In April 2007, the UK passed legislation that made it compulsory for private landlords to protect their tenants’ deposits throughout their tenancy, when renting a property under an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ agreement.
Landlords were required to put their tenants’ deposits in government-approved and protected schemes for safe-keeping. This was done to ensure that landlords did not see the deposits as extra income or allow them keep it under false pretences.
Despite these good intentions, there have still been cases where landlords refuse to pay back the deposit to their tenants on the expiration of their tenancy. Some landlords even go as far as deducting money unfairly from the deposit without having a genuine reason.
If you are currently in a dispute with your landlord over your tenancy deposit, using this guide you’ll find out: how to tell if your landlord is keeping your deposit unfairly or in breach of the law. You’ll also find out how to start a claim and what steps you need to take.
What Is A Tenancy Deposit Scheme?
Usually, landlords ask their prospective tenants for a deposit when they rent a property from them.
The major purpose of this deposit is to secure the rental property until the new tenant moves in and acts as a protection for the landlord against any breach of the tenancy contract or damage to the property that becomes apparent once the tenancy has ended.
Once the landlord receives the deposit, he/she is expected to put it into a deposit protection scheme. In the UK, there are three protection schemes that the landlord can choose to use and they are:
- The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)
- The Deposit Protection Service (DPS)
Do I Have To Know If My Landlord Has Protected My Deposit?
Yes. As a tenant, the law requires your landlord to provide you with the following information:
- The address of the property that you rented
- The amount you paid as a deposit
- The contact details of your landlord or agent
- The relevant deposit protection scheme your landlord used and details of how the scheme works
- Details of what will happen if there is a dispute concerning the deposit and how to contact the dispute resolution team
You should have the above information in a document within 30 days of paying the deposit and ideally be signed by your landlord for credibility.
Do The Tenancy Deposit Protection Rules Apply To All Rental Properties In The UK?
There are some exempt situations where your deposit does not need to be put in a protection scheme and they include:
- Renting accommodation in a hall of residence as a student
- Lodging in the same property as your landlord
- Having a tenancy that comes under a regulated pre-January 1989 tenancy agreement.
- If your tenancy is any one of the above, you may still be able to file a claim in court if your landlord neglects to protect your deposit. This is because they have to protect your deposit in some way, even if they don’t use the protection schemes.
Am I Eligible To Make A Tenancy Deposit Claim?
You may be eligible to file a deposit compensation claim if any of the following cases apply to you:
- Your landlord breached the law that governs tenancy deposits in the UK
- Your landlord made unreasonable deductions from your deposit
- Your landlord did not protect your deposit
- Your landlord failed to inform you on how they protected your deposit
We would also suggest trying to resolve such issues directly with the landlord, or agent, wherever possible. But, if this approach fails and the tenancy deposit resolution process has been unsuccessful, then you may wish to take the matter further and make a compensation claim.
How Can I File A Tenancy Deposit Compensation Claim?
To claim compensation for a tenancy deposit, you will have to do the following:
Collate Your Evidence
To make a claim, you need evidence to prove that your landlord flouted the rules applying to tenancy deposits. Ideally, your evidence portfolio should include:
- Your tenancy agreement
- Proof that you paid the deposit and details of the person it was paid to
- Proof that you paid your rent on time and in full
- Correspondences you had with the landlord concerning your tenancy deposit
- Proof that you did not damage the property or contents, if that is the reason the landlord is refusing to return the deposit in full
Write To Your Landlord
After gathering your evidence, write a “letter before action” to notify your landlord that you intend to file a tenancy deposit claim. This is an important and required step before you head to court.
In the letter, tell your landlord the details of the dispute and that you plan on taking the case to court. Also, inform your landlord you want a reply by a certain deadline otherwise you will be going to court.
This letter may well be effective because it gives your landlord a chance to make things right and to avoid the huge expenses that come with court cases. So, you may get a positive reply from your landlord, resolving the dispute to your satisfaction. But, if your landlord still refuses to engage or negotiate on your demands, then you can go to court.
Take The Claim To Court
If you wish to proceed yourself, to have your matter heard in court, you will need to fill out the N208 form which can either be obtained online or from your local county court. The form will have a ‘Details of Claim’ section where you will need to state the following:
- What you want the court to decide on. For instance, if you want your deposit paid back to you and how much you would accept, or if you want compensation from your landlord.
- The solution you want. Such as compensation and/or the protection or return of your deposit.
- The legal basis of your claim. This should be the violation of the Housing Act by your landlord.
- Lastly, you are filing your claim under Part 8 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
When that is done, attach your evidence to the form and send it to the court office. The court will then send you a Notice of Issue informing you they have initiated your claim and given your landlord a deadline to respond.
Some tenants may wish to contact the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau first, or maybe seek legal advice from a solicitor or online tenancy support forum before starting such legal action.
How Much Compensation Should I Expect?
If your claim is successful, the court generally awards compensation that is up to three times the original deposit amount. However, there are some cases where the amount could be higher than the usual and they include:
- You rented through a lettings agency
- Your deposit was not under any kind of protection or insurance cover
- Your claim is against a professional landlord
On the other hand, expect a lower compensation payout if your landlord did in fact protect your deposit, but just a little late.
Is There A Time Limit For Making A Claim?
You have a period of three months, starting from the date you vacated the rental property, to file a claim for the return of your protected deposit.
How Long Will It Take To Regain My Deposit?
As long as you can prove that you did not damage the property and that you paid your rent promptly, you should receive your full deposit within ten days of requesting it.
If you don’t receive your deposit within this period, then the landlord could be seen as deliberately holding your deposit. In that case, you can consider filing a tenancy deposit claim.
My Landlord Gave Me A Partial Deposit Amount Refund – Can I Still File A Claim?
Yes. If you believe that you should get the full amount of your deposit back, you can file a claim against your landlord.
However, you will have to show that your landlord has no reason to retain a part of your deposit. And the only way to do this is to prove that you did no damage to the rental property and that you were up-to-date with payments.
You can also use the above solution if your landlord makes unreasonable deductions from your deposit.
Need Some More Help Making A Tenancy Deposit Compensation Claim?
Generally speaking, you are permitted to hold your landlord accountable for the return of your full deposit, unless there are reasonable explanations why a part of it or even the full amount is held by the landlord to recoup costs at the end of the tenancy.
If their actions infringe on your tenancy rights and you can successfully prove why the deposit should be returned to you, then you can proceed to file a claim.
There are many organisations ready to assist you through this process and check if you have a valid claim, and we hope this article has been of help.