First, I need to write that this article is not meant to act as legal advice in any way, shape or form.
We don’t think the law around the holding of deposits is particularly complicated, but we are certainly not qualified to give it advice.
The law/rules/guidance around what you can and cannot withhold from a deposit is, well, almost entirely subjective and frankly a can of worms (here is the advice the tenants are getting – link below).
So, the purpose of this blog is a discussion of the nature of deposits and highlight what you should be aware of and possibly do more research into you can do that >>here<<.
Should I even bother to take a deposit?
Yes, you absolutely should…….. DEFINITELY!!
OK, so it almost goes without saying that a tenant can cause far more damage than will ever be recovered through the withholding of a deposit.
In many ways, the monetary value is secondary to the commitment to the property and superior financial management that the tenant is displaying in getting the deposit together.
Frequently the first question you’ll get asked by the tenant when they submit their Notice to Quit, is ‘when will I get my bond back?’.
It is quite clearly in their mind, and if that thought holds during the tenancy and they take that little bit of extra care with your property, then you are onto a winner.
The tiny bit of extra daily care that a tenant may take with your property will add up and, although I will never be able to prove this, I believe you will have fewer issues with tenants if you take a deposit. And if that is too woolly and ethereal for you – well you have the cold hard cash from the deposit to cover any repair costs.
How much should I take?
Amount taken tends to be relative to the rent the equivalent of somewhere between 1 to 2 months.
However, there are a number of reasons why you would want to take a bit more; if the tenant wants to have pets, if the tenants are foreign and a greater potential to skip payments at the end of a tenancy are but two examples.
There is no right or wrong (although as at December 2018 the Labour Party are pushing to have an upper limit on the deposit – so watch out)
So that’s easy, I’ll take a deposit. Now, what shall I do with the money?
Simple – register it with or submit it to a government-backed scheme.
Tenancy deposit protection was introduced on 6 April 2007 as part of the Housing Act 2004 and updated in the tenancy deposit provisions (section 184) of the Localism Act which came into effect on 6 April 2012.
Much of the justification for the acts was the sharp practices by some landlords predominantly betterment. Betterment (made up word alert?) is the practice of spotting a small defect and then using it to justify making the property better at the tenant’s expense, for instance, a small mark on a wall could be used as a reason to re-decorate a whole room or house.
The deposit schemes are meant to bring greater parity between tenants and landlords about what the deposit monies can be used for.
Has it worked? We have no idea, but it certainly has changed the relationship and also created a new opportunity for the no win no fee lawyer if the deposit is not correctly registered and the correct paperwork served; You have 30 days from receipt of the money so act quick.
What is this ‘Deposit paperwork’?
The details of what paperwork needs to be served will be available on the scheme’s website, we haven’t listed the requirement here for fear of going out of date and thereby being misleading.
Broadly, it is a document that tells the tenant about which scheme you have used (the prescribed information) and T&Cs/leaflets that give greater depth of detail about the scheme.
To register or go custodial?
The schemes offer two options; in the custodial scheme the deposit is paid the money into a third party account managed by the scheme and registering the deposit involves the payment of a fee to register the deposit which is then held by the landlord/agent.
Which scheme is better? Only you will be able to decide as it is very much linked to how you manage your affairs and the types of tenancies you have. Bear in mind that you can use different schemes for different deposits if you so wish.
At the time of going to print the following providers were available, these are the only government schemes available, easily found on google.
- Deposit Protection Service (DPS)
- Dispute service (TDS)
Were all done then?
Yes and no. It is also important to ensure that you complete a detailed condition report (inventory) of the property.
This should be a combination of at least a written report and photos; taking videos is also commonplace.
The inventory should be completed with the tenant prior to the point they move any of their belongings and must be signed off by the tenant as a true and accurate (It also is good practice to get them to witness the testing of fire and carbon monoxide detection equipment and take the meter readings at the same time, but we have now strayed to a different subject matter!)
The inventory will then form the basis of any future claims against the deposit if the tenant disputes any monies that you intend to withhold.
If you are not feeling confident, then you can use an inventory service.
You are not tied to this service forever, and it could be quite useful to get them to draw up the inventory in the first instance anyway!
Play it by the book.