Tenancy deposits are required by law of every tenant about to start their tenancy. While the majority of tenants understand the importance of tenancy deposits and follow the law, there are several others who have no idea what tenancy deposits are. Even more disturbing is the fact that there are rogue landlords who take advantage of tenants who are too trusting by not returning tenancy deposits.
What is a tenancy deposit?
A tenancy deposit is what a tenant pays their landlord before they move into a rented home. It is often referred to as a security deposit because landlords can use it to cover for things they might have to spend on, such as property damage and rent arrears that tenants didn’t take care of.
At the end of the tenancy, landlords are expected to return the deposit to their tenants. They should give it back in full, unless there is a reason for them to deduct a portion of or hold the deposit. Tenants are expected to abide by their responsibilities, one of which is to ensure the rented property is kept in the same way that it was (excluding normal wear and tear) when the place was turned over to them.
While the money still belongs to the tenant for the duration of the tenancy, the landlord can have access to it if the renter breaks any of the terms in the tenancy agreement (such as disrepair issues and similar problems). As for landlord’s responsibilities, they are required by law to protect their tenants’ deposit through any of the three government-authorised deposit protection schemes.
What is a tenancy protection scheme?
Tenants renting from private landlords on an assured shorthold tenancy should have their deposits protected by a government approved tenancy protection scheme, and this is the responsibility of their landlords.
Protecting deposits is an assurance that tenants’ money is kept safe throughout their tenancy. It is also a guarantee that landlords will not be able to use the deposit for their personal needs or purposes. At the end of their tenancy, tenants will get back their money if they:
- adhere to the terms of the tenancy agreement
- pay their bills and rent on time
- keep the property free of issues and damages
In England and Wales, there are three government-approved schemes to choose from:
- Deposit Protection Service
- Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Tenants who are not on an assured shorthold tenancy do not have to deposit money but their landlords can ask them for valuable items such as jewellery, watches, or a vehicle. Regardless of the value of the item, they are not protected by any scheme.
For tenants living in Northern Ireland and Scotland, there are different TDP schemes available.
If landlords fail to protect their tenants’ deposit, they are liable to pay compensation to the tenant equivalent to up to three times the original deposit money. This is called a tenancy protection compensation claim.
As well as protecting the deposit landlords are required to return the deposit to their tenants at the end of the tenancy. There are times, though, when landlords forget or refuse to return deposits.
Once both parties have agreed on how much of the deposit the tenant will get back, the landlord has a maximum of 10 days to return the money. If the landlord does not return the money before the cutoff, or if they deduct from the amount without any valid reason, tenants can file a claim against them.
A multi-breach deposit claim
When there is a new tenancy and the landlord does not protect it, this incident is called a breach. So, for example, if you are a new tenant with a 12-month tenancy agreement and your landlord did not protect your deposit for 12 months, you can file a claim worth up to three times the value of your original deposit.
But if you renew this same tenancy for six or 12 months and your landlord fails to protect your deposit (again) for the said renewal, then this becomes a second breach. If you file a tenancy deposit protection compensation claim, you are eligible to get back approximately six times more than your deposit.
This is what a multi-breach tenancy deposit issue relates to. Most tenants believe that the deposit protection compensation claim they will get from their rogue landlord can only be at a maximum of three times more than their deposit. But the law pertains to each breach that your landlord does, so each time a new tenancy commences and your deposit is not protected, the claim is multiplied (as in the example above). One breach case on top of another is known as a multi-breach case.
Many tenants also have no idea that their tenancy has renewed after 6 or 12 months, because they haven’t moved out. So, if you believe you have a claim for compensation because your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit, it is worth checking how many actual breaches of the law there might be.
If you find yourself dealing with a multi-breach case, know that there are highly competent and experienced tenancy deposit experts who can help you out.
Filing your claim
Filing a claim can be quite challenging, but if you have a team of tenancy deposit experts on your side, things can be easier. A team of expert solicitors such as the ones at Tenancy Deposit Claims can help you through the process – right from the start, submitting the requirements, all the way to the court’s decision to offer you the claim. Tenancy Deposit Claims’ solicitors are authorised and regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority, so you need to get in touch with them right away.