Despite the fact that the tenancy deposit scheme has been around for over seven years now, tenants are still losing out.
There are still some landlords who fail to protect and then fail to return the deposit to the tenant.
If you are a tenant – here are some tips to help you.
1. Be careful who you pay your deposit money to.
This last is particularly associated with the transfer service Western Union, so be suspicious if you are asked to send money using that service.
2. Check the property against the inventory before you move in
You want to make sure that everything that is wrong with the property is noted on the inventory. Otherwise when you vacate, your landlord may hold you responsible and make a deduction from your deposit.
If your landlord does not provide an inventory, it may even be worth getting one done yourself – there are many inventory companies who would be happy to do this for you (at a fee).
As an independent company their evidence is likely to be accepted by the adjudicator if there is ever a dispute about your deposit.
3. Notify the landlord or his agent if you find anything damaged after you move in
Or, again, they may seek to hold you responsible.
Its a good idea also to have a record of anything which goes wrong or breaks – so if you report anything on the phone or face to face, make sure you follow this up with a written letter or email.
4. Check that your deposit is protected with a scheme at least two months before the tenancy end
If your deposit is not protected, you should seriously consider withholding money equal to the value of your deposit from the last two months rent.
Although you are entitled to bring a County Court claim for the return of the deposit and the penalty, this is a time consuming and expensive business.
For example, for a high value claim which runs to a hearing, the court fees can end up being well over £1,000 (for example you will have to pay not only the issue fee but also ‘setting down’ fees).
YOU will have to pay these up front, although your landlord will be ordered to refund them to you as part of the judgement made against him.
However, even though you get a CCJ, it may still be difficult to get payment. About 30% of all CCJs go unpaid and the court enforcement procedures are expensive, complex and usually very, very slow.
Although withholding the money is technically ‘wrong’, the only thing your landlord can do, is sue you for the money. If he does this, you will then be able to defend and counterclaim under the tenancy deposit regulations.
Don’t withhold the money however if your landlord HAS protected the deposit or you risk getting a bad reference.
5. If you don’t agree with proposed deductions, refer the claim to adjudication
One of the main purposes of the deposit scheme is to provide a cheap and easy way for tenants to challenge unfair deductions from their deposit.
However if you do this it is VERY important that you comply with the deposit scheme rules.
Also you MUST provide your evidence WITHIN THE TIME LIMIT, in as much detail as possible (remember the adjudicators do not visit the property and are not mind readers).
All the schemes have telephone helplines so if you are worried about what to do, you can ring them up and ask. The scheme websites also have a lot of help and guidance on adjudications for tenants (and indeed on many other issues).
The three schemes
For ease of reference here are the three schemes and their websites:
Note that I have a little site here which gives further details of your rights and there is a letter for you to use if you find out your landlord has failed to protect after you have moved out.