Protecting your tenancy deposit

Why your deposit should be protected in a government backed tenancy deposit scheme if you are an assured shorthold tenant and what you can do if it isn't.

How tenancy deposit protection helps

Government-backed tenancy deposit protection schemes keep your tenancy deposit money safe.

Find out more about tenancy deposit protection scheme rules.

When a tenancy deposit is protected, the tenancy deposit protection scheme allows disputes to be resolved without tenants or landlords involving the court.

The schemes provide a free alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service. If you and your landlord agree to use the ADR service, its decision is final.

If your landlord doesn't comply with tenancy deposit protection rules, you can take court action. A county court can order your landlord to:

  • protect your deposit
  • pay you compensation of 1 to 3 times the value of your deposit.

Find out more about court action to claim compensation.

You also get some legal protection from eviction if your tenancy deposit isn't protected.

Tenancy deposit rules

If you are an assured shorthold tenant, tenancy deposit protection law usually gives your landlord 30 days to both:

  • protect your deposit with a government-backed scheme
  • provide you with certain information.

If you paid your deposit before 6 April 2007, a different time limit applied if you had a fixed term tenancy that expired after that date and your tenancy hasn't been renewed since. Your landlord had until 23 June 2015 to protect your deposit.

Ways to get your tenancy deposit protected

To get your deposit protected, during your tenancy you can:

  1. ask your landlord to protect your deposit
  2. threaten to take court action to get your deposit protected or refunded
  3. ask a court to order your landlord to protect or refund your deposit.

Risks of taking action

Most landlords will protect a deposit if a tenant reminds them to or if court action is threatened.

There's a risk your landlord could end your tenancy if you take steps to get your deposit protected during your tenancy. Your landlord could decide not to renew the agreement at the end of any fixed term. If any fixed term has already ended, your landlord could give you notice to leave.

It's illegal for your landlord to harass you or to evict you themselves.

Get advice if you are not sure what to do. Use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser.

1. Ask your landlord to protect your deposit

Allow your landlord 30 days from the date you paid your deposit.

If your landlord hasn't written to you to tell you which scheme is protecting your tenancy deposit, ask for your deposit to be protected. Most landlords will protect deposits when they're asked.

Use Shelter's template letter to write asking your landlord which tenancy deposit scheme they have used.

2. Contact your landlord again

If you don't get a reply, contact your landlord again.

Use Shelter's template letter to write again to ask for details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme they have used.

3. Threaten court action

Threatening court action could persuade your landlord to protect your deposit. 

You have to send the landlord a 'letter before action' before you can start court action. This allows the landlord time to look into the issues before the case goes to court. 

Your letter before action must give the landlord a deadline to respond. Allow at least 14 days.

The letter before action should set out the legal arguments you would use in court, including details of a claim for compensation and any evidence you will be relying on to back up your case.

Use Shelter's template letter to make a tenancy deposit claim while still a tenant.

4. Take court action

You can apply to a county court for a court order for your landlord to protect your deposit. You can claim a refund of the deposit and compensation as part of the same claim. 

Most tenancy deposit cases are dealt with in the court under the 'small claims' track. This means the court procedure is simpler and quicker to use and you can represent yourself in court.

Your case should be dealt with as a small claim if you're claiming less than £10,000 from your landlord. The court decides how to deal with your case.

Apply to your local county court using Form N208. Use court service guidance notes for tenants on Form 208A.

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

If you are not an assured shorthold tenant

Tenancy deposit protection doesn't apply if you are not an assured shorthold tenant. For example, if you

  • are a lodger
  • are a student in halls of residence
  • have an older tenancy type such as a regulated tenancy or assured tenancy

To get your deposit back, you'll have to negotiate the return of your deposit or take your landlord to court.

 

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