A few years ago, the government introduced a new scheme that aims to protect the deposits tenants have paid to their landlords.
But research from the charity Shelter claimed that the majority of UK tenants remain unaware of their rights when it comes to such initiatives, with disputes over deposits having risen sharply in recent years. Current rules state that any deposit paid to a landlord by a new tenant must be put into a protection scheme within 30 days of the start of the tenancy. With the economy slowly recovering from what has been a difficult few years for the property sector, some local estate agents have unfortunately gone out of business - something which has added to the growing concerns help over the protection of tenants' deposits. But what else is there to know about such protection schemes and what steps can tenants take to ensure they get their deposit back in full?
This week's expert, Hannah Gretton, Branch Manager of Manchester's Reeds Rains estate agents, gave us an overview of such schemes and explained why they were brought into effect:
Since April 2007, deposits taken for tenancies that are AST's (assured shorthold tenancies) under the Housing Act 1988 must be protected by one of the Tenancy Deposit Schemes. This means that, if held by the agent, the deposit will be help in the capacity of a stakeholder. There are two types of approved schemes, either the custodial scheme (DPS - Deposit Protection Service) or an insurance-based scheme (MyDeposits and the TDS - Tenancy Deposit Scheme). Deposit schemes were brought in as legislation under the Housing Act 2004 covering deposits on AST's to promote good practice in deposit handling, assist in the resolution of disputes relating to deposits, and encourage landlords and tenants to make a clear agreement at the start of the lease about the condition of the property.
Inventories and schedules of conditions are not mandatory. However from a landlords' point of view, it will make any claim for damages against deposits at the end of the tenancy much easier to establish if there is an inventory and schedule of condition.
If there are any disputes at the end of a tenancy, and the landlord and tenant cannot agree where the deposit monies are to go, an independent adjudicator will look at all the evidence provided and make a final decision on what proportion of the deposit will go where. So the need for an accurate and detailed in-going inventory and out-going check out vital.
Tenants are expected to behave in a 'tenant-like manner' which means tenants are expected to take reasonable care of the property and have an obligation not to commit waste (damage of the property). Fair wear and tear will be allowed which means tenants are not responsible for dis-repair that occurs as the fabric and fittings age, as long as the property is being used in a tenant-like manner. The property should be returned in the condition it is given at the start of each tenancy, as long as tenants adhere to their obligations under their tenancy agreement then the full deposit should be returned once the tenant has moved out and within the required timescales under the protection laws.
Shelter has launched a deposit scheme tracker to check if your money is safe. Visit england.shelter.org.uk for more details. You can also gain information from Citizen's Advice at citizensadvice.org.uk.
Article featured in Urban Life 11/10/2012 @UrbanLifeMcr