tenancy.
  4. End of Tenancy: When the tenancy ends, if both parties agree on how the deposit should be divided (if at all), the deposit is returned accordingly.
  5. Dispute Resolution: If there is a dispute over the amount to be returned, the TDS offers a free dispute resolution service. An impartial adjudicator assesses the case and decides how the deposit should be distributed based on the evidence provided. This decision is binding.
  6. Return of Deposit: Once a decision is made, either through mutual agreement or through the dispute resolution service, the deposit is returned as per the agreement or adjudicator’s decision.

Responsibilities of landlords under TDS

Under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), landlords have several key responsibilities to ensure the proper handling and protection of tenants’ deposits:

  • Protecting the Deposit: Landlords must place the tenant’s deposit into one of the government-approved TDS within a specific timeframe, usually within 30 days of receiving it. The choice of scheme can be either custodial, where the scheme holds the deposit, or insurance-based, where the landlord keeps the deposit but pays to insure it.
  • Providing Prescribed Information: After securing the deposit in a scheme, landlords are required to provide the tenant with certain information. This includes details of the TDS in which the deposit is held, how the deposit is protected, and how to apply for its return at the end of the tenancy. Information about the dispute resolution service provided by the scheme must also be given.
  • Compliance with Scheme Rules: Landlords must adhere to the rules and procedures set by the chosen deposit protection scheme. This includes following the correct process for deposit deductions and refund at the end of the tenancy.
  • Handling Disputes Fairly: In case of any disputes over the deposit at the end of the tenancy, landlords should engage in the scheme’s dispute resolution process. They must provide evidence if they wish to make deductions from the deposit for property damage, unpaid rent, or other contractual breaches.
  • Returning the Deposit Promptly: At the end of the tenancy, landlords should return the deposit within a reasonable timeframe, as agreed with the tenant or as determined by the dispute resolution service.
  • Maintaining Accurate Records: Keeping detailed records of the deposit, including receipts and documentation of the property’s condition at the start and end of the tenancy, is important. This can be crucial in resolving any disputes effectively.

Failure to comply with these responsibilities can lead to legal penalties for landlords, including being ordered to pay the tenant up to three times the deposit amount and restrictions on using certain eviction procedures.

Tenant rights and TDS

Tenants have specific rights under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) that are designed to protect their deposit and ensure fair treatment throughout their tenancy.

  •  Right to Have the Deposit Protected: Tenants have the right to protect their deposit in one of the government-approved TDS within 30 days of paying it. This ensures that their deposit is safely held and will be handled impartially.
  • Right to Receive Prescribed Information: Landlords are required to provide tenants with prescribed information about where and how their deposit is protected, including details of the TDS, the process for requesting its return, and how to raise a dispute if there is disagreement over the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
  • Right to Fair Deductions: Any deductions from the deposit at the end of the tenancy must be justified and fair. Landlords must provide evidence, such as an inventory check or receipts for repairs if they claim costs for damage or unpaid rent. Tenants have the right to challenge unfair deductions.
  • Access to Dispute Resolution: If there is a disagreement over the deposit at the end of the tenancy, tenants can access the free dispute resolution service provided by the TDS. This service offers an impartial adjudication to resolve the dispute without going to court.
  • Right to Prompt Return of Deposit: At the end of the tenancy, assuming there are no disputes, tenants have the right to have their deposit returned promptly, usually within 10 days of agreeing on the amount with the landlord.
  • Protection from Unfair Eviction: If a landlord has not protected a tenant’s deposit in a TDS, they may be restricted from using certain eviction procedures, such as serving a Section 21 notice in England.
  • Right to Compensation for Non-compliance: If a landlord fails to protect the deposit in a TDS or provide the prescribed information, tenants may be entitled to compensation, typically up to three times the deposit amount.

