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Co-tenant share of the deposit paid to lead tenant

housesHere is a question to the blog clinic asked by Laura on behalf of her daughter

My daughter entered into a tenancy agreement in a flat share with another student (who she only knew from the university as someone wanting to flat share). They each paid their deposit separately and their own monthly rent also.

At the end of the tenancy my daughter now has been told by the letting agents, who took over managing the property half way through that the other tenant is to get my daughters deposit, even though it was paid separately. they have explained that it was because the other tenant was named as lead tenant.

My daughter remembers asking at the time what the implications of who was named as lead tenant were, to be told by the letting agents that it didn’t matter , that someone just needed to be named.

We have found out that the Deposit is held in the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) but the other tenant will have received information and an ID number, and that my daughter cannot even discuss or request her deposit to be returned separately.

Also the other tenant has told the letting agents that she believes she is entitled to all of the deposit as my daughter owed money for her share of bills. This is completely untrue and we do have proof that my daughter has in fact paid £200 more towards the bills.

NB The other tenant had initially told the Water company that the refund for the overpayment was hers as she had paid the bills. Thankfully they contacted my daughter and asked both of them for proof of what they had paid. My daughter could prove she had paid half. The other tenant could only prove that she had paid half NOT the full bill as she had told the water company!- so each were paid separately half of the overpayment-

This perhaps shows what we are up against! How do we get my daughter’s £375 deposit back? (PS the other tenant has not left a forwarding address with the letting agent).

This is an example of why you need to be careful about signing up to share a rented property with someone you do not know very well.

The DPS is a big organisation and deals with many deposits.  They need a procedure to allow them to refund the deposit promptly if there is more than one tenant.

This is why there is the ‘lead tenant’ procedure.  It is after all not the fault of the DPS if the tenants are in disagreement, or if the lead tenant is behaving in a dishonest manner.   If they had to sort out all the arguments between joint tenants it would make the scheme unworkable.

I have had a quick look at the terms and conditions of the scheme (which you will find online here ) and they make it clear that the lead tenant has the responsibility of dealing with the deposit on behalf of all the tenants.

It rather looks as if it would have been possible for your daughters deposit to have been protected separately.  Where this is not done, the landlord (or in this case the agents) are supposed to explain the role of the lead tenant to the other tenants.

Clearly this was not done here.

If there is any time still to run on the tenancy, then one solution is for your daughter to underpay the last month’s rent so that this will be taken from the deposit before it is refunded to the lead tenant.  However I suspect it is too late for this.

Therefore her only real remedy is to bring a claim against the lead tenant (if she can find her).

There may possibly be some sort of claim against the landlord for failing to explain things properly to her, but I don’t hold out much hope for this.  (The claim cannot be made against the agents as they are not directly liable to third parties/tenants in this sort of situation as they are representing the landlord).

I am sorry to be the bringer of bad news.  It just shows how careful you need to be when renting property with other people.

About the author

Tessa Shepperson Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is also a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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9 Responses to Co-tenant share of the deposit paid to lead tenant

  1. Yvette Newbury says:

    As a landlord myself it irritates me that the deposit schemes state that the deposit should be refunded to the Lead tenant. At the end of the day, it is the landlord’s responsibility to return the deposit, and if it was received in portions of 2 or 3 believe it should be returned in the same way. Although we make it clear that we are requesting one deposit for the whole property, and secure it as one amount, we always divide out the balance of the returned deposit in the same proportion as the amounts paid and ensure we return it to the tenant who paid it, NOT the whole amount to the lead tenant. However if an agent is dealing with the deposit I can understand why they would follow the rules of the scheme – another advantage of renting direct from a private landlord OR a landlord who manages their own property (and secures the deposit) rather than an agent managed property!

    I do wonder if this will ever be tested in the courts ie. a tenant who is not the lead tenant fails to receive their deposit back (from the lead tenant who has received it) but then challenges the landlord through the courts as having failed to return their deposit? I realise that the landlord will be deemed to have followed the rules of the scheme, but surely the letter of this law is to ensure the landlord returns the deposit to who rightfully should receive it and should not pass off this obligation to the lead tenant.

