Steps to take if your landlord doesn't refund your tenancy deposit money when you leave.
1. Ask for your deposit back
A tenancy deposit is money you pay to a landlord in case you leave and owe rent or cause damage to the property.
If you're an assured shorthold tenant your landlord must protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme.
Write to your landlord
Your landlord should return your deposit in full at the end of your tenancy unless they are entitled to keep it or make deductions due to rent arrears, damage or other financial loss caused by you.
A letting agent may be responsible for return of your deposit if they manage the property for your landlord.
Send a letter or email to your landlord or agent to ask for it back.
Deposits protected in an insurance-based scheme
You can notify the scheme if your landlord doesn't return your deposit within 10 days of your written request.
The scheme will order the landlord to pay the disputed amount to them and hold the deposit until the dispute is resolved by:
- agreement with your landlord
- the scheme's dispute resolution service
- the court
Deposits protected in a custodial scheme
You should ask a custodial scheme to refund your deposit at the end of your tenancy.
The scheme must refund your money within 10 days if you and your landlord agree.
If your landlord doesn't agree to the refund, the custodial scheme holds the money until the dispute is resolved by the scheme's dispute resolution service or by the court.
A custodial scheme can return your deposit without you going to court if your tenancy has ended and you have no contact details for your landlord or you have:
- written to your landlord to request return of your deposit
- not received a response within 14 days
Check your scheme's online refund process
Find out more about your scheme's online refund process on their website:
If you're not sure if or how your deposit was protected, you can check online.
2. Challenge deductions from your deposit
Your landlord should write to you to explain any deductions they've made from your deposit. You can write to ask for an explanation if they don't.
Examples of when your landlord can make reasonable deductions from your tenancy deposit include if you:
- failed to pay your rent
- caused damage to the property
- didn't leave the place clean
Write to your landlord
You can use this letter if you are a tenant or if you are a lodger living in your landlord's home.
Use a tenancy deposit scheme's dispute resolution service
Your landlord should have used a tenancy deposit protection scheme to protect your tenancy deposit if you are an assured shorthold tenant.
The scheme's alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service can help if there's a dispute about the return of your tenancy deposit. You can only use ADR if both you and your landlord agree. The service is free.
The ADR service decides how much of your deposit should be returned to you. Their decision is final.
Contact the tenancy deposit protection scheme to find out more about their ADR service:
A tenancy deposit protection scheme's ADR service can only deal with whether your tenancy deposit should be returned to you in full or in part. It can't award you compensation, but you can consider separate court action for this.
If you are not sure if your tenancy deposit was protected, you can check online.
3. Consider court action
You may be able to take court action if your landlord refuses to return all or part of your deposit. Court action should be a last resort.
You can use a tenancy deposit protection scheme's alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service to resolve a dispute instead of going to court. You can only use this if you have an assured shorthold tenancy and your landlord used a tenancy deposit protection scheme to protect your deposit. There is no cost to you or your landlord. Their decision is final.
The first step in taking court action is to send your landlord a formal letter called a letter before action. This sets out the details of the case against your landlord, including any claim for compensation. It's worth sending a letter before action even if you don't like the idea of going to court. Your landlord may offer to settle the dispute rather than face a court hearing.
Court action if your tenancy deposit was protected
You can take your landlord to court for a refund of your tenancy deposit if you are an assured shorthold tenant and your landlord:
- protected your deposit with a tenancy deposit protection scheme
- won't agree to use the scheme's ADR service
You can also claim compensation from your landlord if they:
- protected your tenancy deposit late
- didn't provide you with the information required by the rules or provided it late
Under tenancy deposit protection rules, your landlord usually has 30 days from when you pay your deposit to protect it and give you certain information.
Court action if your tenancy deposit wasn't protected
If your landlord didn't protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days, you can take your landlord to court to claim:
- a refund of your tenancy deposit
- compensation of between 1 and 3 times the value of your tenancy deposit
This only applies if your tenancy was an assured shorthold tenancy.
Not sure if your deposit is protected?
Your landlord should have informed you which tenancy deposit protection scheme they've used to protect your money.
Lodgers, student in halls and assured tenants
If you are not an assured shorthold tenant, you can take court action to get all or part of your deposit returned.
Follow the process for the return of a lodger's deposit if you are a lodger, student in halls or an assured tenant.
4. Check if you are owed compensation
You may be able to take court action to claim compensation if you have an assured shorthold tenancy and your landlord broke tenancy deposit protection rules.
You can apply to a court to claim compensation from your landlord if they:
- didn't protect your tenancy deposit or protected it late
- didn't provide you with information about the scheme or provided it late
In most cases, tenancy deposit protection rules allow your landlord 30 days from when you pay your deposit to protect your deposit and give you information about the scheme used. Different time limits apply for tenancy deposits paid before 6 April 2012.
You can make a claim for compensation even if your landlord has already returned all or part of your tenancy deposit.
Find out more about how to claim tenancy deposit compensation
Last updated 30 Jun 2016 | © Shelter
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