Negotiating the return of an unprotected tenancy deposit

If you have problems getting your landlord to return your deposit at the end of your tenancy, and your deposit is not one that is protected under a tenancy deposit protection scheme, then the first step is to try to negotiate with her/him.

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

We have produced some sample letters that you can use to write to your landlord and help you negotiate. Find these in our free resources or click on the links below. If you need more help, contact an adviser.

Get all your paperwork together

Get together all of the paperwork you have relating to your deposit and any evidence of the condition of the property when you moved in.

Useful items might include:

  • the 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)

These may also be useful later, if you need to go to court to get the deposit back.

Write to the landlord

The first step is to write and ask your landlord to return your deposit.

Your letter 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.

To help you we have produced a sample letter. Click on ‘Unprotected deposit : Letter 1’ in our free resources.

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.

Write a second letter, warning of court action

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 take your landlord to court if your deposit is not returned by this date.

Click on ‘Unprotected deposit : Letter 2’ in our free resources for a sample letter.

What if you don’t get a reply or are not happy with it?

If you don’t get a reply or your landlord still won’t give you the money, you can try to get it back by taking her/him to court. This is quite straightforward, so you probably won’t need a solicitor. 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.

Use the sample letter ‘Unprotected deposit : Letter before court action’ in our free resources and take a look at our page on going to court for more information on the process.

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. Get advice if you need help with this.

If your letting agent behaves unreasonably and is licensed with Rent Smart Wales you can contact them to investigate them further. You could also report them to The National Approved Lettings Scheme and the Association of Residential Letting Agents if they are members of those organisations.

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This page was last updated on: August 1, 2017

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.