Deposit protection schemes are designed to ensure that your tenancy deposit is protected while you are renting. Once your tenancy comes to an end, the schemes operate to arbitrate between the tenant and the landlord, should any dispute arise as to the amount of the deposit that the landlord wishes to retain, writes Zoe Chapman.
There are three authorised schemes: the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), MyDeposits, and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). Since 6 April 2007, tenancy deposits for assured shorthold tenancies must be protected by one of these schemes, as per ss.212-215 of the Housing Act 2004.
You will know in the first instance whether or not your landlord has complied with this statutory requirement because he or she must notify you of which scheme your deposit has been protected by within 30 days of the start date of your tenancy. If you do not receive notification within this time period, you are entitled to commence court proceedings to recover, not only your deposit, but up to three times the amount that you originally paid.
Which all sounds reasonably agreeable. However, given that the deposit protection scheme is not a commonly recognised concept, a likely scenario is that tenants will not become aware that their deposit has not been protected until they have ended their tenancies. To combat this, from 6 April this year, even if you have moved out and your tenancy has ended, you are still able to take action.
The recent localism bill, which became the Localism Act on 15 November 2011, extended to 30 days the time period in which landlords are required to notify tenants that their deposits have been protected. The penalty amount for non-compliance was also changed to up to three times the deposit amount.
That is, the courts have discretion as to the amount to award, though it must be between one and three times the deposit amount. Most importantly, though, the new legislation specifically refers to its application where the tenancy has ended.
Deposit protection schemes should become common knowledge. The onus is on the tenant to ensure that landlords and letting agents stick to the rules. To this end, it seems pertinent to report on the landlords and letting agents who do not appear to regard protecting tenants’ deposits as a matter of particular importance. In my experience, one such letting agent is D&G Residential.
It should be noted that it is ultimately the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that your deposit is protected. However, if you rent through a letting agent, it is likely that you will communicate with the letting agent and not with the landlord. If your letting agent refuses to co-operate with you, then that is ultimately where the problem lies.
I rented a property in Norwich through D&G Residential from October 2010 until October 2011. During my tenancy, I was not aware that my deposit should have been protected via a scheme. When I moved out, after several weeks of silence on the matter, I was informed that “an amount” would be deducted from my deposit in order to pay to replace a carpet. (Regrettably, I had at some point melted a small area of the carpet in question with an iron, although you could hardly see the mark). The precise amount could not be divulged for several weeks. In fact, the work was “done” before it was possible for D&G to decide what the cost would be, or had been. I requested copies of the quotes they had no doubt obtained, before going for the most economically sound option. After several days, I was finally emailed copies of two “quotes.” One appeared to be from a cleaning company, and the other was not dated and did not appear to be from a company that existed, at least online. Neither provided a breakdown of the costs involved.
It eventually transpired that D&G had gone with a quote they’d obtained over the telephone on the same day that they informed me that part of my deposit was to be retained. Over and above all of this confusion, I had maintained throughout that I was not prepared to pay the full cost of replacing the carpet. The carpet was old and worn, and therefore I would only pay a small portion of the replacement cost. My assertions to this end were met mainly with hysterical laughter from D&G’s end. They sent me a cheque for my deposit, minus the full amount of the carpet. I cashed it out of necessity, but a week later it was returned unpaid by my bank, because D&G’s account had been closed.
During the course of my dealings with D&G, I found out about the deposit protection schemes. I also found out that my deposit had not been protected. D&G insisted that this was the landlord’s problem. As I had no easy way of getting in touch with him, they assured me that they would do so on my behalf. Whether they did or not, I have never heard from the landlord.
Following advice, I decided to communicate only via letter. D&G declined to respond. In fact, everything went rather quiet. I had been hitherto reluctant to attempt to contact the landlord directly, in case this let D&G off the hook in some manner. I did go so far as to obtain the landlord’s home address from the Land Registry, but as it transpired, it was not necessary to contact him.
At this point, I must confess that, eventually, I received my entire deposit back from D&G. This is not due to any effort on my part, however. The reason I got all my deposit back is that D&G are hoping to break into the UEA student market, and they did not think that the way they had dealt with me, as a UEA student, was a particularly good manner with which to showcase what they have on offer to their prospective clients. As a direct result, I feel it is incumbent upon me to give this account of some of the highlights of their customer service practices.
D&G were contacted regarding this story, but were unavailable for comment.
If you have any problems with your deposit, visit the Students’ Union Advice Centre on campus.