Taking on a new tenancy can be an exciting time; perhaps it is the first time you’ve lived away from your parents, or you and your partner might have just moved into your first home together. Or perhaps, like many, you simply cannot afford to buy your own place. Renting can be very expensive and if you’ve taken on a private let then you have probably been asked to pay a deposit in the event of any damage caused to the property, or to cover any unpaid rent or bills when you move out.
Take Lucy, for example, who contacted me on the Shelter Scotland Helpline last week looking for some advice. She explained that she had moved into a private let in Aberdeen over four years ago and had paid a deposit of £785 to her landlord. She told me that she hadn’t ever received any notification outlining which Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) her deposit had been registered with. She was due to move out of her tenancy in one months’ time but hadn’t heard anything from her landlord about the deposit and was becoming increasingly worried. I advised her that the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 came into effect on the 7th March 2011 which made it a legal requirement for all private landlords to register a deposit with a TDS within 30 working days of a tenancy starting (unless they fall under one of the following exemptions). As Lucy had paid her deposit before these regulations came into force, I advised that her landlord should have registered the deposit in a TDS before the 15th of May 2013. He should have then provided her with the following information:
- How much – confirm the amount of the deposit.
- Dates – the date the deposit was received and the date they paid the deposit into a scheme.
- Address – of the property that the deposit relates to.
- Landlord registration – a statement from your landlord confirming they are registered.
- Which scheme – the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme where the deposit was paid.
- Terms – the conditions in which all, or part, of your deposit can be kept at the end of the tenancy.
There are only three TDS in Scotland so I suggested that Lucy contact all of them to find out if they have any record of her deposit. The three TDS in Scotland are:
If none of the TDS have a record of Lucy’s deposit then I advised that she should contact her landlord in writing, to request that her deposit is placed within one of the TDS schemes as a matter of urgency. There are sample letters to help you do this available on our website.
I explained that TDS are independent third party schemes, approved by the Scottish Government, which receive, hold and protect a tenant’s deposit during the term of the tenancy. The main aims of these TDS are to:
- prevent deposits being unfairly withheld at the end of the lease;
- speed up the process of deposits being refunded where there is no dispute between the parties and;
- in instances where the amount of the deposit to be returned is in dispute, to provide access to a free dispute resolution service to help resolve the dispute – without either party having to resort to court action.
The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 state that if a landlord doesn’t use a TDS then a tenant can apply to the sheriff court for remedies under the these regulations. This can be done either during the tenancy, or up to three months after the tenancy has ended. The court can then order the landlord to pay the tenant up to three times the amount of the deposit, and to pay the deposit into a scheme as well as comply with the other requirements of the tenancy deposit scheme regulations.
If Lucy decided that she wanted to take legal action against her landlord then I advised that she could find out more here: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/taking-action/summary-applications
Lucy contacted me again this morning to inform me that her landlord had been in touch and had now placed her deposit with Safe Deposit Scotland. She was happy with this and didn’t want to take any further action, however she wasn’t sure how to go about getting her deposit back from the TDS. I advised that once her tenancy has come to an end, either she or the landlord can contact the TDS detailing how much money they think should be released to each party. This will then be sent by the scheme to the other party. If parties agree then the funds will be issued in accordance with that agreement.
If parties are unable to agree, the dispute may be passed on to the scheme’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure. An Adjudicator will then make a decision on the amount of the deposit to be refunded and if neither party objects then the deposit will be released.
If either party is unhappy with the decision reached by the Adjudicator then they may request that the evidence is reviewed by another Adjudicator. The second Adjudicator’s decision is final.
Over the last six months 6% of the calls answered by the Shelter Scotland Helpline were in relation to tenancy deposit problems and disputes, and it remains of the top five issues we deal with. Many of these calls were from people who were concerned that their landlord had failed to register their deposit within a TDS. I hope that one day these type of enquiries will be a thing of the past, however until that day comes if you have any concerns about your deposit then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our helpline on 0808 800 4444. This is a free service and is available Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm.