Steps to take if your landlord doesn't refund your tenancy deposit money when you leave.
How Sophie got her tenancy deposit back
At the end of her tenancy in a shared house the letting agent refused to return Sophie’s £700 deposit until she sent a letter threatening legal action.
As an assured shorthold tenant, your landlord must protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme.
Your landlord may be entitled to keep all or part of the money, for example because you owe rent or damaged the property.
Follow these steps if your landlord doesn't refund your deposit when you leave.
1. Ask for your deposit back
Check the information you should have been sent when you paid your deposit to see if it was protected in a custodial or insurance-based scheme.
Deposits protected in an insurance-based scheme
Send a letter or email to your landlord or agent to ask for your deposit back.
A letting agent may be responsible for returning it if they manage the property for your landlord.
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, if you or the landlord haven’t agreed to use the scheme’s dispute resolution service
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 pay you your money within 10 days if you and your landlord agree on the amount to be refunded.
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 to you 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
Use your scheme's online refund process
If your deposit was protected in a custodial scheme, you must submit an online request.
Find out more about your scheme's online refund process on their website:
2. Challenge deductions from your deposit
Your landlord should explain any deductions they intend to make from your deposit. They should write to:
- you, if your deposit is protected in an insurance-based scheme
- the scheme, if your deposit is protected in a custodial scheme
You can use Shelter's template letter to challenge deductions from your deposit if you're writing to your landlord
Use a tenancy deposit scheme's dispute resolution service
Your scheme's dispute resolution service can help if there's a dispute about the return of your deposit. The service is free.
You and your landlord must both agree to use the service.
The service decides how much of your deposit should be returned to you. Their decision is final.
Find out more about dispute resolution on your scheme provider's website:
The dispute resolution 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. You can take separate court action for this.
3. Consider court action
You can take court action if your landlord refuses to return all or part of your deposit without good reason.
This should be a last resort. You should try to use your scheme’s dispute resolution service first.
The first step is to send your landlord a formal letter called a letter before action. This sets out the details of the case against your landlord.
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.
You can also ask the court to award you compensation if your landlord failed to protect your deposit, didn’t protect it in 30 days or didn’t send you information about the scheme used. Find out more about how to claim tenancy deposit compensation.
Lodgers, students in halls and assured tenants
If you're 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.
Last updated 27 Sep 2018 | © Shelter
If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help