How to take court action to get your tenancy deposit back if your landlord protected your tenancy deposit.
Check what action to take
You could use a tenancy deposit protection scheme's free alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service to settle a dispute about a tenancy deposit refund.
You can use the ADR service if:
- you are an assured shorthold tenant
- your landlord protected your deposit in a tenancy deposit protection scheme
- your landlord agrees
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.
Court action if your landlord protected your deposit
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.
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.
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 after you paid your deposit they:
- failed to protect your tenancy deposit or took longer than than 30 days to protect it
- didn't provide you with the correct information when they protected your deposit or took longer than 30 days to provide
Court action if you are a lodger
You can take your landlord to court to get your deposit back if you are a lodger.
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.
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:
If your landlord only returned part of your deposit
Use Shelter's template:
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.
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.
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.
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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