Answer: It is quite usual for landlords and letting agents to ask tenants to pay a deposit as security against non-payment of rent or damage to the property.
If you had an assured shorthold tenancy and you paid a deposit to your landlady on or after April 6, 2007, or you paid the deposit before that date but renewed your tenancy afterwards, then your landlady should indeed have used a tenancy deposit-protection scheme to safeguard your money.
Until recently, tenants were unable to bring a case for breach of the deposit-protection legislation once a tenancy was over.
However, there have been recent changes in the law brought about under the Localism Act 2011. It is now possible for tenants to make an application to the court for a penalty award even where the tenancy has ended, provided the assured shorthold tenancy agreement was entered into on or after April 6, 2012.
So, depending on when your tenancy began, it may be that the new requirements apply. If so, you may have a right to claim a penalty award in the small claims court, ie, the return of some or all of the deposit together with a penalty of one to three times the amount of the deposit (as the court sees fit).
What’s your problem? If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email email@example.com or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (www.withyking.co.uk).