My landlord won't return my security deposit, what can I do?

Security deposits have to be safeguarded in deposit protection schemes. If you're in dispute with your landlord over a security deposit, there is a service you can use.

How do I locate my security deposit?

If you paid a deposit on or after the 6th April 2007, then your landlord should have used a tenancy deposit protection scheme.

And in many case the deposit, if one was paid, may now have to be protected even if the tenancy began before 6 April 2007, as long as the  tenancy still exists.

Your landlord is legally required to place your deposit into an authorised deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it. 

And your landlord must give you details of the scheme he has used, along with information about your rights. 

The main information your landlord should share with you is:

  • the contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme being used
  • the landlord or agent's contact details
  • how to apply for the release of the deposit
  • information explaining the purpose of the deposit
  • what to do if there is a dispute about the deposit

In England and Wales there are three schemes available for tenancy deposit protection. 

Find out more about these schemes on their official websites. There are different schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

My landlord won't return my deposit

If there's a dispute about the return of the deposit and you're unable to reach agreement with your landlord, there's a free service offered by the scheme protecting your deposit which can help to resolve the dispute. 

This is called an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service.

If you and the landlord both agree to use the service to resolve the dispute, then you're both bound by its decision. 

This doesn't prevent you from taking the matter to the small claims court instead of using ADR, but the judge at court may want to know why you refused to engage with the dispute service.

In Summary

  • Since 6th April 2007 all security deposits must be protected in a security deposit or insurance scheme
  • If you're in dispute with your landlord over some, or all of your security deposit, you can use Alternative Dispute Resolution to help settle the matter
  • If you're unhappy after using the ADR scheme you can go court to resolve the dispute

Money was taken from my deposit

Your landlord may send you a list of deductions taken from your deposit rather than returning it. Read these carefully and see whether you agree with them. 

If you don't agree with some or all of the costs you'll need to write to your landlord explaining what costs you disagree with. 

If your landlord doesn't respond to your letter, write again giving him a deadline within which to respond, 14 days, for example.

Your letter should state:

  • which costs (if any) you think are unreasonable
  • the reasons you think the costs are unreasonable
  • the amount of money you think should be returned to you

If you don't get a reply, or your landlord still won't give you the money, you should refer him to the appropriate Tenancy Protection adjudication scheme. 

You will need to do this within the specific timetable laid out by the deposit protection scheme that holds your deposit. You should check what process you need to follow with your particular scheme on it's website.

Because participation in the process requires consent by both parties, the final decision of the adjudicator is binding on both the landlord and tenant

But, if you cannot agree a resolution to your dispute, then you can still seek a remedy in the county court.

Use our free tool

Claim back your deposit using our free tool

Is your deposit is registered with a protection scheme?

If it is and you're in dispute with your landlord or letting agent over the return of your deposit you can use our free tool.

You can use our tool to generate a letter to serve notice to your landlord or letting agent of your intention to take your claim to your deposit protection scheme.

My deposit isn’t protected

If your deposit isn't in a scheme, the action you take will depend on whether your tenancy is still current or if your tenancy has ended.

If your tenancy is still current you should ask your landlord to protect your deposit and provide you with information on that protection. 

If it has been 30 days or more since you paid your tenancy deposit to your landlord (or the landlord's agent), you could write to your landlord and ask for your deposit to be protected.

If your tenancy has ended and your landlord hasn't protected your deposit, the law says that you're entitled to have your tenancy deposit returned to you. 

A court can order your landlord to return your deposit and pay you compensation of between one and three times its value.

It's important to collect and check any relevant evidence to back up your case:

  • your tenancy agreement
  • evidence you paid your rent in full
  • evidence showing you paid a tenancy deposit
  • confirmation the deposit was against damage and loss (rather than rent in advance)
  • copies of any letters to and from your landlord
  • evidence that the deposit was not protected in a scheme
  • your inventory and photos of the property at the end of the tenancy
  • anything else that may be relevant.

If you can clearly show that your landlord didn't comply with their obligations under the law - and that you know you can take court action – this may convince your landlord that you are serious about recovering your deposit. 

In such a case your landlord may prefer to return your deposit to you rather than face court action.

Renting guide

The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a How to Rent guide, which includes some useful tips for both landlords and tenants. 

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