Return of a lodger's deposit
When tenancy deposit protection does not apply
Your landlord only has to protect your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme if you are an assured shorthold tenant.
You probably are not an assured shorthold tenant if you:
are a lodger
live in a student halls of residence
have an assured or regulated tenancy
live in the same house as your landlord and it is not a purpose-built block of flats
This means that if your landlord refuses to return your deposit, the only way to get your money back is to take your landlord to court.
Return of your deposit
A tenancy deposit is your money. It should be returned to you at the end of your tenancy.
Your landlord can make reasonable deductions from your deposit, for example if you owe rent or you've caused damage.
Consider court action
If you cannot persuade your landlord to return your deposit, you can ask a county court to settle the dispute.
The court will look at all the evidence and decide if your landlord should return all or part of your deposit.
Your case should be dealt with as a small claim if you are claiming less than £10,000 from your landlord. The court decides how it will deal with your case.
You cannot get legal aid to help with this type of court action.
You can ask a housing adviser for help.
Send a letter before court action
Going to court should be your last resort. You must send your landlord a 'letter before action' first.
Many landlords pay the money back as soon as they get a letter before court action, so you may not have to go to court.
Find out more about deductions a landlord can make from your deposit.
How to apply to court
Use court form N1 from HM Courts & Tribunals Service to start your court claim.
Read notes 1A for guidance on what to say on your claim form.
GOV.UK has more information on going to court to settle a dispute.
When you have completed the form, keep a copy for yourself.
Send three copies to:
County Court Money Claims Centre Salford Business Centre
PO Box 527
Salford M5 0BY
You could apply online using the Courts & Tribunals Service online money claim.
Find out more from GOV.UK about claiming online.
Pay court fees to start a deposit claim
You have to pay a fee to start your claim. The amount varies depending on how much you're claiming back from your landlord.
You can apply for reduced fees or an exemption (called 'remission') if you have a low income or claim benefits.
If you win your case, you can claim your court fees back from your landlord.
If you do not win, you'll lose your court fee.
You cannot make your claim online if you are asking for a fee exemption.
Provide the court with important documents
Unless you make your claim online, attach copies of all the relevant documents to your claim form. These can include:
a copy of your tenancy or licence agreement
letters to and from your landlord
records of your rent payments
the inventory and any photographs
receipts of any items you have repaired or replaced
statements from witnesses
Claim for interest and court fees
You can also ask the court to make your landlord pay interest on the amount of deposit they owe you and the court fees you paid to start your claim.
You can claim interest from the date your deposit should have been returned. You must state on your claim form if you want to claim interest.
Court contact with your landlord
The court sends a copy of your claim with forms for your landlord to fill in and return to the court.
Your landlord could:
pay part of your claim
agree with your claim and pay in full
disagree with your claim and challenge it in court
Your landlord usually has 14 days to respond.
If your landlord does not respond to the court
You can apply to the court to order your landlord to pay the money you've claimed, along with interest and your court fee.
If your landlord makes an offer
Your landlord may make you an offer at this stage. If you accept an offer, contact the court to say you're withdrawing your claim. You should also confirm that you've told your landlord you're doing this.
The judge may decide that you have to pay some of your landlord's court expenses if you turn down a reasonable offer from your landlord.
Get advice if you're not sure about accepting an offer.
Attend the court hearing
If your landlord disputes your claim, there may be a court hearing. The court will write to tell you the date.
The court also sets a deadline for you and your landlord to provide documents to the court. You usually have to provide all the evidence at least 14 days before the hearing.
You'll need to:
attach all the evidence you want the judge to consider
send in important documents if you have not already done so
prepare and sign a short statement setting out the history of what has happened
Any witnesses must also sign a written statement.
The court hearing should be informal and you can represent yourself. The judge will ask questions based on the evidence provided.
Your landlord may be represented by a solicitor.
Court decisions about disputed deposits
If you win a court hearing about the return of your deposit, the court can order your landlord to pay your claim plus your court fee and any interest claimed.
The court can provide you with information about what you can do if your landlord does not pay you.
If you lose the case, there's nothing more you can do to get your deposit back unless you appeal. This could be because you think the court has not considered the evidence properly.
Get legal advice if you want to appeal.
Last updated: 30 May 2022