Not every tenancy ends in dispute, not every claim is considered a dispute or sits within the realms of being solely an issue to be managed of the inventory/checkout.
To be considered; a claim against a deposit must be clearly set out, evidenced and provided within the time frame as set out by the deposit scheme although deadlines are not necessarily compulsory.
The three main deposit protection schemes timeframe for managing the dispute process once all information has been received are, on average, 28 days (see Dispute Process – Timescales) with both parties notified within 10 days of the Adjudicators decision.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme requires the landlord/tenant/agent to raise the dispute within 3 months from the lawful end of the tenancy but not before 10 days after the check out.
In the case of seeking possession of the rental property; to instigate the dispute process the prescribed information must have been served at the start of the tenancy. The statutory obligation of the landlord / agent remains key to a successful defence against a dispute against the landlord/ agent when issuing proceedings under Section 21.
As shown here in 2012; the Court of Appeal imposed the maximum penalty on a residential landlord following a dispute with a tenant over prescribed information under tenancy deposit law.
Virtually all of the prescribed information had been supplied and what was omitted was described as ‘minor’. After the case, lawyers said the omission could have been put right by giving the tenant a copy of the Scheme’s leaflet – something the tenant could have got for themselves
Luke Maunder, a property specialist with law firm Barlow Robbins, said: “This case has important implications for residential landlords and residential agents.
“It is not uncommon for minor pieces of information to be omitted from the prescribed information, particularly as the Act allows it to be produced separately from the Tenancy Agreement, and some required items instinctively seem less important as the tenant can find it easily elsewhere.
“In the case of Ayannuga v Swindells, the landlord failed to provide details of the procedures to be followed in certain events. Details of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme had been provided, but the omission of the additional information – potentially as simple as including a leaflet provided by the Scheme – has cost him thousands.
“The maximum fine is three times the deposit, but the landlord also forfeits the original deposit, so in reality it is four times. As a deposit is usually at least a month’s rent, a small error can be very costly.”
He advised: “All residential landlords and letting agents need to take note of the important decision in Ayannuga v Swindells and make sure that they provide all the necessary prescribed information, ideally well within the 30 days allowed.”
You may, as an inventory provider, feel that this is entirely irrelevant and unrelated to the claims against the deposit for damages, cleaning, redocration, rent arrears mostly commonly seen after check out.
It has a direct correlation with the need to provide accurate factual, objective evidence that supports the dispute process. And even if what is considered a relatively minor infringement of the ‘rules’ has been highlighted it could derail the dispute process losing the claimant’s ability to realise a successful claim.