The return of damage deposits can be a lottery. Tales about unscrupulous landlords who keep deposits without saying why or for reasons that cannot be justified are all too common. Maybe you have been a victim of this in the past or know someone who has.
However if landlords want to take a damage deposit, they must protect your money by joining one of the three government-sponsored Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes. The schemes aim to provide an easy free and quick way for tenants to reclaim their deposit if there is a dispute between landlord and tenant over how much should be refunded.
All schemes offer an independent dispute resolution service whose aim is to resolve disputes between landlord and tenant without the need to take the matterto the County Court. You will be asked for evidence as well as your landlord and then a decision will be reached. Once this happens, the money must be refunded to the tenant within 10 days (if the decision goes in your favour).
Types of Schemes
Although there are three government backed schemes, these fall into two different types, the difference being the way the deposit is held during the tenancy.
The custodial scheme involves landlords paying the money to the scheme for safekeeping during the tenancy. When an agreement has been reached over who is entitled to the money at the end of the tenancy, the money is directly refunded by the scheme to whoever is entitled.
The insurance scheme involves the landlord keeping the deposit during the tenancy and paying an insurance premium. If there is a dispute over any of the deposit, the landlord must pay the disputed amount over to the scheme administrators until an agreement has been reached.
If the landlord fails to comply with this or refund the money (despite the tenant being entitled to be refunded), the scheme operator will pay the tenant by claiming on the landlord’s insurance policy ensuring that tenants do not miss out on getting their money refunded.
Duties on landlords / agents
Landlords or agents (whoever received the money) must provide tenants with full details of how their deposit is being protected within 30 days of receiving the money.
The information which should be given to tenants is
the address of the rented property
how much deposit you’ve paid
how the deposit is protected
the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme and its dispute resolution service
their (or the letting agency’s) name and contact details
the name and contact details of any third party that’s paid the deposit
why they would keep some or all of the deposit
how to apply to get the deposit back
what to do if you can’t get hold of the landlord at the end of the tenancy
what to do if there’s a dispute over the deposit
If landlords have not protected their tenants’ deposit, failed to do this within the necessary timeframe or failed to give you the essential information needed under the law above, you will have the right to take your landlord or the agent to the County Court. The Court can order that the deposit be protected properly or repaid to the tenant as well as ordering compensation to be paid to tenants for not compiling with the law. The amount of compensation is between 1 and 3 times the original deposit.
Action for tenants
You should make sure that your damage deposit has been protected by making sure you have received either from your landlord or agent written confirmation. Even if you have had this, it is always wise to check that this is adequate and also directly with the scheme to make sure that the protection has taken place.
Contact details for the three schemes are available by clicking here.
Even though greater protection is provided here for all tenants, it is still important to record the condition of the property through photographs and inventories when you move in and out as this evidence will still be needed to prove to the scheme that you have not caused the damage the landlord may allege you have.
If you need more advice on this issue, please contact DSU Advice. We can help you to contact your landlord / agent if you find your deposit has not been protected. We can also give advice about how to bring a County Court case to enforce protection or get your money back.
Need more help? Get advice and support from DSU Advice