More than one third of UK landlords are still unaware of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), according to an independent survey commissioned by The Money Centre, one of the country’s largest independent buy-to-let mortgage brokers.
The findings mean that many landlords could find themselves committing a civil offence and forced to pay a tenant three times the amount of the deposit as well as losing their automatic right to regain possession of the property at the end of a tenancy agreement.
The survey, conducted in August and September, found that 36% of landlords questioned were unaware of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, introduced by the Government on 6th April 2007 to protect tenancy deposits and provide a fairer system for settling disputes about the return of a deposit at the end of a tenancy. When it comes to investors with only one buy-to-let property, this figure was even higher, with 43% unaware of the scheme. A further 20% of respondents said they were aware of the scheme but did not fully understand it, leaving less than half (44%) who said they were aware of the scheme and understood it.
Lynsey Sweales, Marketing and PR Director of The Money Centre commented: We are very worried by the results of this research which shows low awareness and understanding of the existence of this legislation and its implications, several months on from its introduction. This is bad news for both tenants and landlords as the scheme is designed to protect both.
The research also found that 55% of landlords have had to withhold all or part of a tenant’s deposit to cover property damage and other costs (such as cleaning costs and unpaid utility bills) at some stage. Therefore, it may not be long before problems arise due to a lack of participation in the scheme, and if a landlord or agent does not protect a tenant’s deposit, they can be ordered by the local county court to pay the tenant three times the amount of the deposit.
Lynsey Sweales said: The Money Centre would like to see the Government renew its publicity drive about the scheme, to ensure awareness, understanding and participation of the scheme is improved.
â€œWe also urge landlords who are not up to speed with the TDS to do their research immediately and advise them to join their local landlords’ association. These organisations provide advice and guidance to their members on changes in legislation and can act as a forum to share best practice.
With the past year’s interest rate hikes and speculation about the market, landlords have had many issues to deal with in order to make the most of their investments and joining a landlords’ association to protect and promote their interests is now more important than ever. However, it is estimated that only around 4% of the UK’s 750,000 landlords are currently members of a landlords’ association.*
Sources of further information for landlords include:
– The Department for Communities and Local Government: www.direct.gov.uk/tenancydeposit or 0845 609 0696
– Landlords’ associations: National Federation of Residential Landlords – www.nfrl.co.uk; National Landlords Association – www.landlords.org.uk; Residential Landlords Association – www.rla.org.uk
The findings have not shown a vast improvement over time: The research conducted in August / September showed only a marginal increase (1%) in awareness of the TDS since previous research carried out in May, in which 37% of respondents said they were unaware of the scheme.
Understanding of the scheme had improved: 20% of respondents said they were aware of the scheme but did not fully understand it (down from 27% in May) whilst 44% were aware of the scheme and understood it (up from 36% in May).
While the TDS only covers tenancy agreements made on or after 6th April 2007, as time goes on and tenancy agreements are renewed and changed, all landlords will eventually become affected. It is therefore vital that landlords take the time to understand the TDS now and avoid become in ignorance of the law.
The research was undertaken by independent research agency BDRC on behalf of a syndicate of buy-to-let mortgage lenders and brokers. 523 online interviews among residential property investors were conducted between 17th August and 6th September 2007.
Press Release Supplied by The Money Centre:
The Money Centre is one of the UK’s largest independent buy-to-let mortgage brokers in the UK, with over 160 consultants. It provides over 5,000 on-line quotes and manages over £150 million worth of new applications each month.
The Money Centre is a member of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB).
About the Tenancy Deposit Scheme:
From 6 April 2007, all deposits (for rent up to £25,000 per annum) taken by landlords and letting agents for Assured Shorthold Tenancies in England and Wales, must be protected by a tenancy deposit protection scheme.
The Government introduced the scheme to protect tenancy deposits and provide a fairer system for settling disputes about the return of a deposit at the end of a tenancy.
The scheme allows tenants to get all or part of their deposit back when they are entitled to it, make disputes easier to resolve (with a free dispute resolution service) and encourage tenants and landlords to make a clear agreement from the start on the condition of the property.
There are two types of tenancy deposit protection scheme available for landlords and letting agents:
– Insurance-based schemes: the tenant pays the deposit to the landlord, the landlord retains the deposit and pays a premium to the insurer. There are two insurance-based schemes: The Tenancy Deposit Scheme, run by The Dispute Service and Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd which is a partnership between the National Landlords Association and Hamilton Fraser Insurance
– Custodial scheme: the tenant pays the deposit to the landlord or agent and the landlord or agent then pays the deposit into the scheme. There is one custodial scheme, The Deposit Protection Service
The TDS only covers tenancy agreements made on or after 6th April 2007. Tenants who paid a tenancy deposit before that date will not be protected by the scheme unless their landlord or agent renews the tenancy on or after 6th April 2007, and issues a new agreement.
* Source – The Money Centre’s estimation, found by adding the membership figures of landlord associations together.