If you believe your tenancy didn’t receive the proper protection, there are some steps you can take to claim compensation. Here is an overview of this process that can serve as a handy guide if you find yourself in this situation.
1. Check you can claim compensation
There are specific situations that allow you to claim compensation, for example if your agent or landlord has broken a tenancy deposit rule. You may be entitled to up to 3 times the value of the deposit as a tenants deposit claim if your landlord or agent neglected the following tasks:
- Protect the deposit for as long as 30 days.
- Provide you with written information within 30 days
- Protect the Deposit during the tenancy
Even if you can’t claim compensation, your landlord will still be required to return your deposit at the end of your tenancy.
2. Get legal advice
If you have reason to believe that you can claim compensation, the next step will be to seek legal advice. While you will not always need a solicitor to make a claim, their advice can be crucial to what is about to happen.
You don’t need a solicitor to make a claim but it’s a good idea to get legal advice if you can, but it can be costly. Under normal circumstances, you will not be provided with legal aid for deposit claims unless your landlord is trying to have you evicted. Nevertheless, there may be other ways of obtaining free legal services.
For example, your solicitor may agree to a “no win, no fee” agreement, also called a conditional fee agreement. Be sure that you fully understand the costs and fees for signing on with legal counsel before you enter any agreement.
3. Gather evidence to support your case
A strong case is built on solid evidence. You will need to collect as much evidence as you can. This will include:
- A copy of your tenancy agreement
- A record of correspondence with your landlord
- Records of rents and payments
- Receipts and confirmation that you paid a deposit
4. Before taking action, send a letter of intent
Before you begin taking action, it is important that you send your landlord and their agent a formal ‘letter before action’. This letter will contain a full description of your claim. Upon receiving this letter, your landlord or agent may choose to offer you a settlement and thereby avoid the legal costs of pursuing the case.
5. Apply to the court
While a solicitor is very helpful in addressing the details involved with the process, you will not need a solicitor to make your application to the court for tenancy deposit claims. Here is an overview of the process:
- Use form N208 and read the guidance on GOV.UK
- Fill out 3 copies of the form: one for the court, one for the landlord and the last is kept in your personal records.
- Forms can be downloaded or found at your local county court.
- Find your local county court on GOV.UK
- You can claim a certain amount of interest on your deposit that begins from the date it should have been returned. This claim should be specified on your claim form.
- Attach your evidence
- Attach copies of relevant documents to each of the 3 claim forms.
Some of the “relevant” documents may include:
- evidence that you paid a deposit including the date it was paid
- letters and emails between you and your landlord concerning your deposit
- details of enquiries you have made with tenancy deposit schemes
Send in the defendant’s notes, forms and collected evidence to the local county courts.
Pay court fees — to begin the process you will have to pay a fee of £308, but you can recover this from your landlord if you win the case. If you lose the case, you will not get this cash back.
In certain situations, like having low income, you may be eligible for a reduction in this fee.
6. Consider an offer to settle
The court will send your landlord a completed copy of the claim form. At this point your landlord may choose to agree with your claim and pay you part, or all of the amount claimed or make you a settlement offer.
If the offer made is satisfactory, you can withdraw your claim on the condition that your landlord pays the court fees. You will then be required to send a ‘consent order’ to the courts to confirm your landlord’s agreement.
Some courts will require a fee to be paid for this consent order. You may ask your landlord to cover this fee as part of the agreement you make with them.
If you choose to withdraw the case without a “consent order” you will not get your court fee back, and you may have to cover your landlord’s legal costs.
If your landlord makes a reasonable offer, but you choose to proceed with the case anyway, the judge may order you to cover some of your landlord’s legal costs.
7. Prepare for court
If no agreement can be reached, you will need to take the matter to court. The case will be taken to court if your landlord:
- Fails to respond to the courts within a given time
- Disagrees with the details of the claim and chooses to challenge the claim in court.
You will also be given a deadline to submit all your collected evidence to the court. Typically, this will be 14 days before the scheduled court hearing.
Make sure you carefully adhere to the instructions of the court and the time limits they have set.
8. Go to court
If you do not have a solicitor, you can handle the claim yourself, but your landlord may have the representation of a qualified solicitor. The judge will then ask questions about the claim based on the evidence provided before making their decision about your claim to compensation.
If you win — the court will decide how much your landlord must pay and when the payments are due. If your landlord doesn’t pay, you will find more information about what to do in leaflet EX321.
If you lose — you may be asked by the courts to cover your landlord’s legal costs.