Has your assured shorthold tenancy ended? Find out what steps you can take to get your tenancy deposit back if your landlord followed tenancy deposit rules.
Do tenancy deposit protection rules apply?
Your tenancy deposit should have been protected with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme if you are an assured shorthold tenant.
If the rules don't apply to you
Situations when you won't be an assured shorthold tenant include if you:
- are a lodger or live in the same house as your landlord
- stay in a student halls of residence
- have a different type of private tenancy such as an assured tenancy or regulated tenancy
Find out how to get your deposit back if you're not an assured shorthold tenant.
If the rules weren't followed
Find out how to apply to the court for compensation if your landlord didn't follow tenancy deposit protection rules.
You can also ask the court to order your landlord to return your deposit when you apply.
If the rules were followed
Providing your landlord followed the rules about protecting your deposit in a government-backed scheme, your first option for resolving a dispute about the return of your deposit is to use your tenancy deposit protection scheme's alternative dispute resolution service (ADR).
You should only take court action if your landlord does not agree to use ADR.
The ADR service or the court decides how much of your deposit should be refunded.
1. Use your dispute resolution service
Contact the tenancy deposit scheme that is protecting your deposit. Say you want to use its alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service to resolve the dispute about the return of your deposit.
You can use this service only if your tenancy deposit was protected. This service is free for both you and your landlord.
Both you and your landlord have to accept the decision of the ADR service as final.
2. Consider court action
You can ask a county court to settle the disagreement if you can't persuade your landlord to use the tenancy deposit service ADR.
The court can look at all the evidence and decide whether your landlord should return all or part of your deposit.
Most tenancy deposit cases are dealt with in court under the 'small claims' track. It should be dealt with as a small claim if you are claiming less than £10,000 from your landlord. The court decides how to deal with your case.
You cannot get legal aid but you can ask a housing adviser for help.
Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your local area.
3. Send a letter before action
Before you start a court claim, you must send a formal 'letter before action'. This should:
- include dates of any letters you have already sent to your landlord about the deposit
- give details of deductions from your deposit and the reasons why you disagree with them
- give your landlord a deadline to respond by such as 14 days
You can write to your landlord if they have not refunded your deposit.
Use Shelter's template letter to write to warn your landlord you'll go to court if they don't refund your deposit.
You can also write to your landlord if they have not returned the full amount of your deposit.
Use Shelter's template letter to write to tell your landlord you will go to court if they don't refund the deductions from your deposit.
Many landlords agree to pay you what they owe when they receive a letter before action, so you may not have to go to court.
4. Pay court fees or claim an exemption
You have to pay a fee to start your refund claim. The amount of the fee depends upon the amount you are claiming back from your landlord.
You can apply for an exemption from paying the fee if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.
You cannot make your claim online if you are asking for a fee exemption.
Find out more from HM Courts and Tribunals about court fees.
If you win your case, you can claim this back from your landlord. If you don't win, you lose your court fee.
5. Apply to the county court money claims centre
Apply to the court using Court Form N1.
Use the guidance notes on Form N1A and read the guidance on Forms EX301 and EX302.
Download the forms and guidance from HM Courts and Tribunal.
Once you have completed the form, keep a copy for yourself and send three copies to:
County Court Money Claims Centre Salford Business Centre
PO Box 527
Salford M5 0BY.
6. Provide the court with documents
Unless you make your claim online, attach copies of all the relevant documents to your claim form. These can include:
- a copy of your tenancy agreement
- letters to and from your landlord
- records of your rent payments
- the inventory and any photographs
- receipts of any items you have repaired or replaced
- statements from witnesses
7. Claim for interest and court fees
You can also ask the court to order your landlord to pay you interest on the amount owed and the court fees you had to pay to start your claim.
Interest can be claimed from the date your deposit should have been returned. You must state on your claim form if you want to claim interest.
8. Wait for your landlord to reply to the court
The court sends a copy of your claim with forms for your landlord to fill in and return to the court.
At this point your landlord could:
- agree with your claim and pay in full
- pay part of your claim
- disagree with your claim and challenge it in court
- do nothing
Your landlord is usually given 14 days to respond.
If your landlord does not reply to the court
You can apply to the court to order your landlord to pay the money you have claimed, along with interest and your court fee.
This is called a 'judgement in default' if your claim is for a specified amount of money. Ask for a 'judgement for an amount to be decided' if you haven't specified how much your claim is for.
There won't be a court hearing. The judge makes a decision based on the evidence the court has received.
If your landlord makes an offer
You may prefer to accept a reasonable offer from your landlord rather than go to court. If you accept an offer, contact the court by email, letter or telephone to say that you're withdrawing your claim. You should also confirm that you have told your landlord you are doing this.
It may not be worth proceeding with court action if your landlord makes you an offer to settle the case.
If you refuse a reasonable offer and continue with the court proceedings, the judge could decide you should pay the landlord's reasonable expenses for attending court. This might happen if there is a dispute about damage to the property.
9. Attend the court hearing
There is a hearing in the county court if your landlord disputes your claim.
The court writes to you and your landlord to tell you the date of the court hearing. The court will also ask you and your landlord to provide all the relevant documents and evidence at least 14 days before the hearing. You should also prepare and sign a short statement setting out the history of what has happened.
The court hearing should be informal and you can represent yourself. Your landlord might be represented by a solicitor.
Based on the evidence provided, the judge decides whether your landlord should return all or part of your deposit. The judge can also order your landlord to pay your court fees and any interest claimed.
Ask the court for leaflet EX321 if you win a court hearing but your landlord does not pay you. This gives you information about what you can do to get your money.
If you lose the case, there's nothing more you can do to get your deposit back unless you appeal. A reason to appeal could be because the court hasn't considered the evidence properly.
Get legal advice if you want to do this.
Use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser.