Securing and managing deposits can be tricky terrain for landlords. Mistakes in this realm can prove costly, potentially allowing tenants to claim up to three times the deposit amount. Recent court cases have even seen instances where tenants successfully claimed six times the deposit due to lapses in renewing deposit protection, especially with insurance-based schemes.
So, what are the regulations surrounding deposits? In most cases, the process is straightforward. Using an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement, landlords must protect all deposits with an approved deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving the deposit. This involves providing tenants with a deposit protection certificate and the prescribed information.
Once the fixed-term tenancy ends, it turns into a monthly statutory periodic tenancy under UK law. At this point, landlords need to serve prescribed documents again, and the deposit protection must be updated to reflect the change to a Statutory Periodic Tenancy (SPT). Importantly, legally, an SPT is treated as a brand-new tenancy. So, landlords need to treat it accordingly by reissuing compliance documents and updating the deposit certificate and information.
However, landlords can opt for a Contractual Periodic (CT) tenancy clause in the agreement. In this scenario, when a CT occurs, the landlord is exempt from additional actions, and the protected deposit continues as normal, supported by the provisions of S215b of the Housing Act 2004.
Custodial deposit protection requires minimal effort, as the deposit is held by the protection company. Renewal is automatic when the tenancy becomes periodic, unless terminated by notice from the tenant or landlord. For insurance-based deposit protection, where the landlord holds the deposit, an update is needed after the fixed term, with a new deposit protection certificate and information issued to the tenant.
Practically speaking, opting for custodial deposit protection is a wise choice. It reduces the risk of deposit protection expiring and ensures a secure deposit return process for tenants. Detailed check-in and check-out reports, complete with photographs, are also crucial in case deposit deductions for damages become necessary.
In essence, deposits must be correctly protected and returned at the end of the tenancy to prevent tenants from exploiting legal avenues to claim excessive amounts. With over a decade of experience working with tenants, it’s crucial to acknowledge that circumstances can change. Even with the best landlord-tenant relationships, compliance is key to navigating deposit protection successfully.
Always aim for 100% compliance to ensure a smooth journey through the intricacies of deposit management.