Landlord v. Tenant Deposit Disputes
UK laws on protecting a tenant deposit changed for the good of the tenant in April 2007, when the Tenancy Deposit Protection regulations came into force. People taking an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) who pay a deposit and whose deposit can be used if the tenant falls into arrears or messes up the property are owed duties by the landlord. Provided that the annual rental is no more than £25,000 PA, though as of 1 October 2010, this amount will rise to £100,000 PA.
The landlord must secure the tenancy deposit within one of the approved schemes and must also give the tenant specific information regarding their deposit and the scheme into which it is placed. If this is not carried out within a given time frame, then the tenant can take the landlord to court and the landlord will be forced to pay a set amount of money under a strict liability court ruling.
The Landlord may defend the claim or even make a counter-claim if they believe that the tenant has breached the terms of the AST, but this cannot be used as mitigation and has nothing to do with the tenant claim. Courts have usually ordered that the landlord make a separate claim.
The property that has been rented, and covered under the tenancy deposit protection scheme, must have been one that was occupied as the main home on an independent basis and one where the landlord also lived. If the landlord lived at the property, they will not usually have to protect the deposit, although the rules are quite complicated (see paragraph 10 of schedule 1 of the Housing Act 1988).
The claim is always against the person who received the deposit, if it was the landlord then the claim is against them, if it was an agent then they are directly responsible. The law states that the “landlord” includes anybody that is acting on their behalf, if there is any doubt sue the landlord. If there is more than one party, make a claim against them all. Note that the address that the claim is issued to has to be in England or Wales. If you are unsure of who the responsible person is then it is best practice to make the claim against the landlord.
You can find out who the landlord, i.e. the registered proprietor, is by asking the person to whom you pay the rent. They have a duty to provide the information to you within 21 days, failure to do so is a criminal offence under UK law. Many landlords will not readily publish their details, however, their agent cannot refuse to provide the information that you request.
The legislation is to protect tenants in the UK and not provide them with a windfall payment. However, it has been shown that the courts do not take kindly to landlords that wilfully ignore, or seem to wilfully ignore the basic and simple regulations.