If you are a lodger you can take your landlord to court if they don't return your deposit.
When tenancy deposit protection doesn't apply
If you're not an assured shorthold tenant your landlord doesn't have to protect your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.
You probably won't be an assured shorthold tenant if you:
- are a lodger or live in the same house as your landlord
- live in a student halls of residence
- have an assured tenancy or regulated tenancy
This means that if your landlord doesn't return your deposit, the only way to get your money back is to take your landlord to court.
Find out more about tenancy deposit protection rules.
Return of your deposit
A tenancy deposit is your money. It should be returned to you at the end of your tenancy.
Your landlord can make reasonable deductions from your deposit if for example you've not paid all the rent due or caused damage.
Consider court action
You can ask a county court to settle the disagreement if you can't persuade your landlord to return your deposit.
The court will look at all the evidence and decide if your landlord should return all or part of your deposit.
Your case should be dealt with as a small claim if you are claiming less than £10,000 from your landlord. The court decides how it will deal with your case.
Legal aid isn't available for this type of court action.
Ask a housing adviser for help.
Use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser
Send a letter before action
Going to court should be your last resort. Before you start a court claim, you must send your landlord a letter before action.
The letter should include:
- dates of any letters and emails you sent to your landlord about the deposit
- details of any deductions and why you disagree with them
- a deadline, such as 14 days, for your landlord to respond
Use Shelter's template letter to write to your landlord warning you'll go to court if they don't refund your deposit.
You can also write to your landlord if you don't agree with deductions they made from your deposit.
Use Shelter's template letter to write to your landlord warning you'll go to court if they don't refund the deductions from your deposit.
Many landlords agree to pay you what they owe as soon as they get a letter before action, so you may not have to go to court.
Find out more about deductions a landlord can make from your deposit.
How to apply to the court
Use Court Form N1 from HM Courts and Tribunal to start your court claim.
Read Notes 1A for guidance on what to say on your claim form. Read Forms EX301 and EX302 for more information on going to court to settle a dispute.
Download the forms and notes from HM Courts and Tribunal.
When you have completed the form, keep a copy for yourself. Send three copies to:
County Court Money Claims Centre Salford Business Centre
PO Box 527
Salford M5 0BY.
You could apply online using the Courts & Tribunals Service online money claim.
Find out more from Gov.uk about claiming online.
Court fees to start deposit claims
You have to pay a fee to start your claim. The amount of the fee depends on how much you're claiming back from your landlord.
You'll have to fund the cost of any court action yourself, unless you're have a low income or claim benefits and are eligible for 'remission' (exemption).
You can't 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 your court fees back from your landlord. If you don't win, you'll lose your court fee.
Provide the court with important 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 or licence 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
Claim for interest and court fees
As well as trying to recover all or part of your deposit, you can also ask the court to make your landlord pay interest on the amount of deposit they owe you and the court fees you paid 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.
Court contact with your landlord
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 doesn't respond to the court
You can apply to the court to order your landlord to pay the money you've claimed, along with interest and your court fee.
If your landlord makes an offer
Your landlord may make you an offer at this stage. If you accept an offer, contact the court to say you're withdrawing your claim. You should also confirm that you've told your landlord you're doing this
If you turn down a reasonable offer from your landlord the judge may decide that you have to pay some of your landlord's court expenses.
Get advice if you're not sure about accepting an offer.
Use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser
Attend the court hearing
There is a hearing in the county court if your landlord disputes your claim.
The court will write to you and your landlord to tell you the date of the court hearing. It also sets a deadline for any documents to be provided to the court. You usually have to provide all the evidence at least 14 days before the hearing.
You'll need to:
- send in important documents if you haven't already done so
- prepare and sign a short statement setting out the history of what has happened
- attach all the evidence you want the judge to consider
Any witnesses (such as a friend who can confirm the state of the property when you moved in) must also sign a written statement.
The court hearing should be informal and you should be able to represent yourself. The judge asks questions based on the evidence provided.
Your landlord may be represented by a solicitor.
Court decisions about disputed deposits
If you win a court hearing about the return of your deposit, the court orders your landlord to pay your claim plus your court fee and any interest claimed.
The court can provide you with information about what you can do if your landlord doesn't pay you.
If you lose the case there's nothing more you can do to get your deposit back unless you appeal. This could be because you think the court hasn't considered the evidence properly.
Get legal advice if you want to appeal.
Call Shelter’s free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444
Last updated 08 Feb 2017 | © Shelter