Court action to get your deposit back

Find out how to get your deposit back through court action if your landlord or agent won't return it.

When to consider court action

Court action should be a last resort. Try other ways to get your deposit back first.

Claiming money back through court is sometimes called a small claim or getting a money judgement.

You can use this process to get your deposit back if any of the following apply:

  • you were a lodger with a resident landlord
  • your landlord refused to use the protection scheme's dispute resolution service
  • your agent was responsible for protecting your deposit but you only have contact details for your landlord and the scheme won't deal with the dispute

You may be able to claim compensation and use a different court process if your landlord or agent has broken tenancy deposit protection rules. 

If you are trying to get a holding deposit back you may be able to get help from the council or apply to a tribunal instead.

Legal advice

There's no legal aid for this type of court action.

The process is usually simple enough to make a claim without the help of a solicitor. 

You may be able to get advice from a law centre or local advice centre if you are struggling. 

1. Gather evidence

You need to gather evidence to support your claim, such as:

  • a copy of your tenancy agreement
  • the receipt that shows you paid your tenancy deposit to the person you are claiming against
  • letters and messages to and from your landlord
  • records of your rent payments
  • your inventory and any photographs or videos
  • 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 before action. The letter should contain your name and address. 

This letter:

  • requests the return of the deposit
  • outlines the action you have taken to try and resolve the dispute
  • explains that you will start court action if they do not respond or pay you back
  • gives the landlord a reasonable time to respond, usually at least 14 days

Attach copies of correspondence you have sent to your landlord and any other relevant evidence. 

Your landlord may agree to return your deposit when they receive this letter.

Download Shelter's letter before action template

3. Apply to court

Your claim is likely to go through the small claims court unless it is over £10,000.

Apply to court using Court Form N1.

Read the N1 form guidance to help you complete it. You will need to attach relevant evidence to this form.

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 the claim form.

Send 3 copies of this form to:

County Court Money Claims Centre

Salford Business Centre

PO Box 527

Salford M5 0BY

Make sure you keep a copy for yourself.

Help with court fees

You have to pay a court fee to start your claim. 

The cost varies depending on how much you are claiming. You can claim the fees back from your landlord if you win. 

You can get help with your court fees if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.

4. Settle the case before the hearing

The court sends a copy of your claim to the landlord. 

Your landlord may:

  • want to negotiate with you at this stage
  • offer to refund your deposit

You can continue negotiations with your landlord and decide to settle the case at any time before any court hearing.

If your landlord agrees to return your deposit

You must tell the court that you don't want to proceed with the case.

You won’t automatically get a refund of any court fees so ask your landlord to pay these as well as part of any settlement.

If you refuse a reasonable offer and carry on with a court case, you might have to pay the court fees even if you win.

If your landlord doesn’t reply to the court

You can apply for 'judgement by default' if your landlord doesn't reply to the court within 14 days of getting a copy of your claim.

This is where the court decides a case without a hearing.

The court can order the landlord to repay your deposit, your court fees and any interest claimed. Use Form N227 to apply.

5. Prepare for a court hearing

There will be a hearing if your landlord decides to defend the claim.  

You will get:

  • your landlord’s defence
  • details of any counterclaim if your landlord thinks you owe more than is covered by the deposit

If you get instructions from the court asking for further evidence, make sure you follow them and supply extra evidence by the date required.

Counterclaims

Your landlord may counterclaim for unpaid rent, missing items or damage. This could be more than you paid as a tenancy deposit.

If a counterclaim is made, you may also need to send the court more evidence. For example:

  • a copy of your inventory and photographs of the property
  • receipts for items you've repaired or replaced
  • bank statements to show rent payments

If your landlord counterclaims the court might deal with the case differently. This could mean the costs are higher if you lose. 

6. Attend the court hearing

You will receive details of the date and location of the hearing. 

You can represent yourself. Your landlord might attend in person or be represented by a solicitor.

The judge decides:

  • how much of your deposit should be returned
  • who should pay the court fees and interest

They will also look at a counterclaim by the landlord to see if this reduces the amount you are awarded.

If your claim is successful, the court will usually order your landlord to pay you the money within 14 days.

Ask the court for leaflet EX321 if your landlord doesn't pay. 

This leaflet tells you the next steps to try and get your money.


Last updated 27 Aug 2019 | © Shelter

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