Return of unprotected security deposits

Not all security deposits have to be protected under a deposit protection scheme – for example, if your occupation contract started before 6 April 2007, you haven’t signed a renewal contract and a fixed term hasn’t ended after that date, then your deposit doesn’t need to protected by law.

If your deposit falls outside of the protection of a scheme, you can still take action to get the deposit returned if it is withheld unfairly.

Deductions your landlord can make

Landlords are only entitled to keep all (or part) of the deposit if they can show that they have lost out financially because of your actions during the contract. They must tell you what they are keeping the money for and how much for each item. They must return what’s left to you.

Landlords can usually deduct money from a security deposit to cover:

  • unpaid rent
  • damage to the property
  • missing items
  • cleaning costs.

The items they can deduct money for are usually set out in your occupation contract or a separate document you both signed. For more information, see our page on What security deposits cover.

What if I think my unprotected deposit is being unfairly withheld?

If you think that your deposit (or part of it) is being unfairly withheld, and the deposit is not covered by a deposit protection scheme, the first step is to try to negotiate the return of your deposit with your landlord.

If you and your landlord cannot agree on the return of your deposit, you can go to court to try and get the deposit back. This is the final stage and should only be done as a last resort. See our page on Considering court action for more information.

Negotiating with your landlord

Negotiation isn’t guaranteed to always work but you should try it before you consider any further action.

Get together all of the paperwork you have before you start. Useful items might include:

  • any inventory and photographs you took when you moved in
  • receipts for items you have replaced
  • receipts or estimates for repairs done to the property
  • receipts for rent payments
  • letters from and to your landlord (eg. about repairs or replacement items).

Then take the following steps:

Step 1 : Write to your landlord

Write a letter or send an email to your landlord asking them to return your deposit.

Your letter/email should ask:

  • why your deposit is being kept
  • what specific costs are being taken out of your deposit.

Give your landlord a deadline for replying (such as within two weeks). Keep a copy of the letter/email.

Use our sample letter D 10.

Your landlord may reply with a list of the deductions from your deposit rather than returning it. Look at these and see whether you agree with them. If you don’t agree with some or all of the costs you will need to write again.

Step 2 – Write again

You will need to write to your landlord again if:

  • s/he hasn’t responded to your first letter
  • you disagree with any of the costs s/he is deducting from your deposit
  • you agree with some, but not all of the deductions.

Your letter should say:

  • which costs (if any) you do not accept
  • the reasons why you do not accept them
  • the amount of money you think should be returned to you.

Give your landlord a deadline for a second reply (such as within two weeks). In your letter say that you will consider court action if your deposit is not returned by this date.

Use our sample letter D11

Step 3 – Threaten court action

If you don’t get a reply or your landlord still won’t give you the money, you could consider court action to get it back.

Before you start any court action you must send the landlord a ‘letter before action’.  This warns the landlord that you plan to go court, but gives them the opportunity to respond to you and avoid this.

Your letter before action must give the landlord a deadline to respond. Allow at least 14 days.

You may not even have to go to a court hearing at all – your landlord may pay up once s/he knows you are considering this action.

See our page on Considering court action for more advice and, if you decide to proceed, use our sample letter before action D12.

If your deposit is held by a letting agent

If you rented through a letting agent and they hold your deposit, they do so on behalf of your landlord. If they are unfairly refusing to return your deposit, or the company stops trading and disappears with your money, you should contact your landlord direct. S/he is responsible for returning your deposit even if you originally paid it to the agency.

You are entitled to know the name and address of your landlord. Your letting agent has a legal duty to provide this information within 21 days, if you request it in writing.

If your letting agent behaves unreasonably and is licensed with Rent Smart Wales you can contact them to investigate them further. You could also make a complaint to the letting agent’s redress scheme

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

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This page was last updated on: Rhagfyr 1, 2023

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.