The Dispute Service (TDS) run regular workshops around the country for their agent members and others.
Last month they had one in Norwich, and as I happen to live there (in fact the venue was just up the road from my house), they kindly invited me to attend.
It was extremely interesting. It was run by John King, the TDS Member Relations Manager and experienced adjudicator Maldwyn Jones. A popular course – there were so many delegates that they had to ask the venue to provide another table!
The first part of the course was a presentation by John. Despite having a heavy cold and being on his third lemsip, John gave a very interesting talk which was useful to me and I am sure, to the rest of the delegates.
Here are a few of the points covered:
- 98% of deposits are distributed as agreed with no dispute. There have been around 34,000 disputes since 2007 which is 1.64% of the tenancies they protect.
- Agents can charge for the cost of protection but not for the cost of the dispute (which must be free)
- If you get a court order which does not mention the deposit, TDS will try to help stakeholders deal with this and may allow them to pass the money over to TDS for them to deal. But best to tell the Judge at the hearing that there is a deposit
- If stakeholders make distributions without getting specific agreement first (for example if the tenant has done a runner) they are taking a commercial risk. Usually it will work out but in the worst case scenario they may have to put their hands in their pockets. It is essential that they have a good audit trail.
- An adjudicator can only make awards up to the value of the deposit
- The quality of evidence for adjudications has improved in recent years.
- As it is easier to prove rent arrears, agents are advised to take these to court in high value claims and use the adjudication for damage etc
- When completing the adjudication notification form, do not match the claim to the deposit sum, but put it all in. Remember that a claim may fall short due to a betterment argument, in which case the balance will be refunded to the tenant.
- TDS view is that after the tenancy has ended the tenant does not have any legal right of access to the property, for example to do additional cleaning or repair works. They should have done this before they left.
- There are often disputes about cleaning bills which tenants think are too high. However adjudicators will normally allow them if they appear reasonable. ADR is fairly ‘rough justice’ and they do not carry out a ‘forensic’ examination of the evidence.
- TDS can only pay money awarded to the agent if the tenancy agreement or agency instructions say so. Otherwise it will go to the landlord. Agents therefore need to protect their position, for example if asked to pay money out in advance, to get work done.
After the general talk we had coffee, and then looked at some scenarios.
This was fascinating and Maldwyn explained to us how he would decide each of the case, after we had had a go at playing adjudicator ourselves. The scenarios covered a wide range of situations, such as damaged carpets, disputed cleaning costs, missing items, gardens, and claims for rent in lieu of notice.
Overall a most informative course, plus we were given copies of all the presentations and scenarios in a handy course pack. An excellent course for all agents to attend, particularly as it gives you an insight into the mind of an adjudicator.
Many thanks to TDS for inviting me to attend, and to John and Maldwyn for developing and presenting such an interesting course.
New book on deposit disputes coming
Courses such as these do not come along every day, or you may be a landlord or be unable to afford the cost. In which case you may be interested in a new book coming out shortly from my ‘Your Law Store’ e publishing business called How to Win Deposit Disputes.
Written by lawyer and former adjudicator Tom Derrett, it will take you through everything you need to know when preparing for a tenancy deposit adjudication.
The book as now been published and is available on >> this page where you can download the first two chapters to see if you like it.