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Court action for a tenancy deposit refund

How to take court action to get your tenancy deposit back if your landlord protected your tenancy deposit.

Check what action to take

Court action if your landlord protected your deposit

You and your landlord can use a tenancy deposit protection scheme's alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service to settle a dispute about a tenancy deposit refund if:

If your landlord won't use the ADR service, you can apply to the court for a court order that requires your landlord to refund your deposit. The court will look at the evidence and decide whether your landlord should return all or part of your deposit. 

Follow the steps in this article to help you get your deposit back.

For tenancy deposit refund claims under £10,000, the court usually uses the small claims procedure. The court provides guidance notes to help you make your claim. 

You can't get legal aid to help with tenancy deposit disputes, but you shouldn't need a solicitor to help you with your claim. You can ask a housing adviser for help. 

Claim compensation if your landlord broke tenancy deposit rules

You can take your landlord to court to claim compensation as well as a refund of your tenancy deposit if they broke tenancy deposit protection rules

For example, if they:

  • failed to protect your tenancy deposit
  • protected it more than 30 days after you paid it
  • didn't provide you with the correct information when they protected your deposit 

Find out how to take court action for a tenancy deposit refund and claim compensation

Court action if you are a lodger

You can take your landlord to court to get your deposit back if you are a lodger.

Find out how lodgers can take court action to get a deposit back.

1. Gather evidence for your case

You'll need evidence to support your claim, such as:

  • a copy of your tenancy agreement
  • the receipt that shows you paid your tenancy deposit
  • letters to and from your landlord
  • records of your rent payments
  • your inventory and any photographs
  • receipts for items you've repaired or replaced

2. Send a letter before action

Before you start a court claim, you must send your landlord a formal letter called a letter before action. 

Many landlords agree to pay what they owe when they receive this, so you may not have to go to court.

If your landlord hasn't refunded any of your tenancy deposit

Use Shelter's template:

Letter to warn your landlord you'll take them to court if they don't refund your deposit.

If your landlord only returned part of your deposit

Use Shelter's template:

Letter to warn your landlord you'll take them to court if they don't refund the deductions from your deposit.

3. Apply to the court

Apply to the court using Court Form N1.

Find the forms and guidance at HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

Once you have completed the form, keep a copy for yourself and send 3 copies to:

County Court Money Claims Centre Salford Business Centre

PO Box 527

Salford M5 0BY

Get help and advice

HM Courts and Tribunal Service provide forms and guidance to make a court claim.

Use the guidance notes on Form N1A and read the guidance on Forms EX301 and EX302

A housing adviser may be able to help if you need further advice.

Pay court fees or claim an exemption 

You have to pay a court fee to start your claim. The cost varies depending on how much you are claiming from your landlord. 

If you win the case, you can claim the fee back from your landlord. If you don't win, you lose the fee.

You can apply for an exemption from paying some or all of the fee if you claim certain benefits or have a low income. 

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

Provide the court with documents 

Send copies of the evidence you've gathered to support your claim. Attach the copies to your claim form.

Prepare and sign a short statement that sets out what has happened and when.

Claim for interest and court fees

You can claim interest on the amount you are owed from the date your deposit should have been returned. You must ask for this on your claim form.

4. Settle the case before the hearing

Your landlord may want to negotiate after the court sends them a copy of your claim. 

Your landlord may offer to:

  • pay your claim in full or in part
  • discuss the dispute and/or make an offer to settle

You can negotiate with your landlord to settle the case at any time before the court hearing.

If your landlord makes you an offer to settle

You can withdraw your court case if your landlord makes you an offer that you are happy to accept. You should supply the court with a draft consent order. This is a simple document both you and your landlord sign to confirm what's agreed.

Use our template draft consent order

You won't get a refund of your court fee unless your landlord agrees in writing to pay the amount agreed plus your court fee. 

If you refuse a reasonable offer and continue with the court case, the judge could decide you should pay the some of your landlord's expenses for attending court. 

If your landlord doesn't respond to the court

You can apply to the court for a decision on your case if your landlord doesn't respond. Ask the court to order your landlord to pay the money you have claimed, along with interest and your court fee. 

Use Form N227 to apply to the court.

There won't be a court hearing. The judge makes a decision based on the evidence the court has received. 

5. Prepare for a court hearing

There will be a court hearing if your landlord disagrees with your claim and decides to challenge it in court. Your landlord may make a counterclaim if you haven't paid the rent, items are missing or you have caused damage.

Your landlord should send you and the court a copy of their defence along with details of any counterclaim.

The court will write to you and your landlord to: 

  • tell you the hearing date
  • provide all the relevant documents and evidence at least 14 days before the hearing 

You should provide the court with documents and prepare and sign a short statement setting out the history of what has happened.

6. Attend the court hearing 

If your landlord disputes your claim, there will be a hearing in the county court. You can represent yourself. Your landlord might be represented by a solicitor.

The judge decides if: 

  • your landlord should return all or part of your deposit
  • your landlord should pay your court fee and any interest claimed
  • you should pay your landlord money (for example for damage) if your landlord makes a counterclaim 

7. After the hearing

If you win the case

Your landlord should pay you the amount decided by the court within the time limit set (usually 14 days).

If your landlord doesn't pay you 

Ask the court for leaflet EX321 if you win a court hearing but your landlord doesn't pay you. This gives you information about what you can do to get your money. 

Find leaflet EX321 at HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

If you lose the case

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 advice from a housing adviser if you want to do this.

Last updated 30 Jun 2016 | © Shelter

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