Tenancy Deposit Disputes – Your Rights As A Tenant!
At Hodge Jones & Allen, we are approached by tenants complaining of landlords failing to return Tenant deposits in full despite their legal requirement to do so or without justified reasons for deductions.
If you have paid a deposit and you are struggling to have your deposit returned to you at the end of your private tenancy, have a look at our comments below as to what you can do about this.
What are the Tenancy deposit protection rules?
Broadly speaking, a deposit paid in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy must be protected in a government-approved scheme. These rules came into effect from 6 April 2007.
If you paid a deposit as an assured shorthold tenant then the rules contained in the Housing Act 2004 would apply. The rules are contained in s.213 of the 2004 Act which says:
a) Any tenancy deposit paid to a person in connection with a shorthold tenancy must, as from the time when it is received, be dealt with in accordance with an authorised scheme.
b) The initial requirements of an authorised scheme must be complied with by the landlord in relation to the deposit within the period of 30 days beginning with the date on which it is received.
c) The “initial requirements” of an authorised scheme are such requirements imposed by the scheme.
d) The landlord must provide the tenant with the “prescribed information”. This includes information about the deposit scheme your landlord is using, the amount of deposit paid and the details of the property to which the deposit relates. The prescribed information must be provided to the tenant within 30 days of payment of the deposit.
If your landlord fails to comply with any of these obligations, you may be able to bring a claim against them.
What if my landlord refuses to return my deposit to me?
If you have asked your landlord to return your deposit to you at the end of your tenancy and they have refused, you have the following options.
As a starting point, you should check your tenancy agreement for any terms which cover your deposit arrangements. If there is a clause which says the landlord must return the deposit to you at the end of your tenancy, you may have a claim for breach of contract.
If your deposit has been protected with a deposit protection scheme, you can formally request the return of the deposit from the scheme administrator. It is important to note each scheme offers different rules and different timelines. The scheme administrator will have a free alternative dispute resolution service if you and your landlord cannot reach an agreement.
If your landlord does not agree to use the ADR service, you can pursue your deposit return through the courts which we will set out in further detail below.
Can I recover my deposit through the courts?
If you paid a deposit and the landlord did not protect the deposit within 30 days of receiving it; or provide you with the prescribed information within 30 days of protecting the deposit you may be able to bring a claim against the landlord under s.214 of the Housing Act 2004.
If you wish to pursue court proceedings, you should gather all the evidence you need to issue a claim. If your claim is worth below £10,000 it is likely to be heard in the small claims court where you cannot recover your legal costs.
Going to court should however always be a last resort. You will have to spend money on court fees and may be liable for some of your landlord’s legal costs if you lose.
If your deposit was not protected or are not covered under the tenancy deposit protection rule, and your landlord can’t come to an agreement regarding any deductions, your options would be to issue a money claim against the landlord through the County Court Money Claims Centre using Court form N1.