What has changed?
Nothing, but here is some first hand experience of how things do not pan out as you would expect when reading the wonderful promises by deposit protection schemes.
Deposit being held hostage – what are your options?
When you move out of rented, your landlord may choose to hang on to your deposit for a variety of reasons. If you have destroyed the place, fair game. However, a lot of tenants share the experience of landlords mugging them off. If this happens, there are two ways you can get your deposit back:
1. Through the arbitration service of the deposit protection scheme that your deposit would have been paid into.
2. Through the courts.
Now, all the guidance says ‘use the deposit protection scheme, they are fair and balanced blablabla’. Before you buy into this narrative, take a step back and ask yourself whether this is really the right choice for your particular situation.
Once you and the landlord agree to use the deposit scheme for resolution, you are bound by their judgement. Ask yourself whether that is OK for you – as it turns out, the arbitration service does NOT take into account things like your landlord faking invoices, charging for works that didn’t need doing etc. They look at the case at a very high and some may say dumb level and do not apply the same level of due diligence that a court might.
If you are in a very bizarre situation where your landlord is breaking the law or onto dodgy dealings, read on and see whether the court might give you a better chance.
How does the court work?
It sounds scarier than it is. If you are disputing less than £10,000, the claim will likely go through the Small Claims Court. This is not free anymore but equally does not cost a fortune – e.g. £60 for an online claim between £500 and £1,000. Also, if you win, you get the fees back from your landlord. Plus the process is straight forward and you likely don’t need a solicitor (which would blow the budget). You can find the fees for Small Claims Court claims here: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees
To make a claim, head over here where you find basic instructions and the forms: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money
Shelter has a brilliant guide on the steps to take to make a claim: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/tenancy_deposits/court_action_for_a_tenancy_deposit_refund. In summary:
1. Gather Evidence
2. Send a letter (see their template)
3. Apply to court (see government link above)
4. Settle before hearing or go through with the hearing
Should you do it?
Only you can decide. It is a bit more hassle, but equally the deposit protection scheme will ask for loads of evidence and in the end, the time it takes to deal with it all might be similar. If you have gone down this route and want to share your story, please get in touch.
- Government website: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money
- Shelter guidance on the court case route: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/tenancy_deposits/court_action_for_a_tenancy_deposit_refund
- General Shelter guidance: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/tenancy_deposits/how_to_get_your_tenancy_deposit_back
- Citizen’s Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-privately/ending-your-tenancy/getting-your-tenancy-deposit-back/