  2. Thanks for commenting Yvette. The trouble about challenging things in the courts is that is in itself and time consuming, stressful and expensive exercise, so I suspect most people just write things off to experience. No doubt with gritted teeth …

    It was interesting to see in the rules though that the agent / landlord CAN register the tenants deposits separately – which would avoid the problem.

  3. Yes, it is possible to register a deposit as two separate deposits.

    In thos situations a lot depends on the goodwill of the landlord and or agent. We had a situation, not long ago, where a lead tenant moved out of the house leaving another tenant on their own. That tenant ended up paying the rent hismelf until the end of the term.

    Now, when it came to getting the deposit back, the tenant that was left in the property, had no details on repayment. We have managed to speak with DPS, who have allowed to changed a lead tenant to the one who was left in the property. They did, though, allowed 7 days to try to contact and notify the then lead tenant about the change so that should they object it would not happen. But it did require some goodwill on our part to get it done. I do not think it wouold work in the situation Laura’s daugher found herself in as the curent lead tenant is still around and very much wants the deposit to herself. Tessa suggestion would perhaps be the best one in this case.

  4. Industry Observer says:

    You must have a contact address it will be in the PIN form.

    But LL will have screwed up and not completed it properly if at all, or issued the DPS T&C as required AT LAW to do.

    Just contact LL, threaten the with a s213 claim unless they pay you your half.

  5. ian says:

    Your daughter decided to save money by jointing renting a property rather than paying more to rent a room on her own AST. In so doing she agreed to taking on the responsibility jointly with the other tenants of sorting out this type of problem herself.

    She also agreed to pay umlimted ALL the rent owned and damages that any of the other tenants did.

    If you daughter was not willing to take the responsibility and risk, she should have just rented a room this would has cost more, as it puts more risk and work onto the landlord.

    She can’t have it both ways….

  6. Jamie says:

    I dissagree with Yvette that this is a good reason for using a private landlord instead of an agent.

    First, I think by using an agent your deposit is more likely to be protected.

    Second, you don’t have this problem if you use an agent who is a member of the TDS rather than myDeposits/DPS. The TDS do not insist on a Lead Tenant and the TDS distribute the deposit allocations to joint tenants equally, unless otherwise stated in the tenancy agreement.

    I’m also amazed that it required “some goodwill” on Sam’s part to change the lead tenant on a protected deposit. Assuming you use myDeposits you have a duty under the scheme rules to notify myDeposits of changes in joint/lead tenants. All you need to do is fill out the ‘Joint Tenant Transfer Form’. As the scheme Member it’s your responsibility, not a choice based on goodwill.

  7. ian says:

    To change the lead tenant ALL the tenants have to agree, so in most cases I think “good will” is needed unless the tenants themselves complete the form and ALL of them sign the form correctly.

    You can’t expect an agent or landlord to spend timing talking to each tenant to get them to sign a form when it’s the tenants responsibly to sort out how a repaid deposit is divided up.

    It is unlikely that the tenants will sort the form out themselves if they don’t get on well enough not to need to change the lead tenant.

  8. Jamie says:

    I agree with you Ian, but in Sam’s example the lead tenant had left and there was only one tenant remaining. As the scheme member it’s his responsibility to notify the scheme and find out how to resolve the situation, not the tenant’s.

  9. Jamie is right that TDS does not operate a lead tenant policy but will recognise the position of a lead tenant if included in the tenancy agreement. A benefit of insurance backed protection is that the scheme has no involvement in how you divide the deposit unless you refer it to us as a dispute. This saves a lot of hassle.

    I was once nominated as lead tenant in a shared flat, which the landlord didn’t change when I left. She was very lucky to be able to get in contact with me over a year later so I could release the deposit – there were several international students who lived in the property so she could have had a much harder time.



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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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