Dispute resolution in TDS

Dispute resolution is a key feature of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), offering a fair and impartial process for resolving disagreements between landlords and tenants over deposit deductions at the end of a tenancy. Here’s how the dispute resolution process typically works within the TDS:

  •  Initiation of Dispute: A dispute can be raised by either the tenant or the landlord if there is disagreement over how much of the deposit should be returned at the end of the tenancy. This usually occurs when the landlord proposes to withhold part or all of the deposit for reasons such as property damage, unpaid rent, or other breaches of the tenancy agreement.
  •  Submission to the TDS: The party raising the dispute must submit it to the TDS that is protecting the deposit. Each scheme has its procedures and timeframes for submitting a dispute, usually within a certain period after the tenancy has ended.
  • Evidence Gathering: Both parties are asked to provide evidence to support their claims. This may include photographs, inventories, receipts, correspondence, or any other relevant documents. The quality and completeness of this evidence can significantly influence the outcome.
  • Adjudication: An impartial adjudicator appointed by the TDS reviews the evidence submitted by both parties. They make a decision based on this evidence, considering the terms of the tenancy agreement and the circumstances of the case.
  •  Decision: The adjudicator’s decision is binding on both parties. They will determine how the deposit should be allocated between the landlord and tenant. This decision is usually made within 28 days of the dispute being raised.
  • Payment of Deposit: Following the decision, the TDS will distribute the deposit according to the adjudicator’s ruling. If either party is unhappy with the decision, they would typically have to challenge it through the courts, which is rare due to the binding nature of the adjudication.
  • Free Service: The dispute resolution service provided by TDS is free for both landlords and tenants. It offers a quicker and less expensive alternative to resolving deposit disputes through legal proceedings.

Scotland and Northern Ireland tenancy deposit schemes

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, the tenancy deposit schemes are distinct from those in England and Wales, with specific programs operated under their respective legal frameworks.

Northern Ireland:

In Northern Ireland, the following schemes have been approved for tenancy deposit protection:

  1. Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland (TDSNI): This is a government-approved scheme that offers both custodial and insurance options for deposit protection. It provides a dispute resolution service to help resolve any disagreements over the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
  2. My Deposits Northern Ireland: This scheme offers an insurance-based option where landlords hold the deposit but secure it through the scheme. It also provides a dispute resolution service.
  3. Letting Protection Service NI (LPSNI): This is a custodial scheme where the deposit is held by the scheme for the duration of the tenancy, and it also offers dispute resolution services.


In Scotland, the following government-approved tenancy deposit schemes are available:

  1. SafeDeposits Scotland: This is a custodial scheme where the deposits are held by the scheme throughout the tenancy. It offers a free dispute resolution service for any disagreements over the deposit.
  2. My Deposits Scotland: Similar to its counterpart in Northern Ireland, this scheme protects deposits and provides dispute resolution services.
  3. Letting Protection Service Scotland (LPSS): This is another custodial scheme that holds deposits and offers services to resolve deposit-related disputes.


How do I get my tenancy deposit back from TDS?

To get your deposit back from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), at the end of your tenancy, agree with your landlord on the amount to be returned. Inform the TDS of the agreed amount, and they will release the funds. If there’s a dispute, use the TDS dispute resolution service. Once resolved, the TDS will distribute the deposit based on the decision. Ensure your landlord has your correct bank details to facilitate the return.

How much is the tenancy deposit scheme?

The cost of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme depends on the type chosen by the landlord. For custodial schemes, there is no direct cost to the landlord or tenant, as these are free and funded through the interest earned on the deposits. For insurance-based schemes, landlords pay a fee to insure the deposit. This fee varies depending on the scheme provider and the deposit amount but is typically a small percentage of the deposit.

How long does it take to get the TDS deposit back?

The time it takes to get a deposit back from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme can vary. If there’s an agreement between the landlord and tenant on the deposit amount to be returned, it’s typically within 10 days of the tenancy ending. If there’s a dispute and it goes to the TDS dispute resolution service, the process might take longer, usually around 28 days from the start of the dispute process to the final decision and return of the deposit.

How long does TDS have to protect the deposit?

Landlords are legally required to protect a tenant’s deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days of receiving it. This timeframe is crucial for compliance with tenancy deposit protection laws. The landlord must also provide the tenant with prescribed information about the protection of the deposit within the same 30-day period. Failure to do so can result in legal penalties for the landlord.

Are all rental deposits required to be protected in a TDS?

In the UK, all deposits taken under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement must be protected in a TDS. There are different schemes in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

How is the deposit amount determined?

The deposit amount is usually agreed upon between the landlord and tenant at the start of the tenancy. It’s often capped by law, typically at no more than five weeks’ rent for annual rental values below a certain threshold.

What if I disagree with the TDS's dispute resolution decision?

The decision made by the TDS dispute resolution service is typically final and binding. If a tenant or landlord strongly disagrees with the decision, they may seek legal advice, but challenging the decision in court is complex and may incur significant costs.