Get your deposit back by going to court

You can take court action to get your tenancy deposit back if you think your landlord has withheld any of it unfairly.

The court process is sometimes called a small claim or a money claim.

You can claim for other things at the same time, for example, repairs that were not done.

You should ask your landlord for a deposit refund when your tenancy ends before considering court action.

Small claims process

Small claims are for simple cases that involve less than £10,000.

You cannot usually get free legal advice from a solicitor for a small claim.

If you pay for legal advice you cannot usually claim this back even if you win.

Find out more about the small claims process from Citizens Advice

Deposits protected in a scheme

You can go to court to get your deposit back but it's usually quicker and easier to use the scheme's dispute resolution service.

You may have to consider court action if:

  • you or your landlord do not agree to dispute resolution

  • your landlord is not responding and your deposit is protected in an insurance scheme

  • the scheme will not deal with the dispute - for example, if your agent was responsible for deposit protection but you only have contact details for your landlord

Deposits not protected in a scheme

Some deposits do not have to be protected. For example, lodger's deposits.

You may have to consider court action if your former landlord will not return your deposit.

If your landlord or agent broke tenancy deposit rules

You could use a different court process to get your deposit back and claim compensation

Holding deposits

Holding deposits are different to tenancy deposits and do not need to be protected.

There are different ways to get a holding deposit back if an agent or landlord keeps it without a legal reason. Find out how to get your holding deposit back.

Take these steps to get your deposit back

Steps 1 and 2 are really important.

Your landlord may return your deposit if you have evidence and send a letter before action.

If this happens you will not need to apply to court.

1. Gather evidence

Gather evidence such as:

  • a copy of your tenancy agreement

  • letters and messages about your deposit

  • records of your rent payments

  • your inventory and any photographs or videos

  • invoices for items you've repaired or replaced

  • the receipt that shows who you paid your tenancy deposit to and when

2. Send a letter before court action

You must send your landlord a formal letter before action first. The letter should have your name and address. 

This letter:

  • asks for the return of the deposit

  • outlines the action you have taken to try and resolve the dispute

  • explains 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 evidence. 

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

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.

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:

Civil National Business Centre (CNBC)

St. Katharine’s House
21-27 St. Katharine’s Street

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 some benefits or have a low income.

If your landlord does not reply within 14 days

You can apply for 'judgment by default' on Form N227 if your landlord does not reply to the court within this time.

The court can order the landlord to repay your deposit, your court fees and any interest claimed without a hearing. 

GOV.UK has guidance on next steps if your landlord will not pay after a court judgment

4. Reach agreement before the hearing

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

At this stage your landlord might:

  • negotiate with you

  • offer to refund your deposit

This is called 'settling the case'.

Tell the court if you settle your case and you do not want it to go ahead.

You will not 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 not get your court fees back even if you win.

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 the deposit

If the court asks for more evidence, supply it by the date required.

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 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 will be higher if you lose. 

6. Attend the court hearing

You will receive details of the date and place 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.

GOV.UK has guidance on next steps if your landlord will not pay after a court judgment

Last updated: 31 August 2023

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