If your landlord should have protected your deposit but hasn't, the law says that you are entitled to have your tenancy deposit returned to you. A court can order your landlord to return your deposit and pay you compensation of between 1 and 3 times its value.
1. Gather your information
It's important to collect and check any relevant evidence to back up your case, for example:
- your tenancy agreement
- evidence you paid your rent in full
- evidence showing you paid a tenancy deposit
- confirmation the deposit was against damage and loss (rather than rent in advance)
- copies of any letters to and from your landlord
- evidence that the deposit was not protected in a scheme
- your inventory and photos of the property at the end of the tenancy
- anything else that may be relevant.
Having all this information will help when you take further action.
2. Send a letter threatening court action
If your landlord has not returned your deposit within 10 days of your tenancy ending you can write to your landlord threatening court action.
Use our sample letter before action Before court action to make a tenancy deposit claim if your tenancy has ended.
Clearly showing a landlord that you can prove they didn't comply with their obligations under the law – and that you know you can take court action – may convince your landlord that you are serious about recovering your deposit. Your landlord may prefer to return your deposit to you rather than face court action.
3. Consider if taking court action is your best option
Taking court action may not always be in your best interest. It is only worth getting a county court judgement against someone who has the means to pay it.
Consider carefully if your landlord has any reason to make any deduction from your deposit. If you take your landlord to court, your landlord will have an opportunity to defend the claims you make and may wish to raise issues in defence such as:
- the property has not been left clean enough
- there is damage to the carpets or furniture
- the rent has not been paid in full.
Landlords may try to compensate for the penalty part of your claim by exaggerating their counterclaim so that it is for more than the deposit.
4. Asking a court to order the return of your deposit
Providing you have sent a 'letter before action' to your landlord and the time limit for a response has expired, if your landlord failed to protect your deposit – or protected your deposit late – you can apply to the county court to order your landlord to refund your deposit to you and pay you compensation.
Court procedures for these types of claim have been set up to be used by people who attend court themselves, so you won't be able to claim the costs of having someone represent you in court. You will have to pay court fees when you apply to the court. It is important to ask the court to treat your case as a 'small claim' to avoid the risk of liability for your landlord's solicitors costs.
The amount you ask for will depend on whether you accept your landlord is entitled to make a deduction from your deposit - for example, for unpaid rent. Mention this in the claim form, say how much you think the landlord is entitled to deduct and limit your claim to the balance.
Apply to the court using Form N208. You'll find guidance notes for tenants on Form 208A. You can also get the court forms from your local county court.
7. Share your story
If you've had trouble getting your deposit protected, we want to hear about it. Please share your story and help us fight for better rights for tenants.
Share your story