How to get a tenancy deposit back

Find out how you can get your tenancy deposit back if you are an assured shorthold tenant and your money isn't returned after your tenancy ends.

Is your landlord entitled to keep your deposit?

Your landlord may be justified in withholding some or all of your deposit if you failed to pay your rent or caused damage to the property.

Any deductions your landlord makes from your deposit should be reasonable. 

Find out more about deductions a landlord can make from your deposit.

Deposit held by a letting agent

Your landlord is responsible for returning your tenancy deposit even if you originally paid it to a letting agent. Contact your landlord directly if a letting agent unfairly refuses to return your deposit or the company stops trading and disappears with your money. 

You are entitled to know your landlord's contact details. Your letting agent has a legal duty to provide the name and address of your landlord within 21 days if you ask in writing.

If a letting agent behaves unreasonably, you can report the problem to the relevant letting agent's redress scheme.

1. Check if your deposit is protected

Your landlord should have protected your deposit in a government-backed scheme if you are an assured shorthold tenant. Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy.

Each of the tenancy deposit protection schemes allows you to check online if your deposit is protected.

If you're not an assured shorthold tenant, find out how to get your deposit back and how to take court action for the return of your deposit.

2. Ask for your deposit back 

Write to your landlord and ask for your deposit back.

Use Shelter's template letter to write asking your landlord to refund your deposit.

3. Ask for the return of the rest of your deposit

If your landlord only returns part of your deposit, write and ask for an explanation of the deductions they've made.

Use Shelter's template letter to write to ask your landlord to explain why they haven't paid back your full deposit.

4. Use your tenancy deposit protection scheme

You may be able to use the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service of the scheme that protected your deposit. Both you and your landlord must agree to use the ADR service. 

The service is free and their decision is final.

You can make a tenancy deposit compensation claim if your tenancy deposit should have been protected but wasn't.

5. Consider court action

You can take action in the county court to recover a tenancy deposit or claim compensation. You'll have to fund the cost of any court action yourself. You cannot get legal aid to take a landlord to court about a tenancy deposit.

You have to pay a court fee upfront to start court action. There is a risk of having to pay some or all of your landlord's legal costs if you lose in court when your claim is for more than £10,000.

You can apply for a fee exemption if you claim certain benefits or are on a low income.

Find out more from HM Courts and Tribunals about court fees.

If your landlord won't return a deposit that is protected in a government-backed scheme, you can take court action if you and your landlord can't agree to use the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service.

You can take court action to recover a tenancy deposit that was not protected or to recover a deposit that is exempt from tenancy deposit protection rules

6. Gather evidence to support your case

You'll need all the paperwork you have relating to your tenancy and your deposit. For example your tenancy agreement and copies of letters you've sent the landlord about returning your deposit.

You'll need evidence about what money you've paid such as:

  • the receipt that shows you paid the deposit
  • bank statements that show your rent payments
  • receipts for items you have replaced.

Gather evidence about the condition of the property, for example your inventory and any photographs of the property when you moved in and when you left.

7. Send your landlord a letter before action

Going to court should be your last resort. Before you can go to court, you must send your landlord a 'letter before action'.

The letter should clearly set out:

  • the amount of your deposit
  • when and how you paid your deposit
  • reasons why you don't accept that the landlord's deductions are reasonable
  • a deadline of at least 14 days to respond

Use Shelter's template letter to write to warn your landlord that you'll go to court if they don't refund your deposit.

You can also write to tell your landlord you'll go to court if the rest of your deposit isn't returned to you.

Use Shelter's template letter to write to tell your landlord that you'll go to court if they don't refund the deductions from your deposit.

Many landlords agree to pay what they owe you when they get a letter before action, so you may not have to go to court.

8. Find out how to take court action

Find out how to take court action to get a protected deposit back if you're an assured shorthold tenant.

 

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