If you’re an assured shorthold tenant and your deposit hasn’t been returned to you then you’re entitled to ask why it’s been withheld. Our guide provides key advice on how you can dispute a landlord who is withholding your deposit.
Before you begin: find out who your landlord is
The details of your landlord and all their contact information should be on your tenancy agreement and, if you rented directly from a landlord, you should have already met them.
Even if you paid your deposit to a letting agent when you moved in, it’s still the responsibility of your landlord to return it. If your letting agent is refusing to release your deposit, then contact your landlord directly. Should you not have their contact details, your letting agent has a legal obligation to provide these within 21 days if you ask in writing.
Finally, if the above doesn’t work, you can report the problem to the redress scheme of the letting agent.
Once you’ve learnt who your landlord is, here are the steps you can take to try get your deposit back:
1. Check whether your deposit is protected
If you’re an assured shorthold tenant, your landlord should have protected your deposit in a government-backed scheme. You can check online to see if yours is protected.
It may seem simple, but write to your landlord, asking them to return your deposit. Ensure you sign and date their copy and keep a copy for your own records.
If your landlord has withheld part of your deposit, then write to them asking why they’ve withheld this and what reasons they have for doing so.
3. Contact the deposit protection scheme
Once you’ve received a reply and a justification from your landlord, you can challenge their claim through the dispute resolution service provided by the deposit protection scheme they used. However, you both have to agree to this.
It’s free to use this service (both for you and your landlord) and the decision they make is final.
If your landlord failed to secure your deposit – which is a legal requirement – then you can make a tenancy deposit compensation claim.
4. Consider taking court action against them
If your deposit didn’t qualify as one to be protected by the above schemes then you can consider taking your landlord to court. This, however, isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly.
If you go to court, you’ll have to fund the cost of action yourself as you cannot receive legal aid for this, and a court fee has to be paid upfront to start court action. If you claim benefits or are someone who’s considered to be on low income, then you can apply for a fee exemption.
5. Send your landlord a letter
You must send your landlord a letter before you take court action (which should be your last resort). This is known as a ‘letter before action’ and must state: the amount of deposit you paid, the date you paid your deposit, how you paid it, reasons why you don’t accept the landlord’s justifications, and a 14 day deadline for a response.
There’s a chance at this stage that a landlord may choose to repay your deposit, but be willing to go to court.
6. Make sure you have evidence
No matter whether you’re going to court or the resolution service, you’ll need to gather evidence for your claim. Any relevant paperwork can help you here, including: your tenancy agreement, copies of letters you’ve sent to the landlord, copies of inventories, or notices you’ve had about where your deposit is held.
Also make sure you have relevant financial documents, such as a receipt showing you paid the deposit, a record of your rent payments and receipts for items you replaced in the property.
If the claim is about damage to the property, then take photos if you still have access to the property.
Following these simple steps can help you reclaim your deposit from your landlord – good luck.