The Housing Act 2004 introduced deposit protection for every new assured shorthold tenancy (AST) signed in England and Wales. As a result of the legislation, from 6 April 2007 onwards there has been a requirement for any deposit taken when an AST is signed after this time to be protected with a recognised scheme within 14 days. Whilst the time limit for protection was increased to 30 days from 6 April 2012, the requirement for protection is still very much in place and there are some serious penalties for landlords that don’t comply with it. The introduction of tenancy deposit legislation was essentially to ensure that renters received all – or a fair amount – of a deposit back at the end of a tenancy. (For example, in 2008/09 for an unlucky 13% of tenants, the deposit was simply not returned at all.) It is also to provide a forum in which disputes between tenants and landlords concerning the deposit can be fairly arbitrated.
Whilst most tenants are aware of the requirement for a landlord to protect a deposit, what you may not know is the process that follows and the communication requirements a good landlord has with respect to the actions that they have taken to protect the deposit. It is not good enough for your landlord to simply inform you that the deposit has been protected – information on exactly how and where this has been done must also be provided to the tenant. This is called Prescribed Information.
What is the Prescribed Information?
The Prescribed Information Order details exactly what a good landlord must pass on to a tenant in terms of information about deposit protection. The key elements are:
1. Name, address and contact information for the scheme.
2. Information on how the scheme works.
3. The amount of the deposit, details of the property and information relating to the tenants.
4. The steps under the specific scheme by which a deposit amount may be paid or repaid to a tenant at the end of the AST.
5. The steps that are to be taken if either the landlord or the tenant can’t be contacted at the end of the tenancy .
6. What happens under the specific scheme if there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant over how much of the deposit should be repaid.
7. An explanation of how the scheme can manage the dispute without recourse to litigation.
Who should receive the Prescribed Information?
The tenant (or tenants) are the main recipients of the Prescribed Information. However, if there is a relevant third party, or an interested party, then the landlord must also ensure that they too get a copy of the information. So, for example, where someone else has paid all, or a percentage of, the deposit, that party must also receive the information about how the deposit has been protected.
What happens if Prescribed Information is not provided?
A landlord who does not provide the Prescribed Information is seriously risking their own rights, as this puts them in the same position as if the deposit had not been protected at all. If your landlord has not handed over this information then they cannot evict you using the section 21 procedure (i.e. without explanation on two months notice after the end of a fixed period) and there may be financial penalties to pay, which could be anywhere up to three times the amount of the actual deposit.
Has this been tested?
Yes, frequently. For example, the case of Ayannuga v Swindells in 2012 where a landlord who had not served the required prescribed information was penalised by the Court of Appeal for three times the value of the deposit and had to return the deposit to the tenant in full.
If you have recently signed an AST and you have not been given this information then TTV would recommend that you ask for it as soon as the 30 day period after the tenant agreement is signed expires. For more information on deposit protection take a look at our recent blog on the subject.