The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS) keeps deposit money safe for letting agents, landlords and renters during the course a tenancy. Its free, government-accredited custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme has protected over five million deposits over the last decade.
Its Dispute Resolution Service allows landlords, letting agents and tenants to resolve disputes without resorting to lengthy or expensive court procedures, and over the last decade has adjudicated over 60,000 disputes.
In our new adjudication case study series, The DPS’ head of adjudication, Alexandra Coghlan-Forbes, is going to share examples of recent, real-life case studies with us.
Over the coming months, she’ll talk us through the guidelines that affect the way her team reaches decisions to help agents and landlords understand the process.
Our first case study looks at charges levelled at a tenant following a complex end to his tenancy…
A tenant was due to be evicted from his property and asked the local authority to rehouse him. Unfortunately he did not meet their criteria, and was told to stay in his current property and follow the court process in order to be rehoused (which he did).
Before the tenant moved into the property, the landlord gave him a ‘moving-in guide’. At the end of his tenancy, the letting agent told him that, under the terms of this guide, they were entitled to charge him £240 because they had had to attend a court hearing, and another £240 because they had had to arrange an appointment with a bailiff.
The agent then attempted to deduct these amounts from the deposit before The DPS repaid it to the tenant. The tenant disputed these deductions.
In their submission of evidence to The DPS adjudication process, the letting agent said: “The tenant’s liability to pay our fee is set out in the detailed moving-in guide we gave him at the start of the tenancy. We attended the court hearing and bailiff appointment, so the tenant is contractually required to pay our fee.”
In the end, the tenant won the case, and The DPS did not make the deductions requested by the letting agent for the court appearance or the bailiff’s appointment.
The adjudication team did not believe it was necessary for the agent to attend the court hearing, nor to arrange a bailiff’s appointment.
They also questioned whether the fees were reasonable – and even whether the tenant would have been required to pay the costs even if the court attendance or bailiff’s appointment were necessary.
According to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, tenants should be made fully aware of any fees before agreeing to let the property. Beyond this, however, even if fees are displayed, for example, in the moving-in guide, this does not mean that tenants are automatically required to pay them.
On top of the deposit deductions dismissed by The DPS’ adjudication team, the court did award other costs to the landlord from the tenant.
The tenant had already paid these by the time the adjudication began. However, if they had not been, the adjudication team would have awarded them.
*Alexandra Coghlan-Forbes is head of adjudication at The DPS