Nowadays I don’t think there are many private landlords dumb enough to not protect their tenant’s deposits since the law has been in place for well over a decade. However, just in case your landlord is as much of a slumlord as my previous one, I thought I would recant my experience of successfully doing a deposit reclaim. Especially because I found London Renters’ Union and Shelter to be utterly useless in terms of help and advice. (Although Shelter’s legal website is very useful and informative.)
I discovered my deposit was not protected at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. I was living in a house-share and one of my flatmates was a zero-hours contract, minimum wage retail worker. When lockdown suddenly happened, she had enough money in the bank to pay her rent or to eat, not both. Since we had no way of knowing how long lockdown would last or when she would get an income again, and since her low wage job meant she had no savings, I naturally told her to keep her money for food.
When I explained to my thankfully now ex-slumlord that April’s rent would be one quarter short (it was a house-share of 4), my slumlord responded in a way I should have anticipated but didn’t. She is a counsellor and social worker so I erroneously assumed that she would have sympathy for the plight of my flatmate. What I should have remembered is that, formal profession aside, she also has a large portfolio of rental properties across north London that she invests no money in yet charges obscene amounts of rent for. Ergo, she is a greedy slumlord shyster whose only concern is for fattening her bank balance and living a life of luxury at the expense of renters in London.
It is important to note that I did not demand some kind of rent amnesty like the belligerent children of LRU (“can’t pay, won’t pay!”). Rather, I simply said that we would need to postpone payment of one quarter of one month’s rent until my flatmate had gotten an income again. I said that as soon as that happened, we would set up a payment plan and make up the shortfall. (As it happened, we managed to do so in about 6 weeks.)
The slumlord replied that this was “too big of a hit” and that she would use my deposit to cover the shortfall. This, of course, is illegal and precisely why the deposit protection schemes are in place. What her response alerted me to, was that my deposit was not in fact protected as I had assumed. Given that, by that point, I had paid her in total well over £150,000 in rent over the close to a decade I had rented from her, and given that I had only been short on rent once before in all that time, I felt that she could go fuck herself and decided to do a deposit reclaim.
Deposit reclaims are, in principle, quite easy to do. The helpful people at Flat Justice passed on a really good guide to doing a deposit reclaim by Unipol. I can’t seem to find this online anymore, so I have uploaded it here (PDF). Almost everything you need to know about doing a deposit reclaim in terms of procedure is in that document. Below I will talk only about what they missed out.