Landlord hasn't put deposit in protected scheme: what can you do?

Landlord hasn't put deposit in protected scheme: what can you do?

The average rental deposit in the UK is around £700 — that’s no small amount of money! You might have felt a bit anxious when you first handed it over, after all, that’s enough cash for a holiday, a few months’ worth of food shopping, or perhaps a plush new sofa or flatscreen TV. But at least you knew your money would be protected and kept safe and sound, right? Well, unfortunately… it doesn’t always work out that way.

While landlords are required to pay their tenants’ deposits into a government-protected scheme, now and then a landlord crops up who didn’t quite get the memo. So what can you do if your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit? Well firstly, don’t panic. In this article we’ll talk you through all the bits and bobs you’ll need to know.

Why are deposits protected?

Deposit protection schemes act as a third, neutral party to make sure that your money is kept safe and that any deductions made at the end of tenancy are fair. When your deposit is protected, it means your landlord can’t access this money until after you’ve left their property — ie. no dipping into your cash if they’ve run out of funds at the poker table.

But it also means that if your landlord unfairly deducts from your deposit after your tenancy ends, you can raise a complaint with your tenancy deposit scheme. That way you’ll only ever have to pay for what damages or missed rent payments you’re actually responsible for.  

Quick note: For more tips and tricks on deposits, why not check out: ‘5 things you need to know about tenancy deposits’.

How do I know if my deposit is protected?

If it’s been 10 working days since you moved out and your deposit has yet to be returned… you might start to worry. Chances are, your landlord is just working through the usual end-of tenancy procedure — potentially assessing damages which will need to be deducted from your deposit. But if you’re ever in doubt that your deposit is protected, you can check up on that via the three tenancy deposit schemes approved by the government. If your deposit is protected, you should be able to find out via the handy ‘deposit checker’ tools on their websites which you can access for free.

Once you know for sure that your landlord didn’t protect the deposit, then it’s time to get in touch and speak to them about it.

My landlord did not protect my deposit

While it’s not a nice thing to discover, rest assured that tenants have rights and fair protection of your deposit is one of them. But before you consider taking the matter to court, it’s a good idea to try and reach an agreement with your landlord first.

If you’re still living at the property, it’s okay if you want to wait until your tenancy is up before you raise a complaint — this way you won’t jeopardise your living situation. But whenever you’re ready, write up a formal email (or get cracking with paper and a pen if that’s your thing). You’ll want to mention the following…

  • That you’re aware they haven’t complied with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme rules (attaching evidence that your deposit isn’t protected if possible).
  • That you could be entitled to 1-3x your deposit amount in compensation if you chose to take the matter to court.
  • That they will need to reply within 21 days and return your deposit — otherwise, (if you choose to), you’ll be taking them to court to claim compensation.

In most cases, a landlord will come back to this sort of letter keen to resolve things without going to court. But if they refuse to respond or negotiate, you’ll need to move on to phase 2…

Taking landlord to court for not protecting deposit

Taking legal action might seem a bit scary, but courts that hear “my landlord hasn’t protected my deposit and won’t return my money” are generally sympathetic. If you’re ready to go to court, you might want to seek out some legal advice to talk you through the process. Alternatively, you can get in touch with Citizens Advice.

For an idea of how these things go down, here’s our step-by-step guide:

  • Print out the N208 form from GOV.UK (this registers your complaint) and get to work filling that in.
  • Write that you’re making a claim ‘under S213-214 of the Housing Act 2004 (non-compliance with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme)’.  
  • Include whether you want to file for interest to be added to your claim (this could mean your landlord has to pay interest on your deposit as compensation). You might also include any costs you’ll want to claim back, such as your travel fare to the court.
  • Write an additional ‘witness statement’ to attach to your claim form. You can explain your individual situation in more detail here — when you paid your deposit, attempts to retrieve your deposit, any hostile communication or encounters with your landlord, etc… This information will be used in court.
  • Include a copy of your tenancy agreement, any receipt of your deposit being paid, any written communication you’ve had with your landlord asking for your deposit to be protected or returned, etc…
  • Send all this to your local county court. You might need to pay a fee for this, but you’ll be reimbursed if you win your case.  

After you’ve completed these steps, your local court will write to both you and your landlord asking for any other evidence you might both have. At this point, you’ll also be allowed to send an updated witness statement if you want to respond to any evidence your landlord has given. Next up, you’ll be given a court hearing date. You’ll want to read back over your claim form and statements for this — make sure you’re well prepared to state your case.

Quick note: If your landlord protects your deposit properly or pays it back to you before your hearing date, you should still attend the hearing — you might still receive compensation.

A few final tips…

While this might all seem like a lot of admin, it can be worth it if your landlord puts you in this position. At the very least, you’ll get your deposit protected or returned. Best case scenario? You could get some decent compensation for your trouble.

Good luck!

For your next read, why not check out: ‘20 top tips on how to keep your rental deposit’.

Is it possible to rent without a deposit? Find out in: ‘Deposit free renting’.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.