It’s unlikely you would take the landlord of your student accommodation to the pub and give him twenty quid to get a round in, so why give him hundreds as a rent deposit? The answer is that you probably have to if you want to secure a roof over your head. You would expect however, that at the end of the tenancy you’ll get the money back. Unfortunately, it isn’t always this easy, as we all know someone who’s had a problem claiming their deposit once they move out of their student accommodation. In most cases, students haven’t got the time or money to strike up a fight for a few hundred quid. But this shouldn’t mean that you’re not entitled to have your money looked after.
There is a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme (TDP) that the Government have put in place to protect students who enter into an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement with their student sccommodation. This is the standard type of agreement for people that rent accommodation from landlords or agents. Any deposit that is taken by a landlord (or letting agent) has to be protected by one of three official Government approved schemes. No other ways of protecting your deposit are Government approved, so these are the only three that count.
Your landlord is bound by this legislation to enter your deposit into one of the three schemes and to give you contact details of this scheme within 14 days of you handing them the money. The clock starts on the date you hand them the cash or cheque, so it doesn’t matter how long they take to pay the money in to their bank or how long it takes for your cheque to clear. If you haven’t heard which of the three schemes your landlord is using, within 14 days of handing over your money, ask them the question “How is my money being protected?”
The three schemes – Two of the Government approved schemes are insurance companies and their names are the ‘Tenancy Deposit Scheme Ltd’ and ‘Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd’. The landlord pays a fee for their service, much like when you pay for holiday or car insurance.
The third Government approved scheme is called ‘Deposit Protection Services’ and is a custodial facility. The landlord of the student accommodation places all the deposits they receive into a kind of central ‘pot’ which is looked after by this service. There is no charge to the landlord for this scheme as it’s publicly run, using the interest earned from the deposit money to finance itself.
All three services have a dispute resolution service which is completely free for tenants to use, in the event that you and your landlord have trouble agreeing on how much of your deposit is returned to you when you move out.
Receiving your deposit back – At the end of your tenancy, you must agree with your landlord how much of the deposit you will receive. The TDP legislation states that once this agreement has been made your landlord must pay you the money within 10 days. If you disagree with the decision your landlord makes and you feel you should be receiving more money back then you can contact the dispute resolution service that protects your deposit. This is why it’s important that your landlord issues you with their chosen scheme’s details at the start of your tenancy.
Penalties for landlords – For landlords that don’t protect their tenant’s deposits there are penalties in place. In the worst case scenario, they could be ordered to pay you three times the amount of your original deposit back. It’s important to be sure of your rights and make your landlord aware that you know what your rights are!
This legislation is in place to finally regulate the deposit process. Almost 500,000 deposits are now protected through the scheme, which adds up to over £450 million in deposits paid! So if you haven’t received details from your landlord yet, be sure to ask “How is my money being protected?” and visit www.direct.gov.uk/tenancydeposit to ensure that you’re protected too.
KEY DEPOSIT STUFF TO REMEMBER
1. Your landlord or agent has to give you detailed written information about how your deposit is being protected within 14 days of you handing them the money. This information must include:
- The landlord’s name, address and contact details.
- The amount of deposit money you’ve paid and information about the circumstances in which your deposit may be retained.
- The name and contact details of the scheme that protects your money.
2. If you’re in a place with a live-in landlord your deposit won’t be covered by TDP and if you’re living in halls, you’re unlikely to be covered by TDP. With halls, the best thing to do is to check with the people who run your halls about whether your deposit is covered by TDP.
3. If your landlord protects your deposit using the custodial scheme, you may be entitled to keep a percentage of the interest that your deposit has earned while it’s been in the scheme.