If your landlord has not protected your deposit within 30 days, you can take legal action against them, including claiming back up to 3X the original deposit amount as compensation.
It can be painful parting with a tenancy deposit and even more painful when you don’t get it back from your landlord or only get some of it back at the end of a tenancy agreement.
When you rent a property from a private landlord, your landlord should:
- Put your deposit into one of three government authorised deposit schemes
- Send you “prescribed information” within 30 days
- Send you a written confirmation from the administrator of the deposit protection scheme
If your landlord doesn't follow the guidelines above and did not protect the deposit within 30 days, then you can take legal action. There are specific regulations that govern how a deposit can be protected.
First, the deposit must be protected within 30 days of your landlord receiving it. The landlord must also provide you, as the tenant, with certain written information within that 30 day window.
If that window is not met, then tenants can take action against the landlord. And don’t worry you, cannot be evicted for seeking legal action against your landlord.The Deregulation Act of 2015 helped to clarify tenant rights and what your landlord has to do in order to stay within the boundaries of the current laws.
How is a Deposit Protected?
Your deposit is a one-time payment that is collected by a landlord and is intended to cover any damages made to the property or other contractual obligations like unpaid bills, including rent.
This deposit may also be called “rent in advance” and can vary from in amount depending on the landlord. If it's going to be held in a shorthold tenancy, then that money must be protected.
The information that must be provided is fairly straightforward and you'll want to keep a written copy handy in case you run into any concerns.
You'll need to know your landlord or agent contact details so you can contact them directly with any questions or concerns.
Your landlord or agent must also give you written information about the scheme. You should have information about the amount of the deposit for the address that you're renting. They should also provide you with information about how the deposit is going to be returned and what deductions can be made.
"It's required that your landlord uses an authorised scheme and provides you with written information about that scheme within the 30 day timeframe. If they don’t, you could be entitled to up to 3x the amount of your original deposit."
This is an important thing to know since not all deductions are the same. For example, normal wear and tear is to be expected, while some damages you may need to cover. Make sure to read through the deductions so you have an idea of what you might end up paying at the end of your tenancy.
The written information may also outline the dispute resolution process.
This is a service that you may need to use if you and the landlord don't come to an agreement about your deposit when you move out.
Finally, it must also outline what happens if you don't get a response from your landlord by the time that the tenancy ends. Since your landlord may simply ignore you when you vacate the apartment or building, you need to know how to go about getting your deposit back. All of this information has to be signed by a landlord or your agent in order to confirm that it's accurate.
If you find that your landlord ignores the above guidelines, then you may be entitled to compensation.
Does my landlord need to protect a deposit if I am renewing my tenancy?
After your fixed term is completed, you may agree with your landlord to stay on for another period of time. This means that you must be given any updated information in writing within 30 days of your new deposit being paid. Your solicitor can explain more about this.
What to do if your landlord has not protected your deposit within 30 days?
It’s a good idea to wait until the end of your tenancy agreement before you consider taking your landlord to court. If your landlord has not protected your deposit properly or given you the prescribed information in the right time period, then it should be difficult for them to evict you with a section 21 notice (this is an eviction notice for tenants).
Write a letter telling them they aren’t compliant
As a last resort, you may need to take them to court
There are three deposit schemes that will give you a way to prove that your deposit either wasn't protected as per the law or was not protected within the 30 day guidelines.
The easiest way to gather information is to write or email the tenancy deposit scheme directly. They will be able to confirm if the deposit was protected too late or not at all. Make sure that you have this information in order to make your case run smoother. Your tenancy solicitor can help you with this.
Write a letter to your landlord
Your solicitor can write a letter to your landlord warning them that they have not been compliant with tenancy deposit scheme rules and or that they have not ensured you have received the prescribed information during the required period. The letter may also state what they have to do in order to prevent you taking them to court, for example return your deposit!
The letter will explain how long the landlord has to reply and if you receive no adequate response then you may decide to take them to court in order to seek compensation. Your solicitor can give you further guidance on what to expect and how much compensation you may be entitled to receive.
Taking your landlord to court
Taking your landlord to court should be your last option. Taking legal action against your landlord for not protecting your deposit often means things are resolved out of court. Your solicitor can arrange to send the relevant legal letters to your landlord, including communication with the tenancy deposit scheme.
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The court will decide how much of your deposit should be returned along with any additional compensation.
Make sure to gather any evidence to go with your compensation claim. A copy of the tenancy agreement and the receipt for the deposit should be included. You should also include copies of any written communication between you and the landlord that may or may not included in the prescribed information.
You or your solicitor may be required to go to court to answer questions about your case. In many cases, this may still be necessary even if the landlord has returned your deposit further to a legal letter, as you may be entitled to further compensation.
The Court’s Decision
After all this work, your court date will arrive. If they agree with you, then they'll direct the landlord to give your deposit to you or put into an approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days. They may also direct the landlord to provide you with compensation. This is the final step of the process.
In this case, tenants cannot be evicted until they have received their full deposit back from a landlord.