When should you take your landlord to court?
If they refuse to resolve any property related issues you raise during your tenancy or have not placed your deposit into a Tenancy Deposit Plan (TDP), you can take them to court.
Make sure you treat this as a last resort as it can take a long time to get issues resolved through the courts and could be expensive if you lose.
What if your property is not safe?
Your landlord has to make sure their property is a healthy and safe environment for you to live in, which means:
There is sufficient heating, ventilation and lighting
The property is in a good state of repair
The property is secure
The gas, water and electricity are all safe, sanitary and in working order; this includes annual boiler checks and gas safety checks
Any furniture or electrical appliances provided in the property should be checked and certified as being safe
If you have a problem with any of the above, do not hesitate to contact your landlord to get it resolved.
What if your deposit is not protected?
If your landlord has not paid your deposit into a Tenancy Deposit Plan and is refusing to give you your deposit back, you can take them to court.
Here is what you can do to try and get all of your deposit back.
Can you avoid going to court?
If you are a council or a housing association tenant you can avoid going to court and paying fees by complaining to the Housing Ombudsman.
You can also avoid going to court if your landlord tries to put up your rent.
How to build your case
You need to prepare as much evidence as possible to support your case; otherwise you could end up losing and wasting your money on court fees.
Before taking your landlord to court, make sure you have:
Raised any issues to your landlord and given them time to resolve them
Gathered all evidence needed to back up your claim
Sent a letter to your landlord explaining that you will take them to court if the work is not completed
You will need to pay a fee to go to court, but can avoid paying legal fees if you represent yourself instead of paying for a representative.
You should give your landlord a short timescale, such as 10 days, to resolve an issue about your deposit.
How to gather evidence for your case
The courts will only accept evidence if you can prove that you tried to resolve the issue with your landlord first.
The type of evidence you should collect includes:
Any letters you have sent to your landlord which show you have reported an issue
Photographs of anything that needs repairing or is damaged
Receipts of anything you had to replace or repair as a result of any damage in the property
Proof that you sent your landlord a deposit; e.g. shown on a bank statement
If your health has been affected by the condition of your rented property, such as respiratory issues due to damp problems, make sure you submit any medical records which confirm this.
Send your landlord a final warning
This will be a letter, and should specify:
What is in need of repair
When you had previously told them of the problem
A 20 day period of time for your landlord to resolve the issue, unless the repair is urgent; for example, a broken boiler
That you will take your landlord to court if they do not put the problem right within the timescale you have given
Once 20 days have passed you can begin your claim with the courts.
If your landlord does not give you your Tenancy Deposit Plan information within 10 days of your first letter then you can take them to court.
Starting your court claim
For repair disputes
If you live in Scotland you have to claim through the sheriff court.
If you live in Northern Ireland you can claim online through the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service or get a claim form at your local court.
You have to send 2 copies of this form to your county court (or the sheriffs court in Scotland), and make sure you keep a copy for your records.
You will get a response through the post which confirms that your case will go to court. The time you have to prepare will also be confirmed in your letter, and can vary from a week to a couple of months.
You will be asked to send any evidence you have gathered to the court before the court date. Your landlord will also provide evidence to support their side of the argument.
For tenancy deposit disputes
If you live in England and Wales you should contact your county court to begin your claim.
If you live in Scotland you will need to complete a summary application with the Scottish Courts and Tribunals.
If you live in Northern Ireland, you should contact your local council and speak to the Environmental Health Department.
They will investigate your claim and decide whether your landlord should repay your deposit to you or pay the deposit into a deposit plan (if you are still renting from them).
A county court can also order your landlord to pay you up to three times the amount of your deposit for holding onto your deposit unlawfully.
What will happen in court?
The hearing will either take place in a courtroom or the judge's private room, and the public are not allowed to sit in.
You can either represent yourself or pay for a lawyer or advisor to speak on your behalf. It is likely your landlord will use a solicitor to speak on their behalf.
The court will go through all of the evidence you and your landlord have provided prior to the court date and make a judgement based on this.
The judge can order your landlord to:
Carry out the repairs by a set date, or
Pay you compensation in addition to covering your legal costs.
Alternatively, a judge could order you to make the repairs and deduct any cost from the rent you pay to your landlord.
If your evidence is not strong enough, the judge could dismiss your claim altogether.
Your landlord will be in contempt of court and will be fined or sent to prison.
If your landlord does not pay you the ordered amount of compensation then they will have to return to court.