We have had a lot of focus on mediation recently, talking about things, involving a neutral third party and coming to a reasonable solution. . Mediation makes sense for housing matters. Cost-effective, efficient, and pragmatic, it is less damaging to relationships than formal action. The consensual approach means agreements are more likely to be fulfilled, reducing the risk of eviction. Colin recently took part in Strathclyde Housing Mediation Project and I took part in the Safe deposit Scotland discussion about deposits including the mediation service they office. Below is a transcript of the questions.
- If a landlord notified SafeDeposits Scotland that a tenant is vacating could SafeDeposits Scotland write to the tenant reminding them they have obligations? Is this feasible?
- SafeDeposits Scotland don’t have the resources to manage this however as the landlord you can remind the tenant of these when they give notice to leave.
When a tenant gives notice Glasgow Property Letting send the tenant out the end of tenancy guide lines which can also be found https://glasgowpropertyletting.com/wp-content/uploads/End-of-tenancy-procedures-tenant-email-website.pdf
- Out of interest, what is the typical deposit amount? I usually request 150% of a month of rent.
- Generally, we see deposits that are 1.5 x the rent amount.
Glasgow property letting take a months rent as deposit, and a double deposit if there is a pet, although this is something we may review if the average is 1.5 times the rental amount.
- Is there a calculation on what a deposit amount for a new tenant should be?
- No. However legally it cannot be more than two months’ rent.
http://www.mygov.scot/tenancy-deposits-landlords that is the law
- How long after a tenancy has ended should the landlord confirm their check out report? Tenants seem to expect this within a day or two, but does the landlord have up to 30 days?
- A check out report should be done as close to the tenancy end date as possible. Best practice would be to do it the day the tenant leaves, but it should be no more than three days from then. The longer gap between move out and the report being done, the bigger the question is over the accuracy of the report. The 30 working days is the response time one party has to reply to the deposit proposal entered by the other.
At this point in time while the office is still closed we are asking tenants to return the keys to our office building on Elmbank street where they will be collected from. 72 hours (lifespan of the virus) we have Pinstripe carry out the end of tenancy check out report. Once the tenants have supplied the details asked for detailed in point 1 and we have agreed any deductions to be made the deposit can be released. This can be a long process if there are discussions to be had about cleaning and decoration.
- What about the situation of raising issues with tenants and then finding they just don’t pay their last month’s rent so we are still out of pocket?
- If this were to go to adjudication, so long as the landlord provides a tenancy agreement and a rent statement, the deposit will be awarded accordingly. A tenant cannot withhold rent arbitrarily – this is what we call a “counter claim” and it is a breach of their tenancy agreements. For a tenant to withhold rent, we would need to see an order from the First-tier Tribunal.
Details of the first tier tribunal can be found at https://www.housingandpropertychamber.scot/
- Is there a time limit for chasing tenants who failed to pay their last month’s rent?
- So far as the deposit is concerned, as long as the landlord can demonstrate the extent of any arrears, and that the tenancy agreement allows it, the adjudicator will award the landlord. The Regulations state that a proposal for deposit repayment should be made “as soon as is reasonably practical”.
https://www.gov.scot/policies/private-renting/tenancy-deposit-schemes/ can provide more information on the deposit workings.
- When the inventory company apply a dilapidation to an issue on the checkout report and it goes to dispute, is it correct that this amount can be questioned by the adjudicator and a lesser amount awarded?
- Yes. The adjudicator must still consider the quality of the check in evidence, and ensure that fair wear and tear, and betterment have been accounted for. Inventory depreciation values should be used as a guide only and are not a guarantee that you will be awarded this amount.
My Deposit have published a guide for the life span of items, during the lockdown personally I have questioned if the life span will decreased with people in the property consistently. There has not been a definitive answer received.
|Dining Room||Approx. 6 years|
|Living room||Approx. 4 years|
|Bedroom||Approx. 5 years|
Wear and tear of carpets:
|Budget Carpet||2 – 3 years|
|Medium quality carpet||4 – 8 years|
|High quality carpet||Up to 15 years|
|Washing Machines||3 – 5 years|
|Cookers/Ovens/Hobs||4 – 6 years|
|Fridges||5 – 8 years|
- When there is a change of tenancy, is the preference for the incoming tenant to pay the outgoing tenant in cash, and the full deposit to remain in the custodial scheme, or for the funds to leave the scheme and be repaid at the start of the new tenancy?
- You should always use the scheme repayment mechanism – this ensures the deposit remains protected. You can either apply for full repayment and relodge it (where you may be looking to deduct from their share) or use the tenant repayment process which will facilitate any incoming tenant’s “top up”.
That is a process we take care of behind the scenes and do not change the tenants until we have received the signed lease back. Doing it all through the custodial scheme means that the outgoing tenant needs to confirm that they have left, allowing the incoming tenant to be added.
- Where a deposit is protected and it took three months to lodge after the start of the tenancy. In terms of an award (First-tier Tribunal), is it variable for just a delay or is it a fixed 3 x deposit amount?
- This is a matter for the First-tier Tribunal and not something SafeDeposits can advise on.
Note from Scottish Association of Landlords – You can review the decisions made by the First-tier Tribunal online here. The amount awarded in deposits cases is not fixed, the tribunal determines the fine which can be any amount up to the maximum of three times the deposit.
- As a private landlord, is it preferable to use an independent inventory company rather than compiling this myself i.e. is it more favourable to use an independent party?
- We have no preference over who completes the inventory, the important thing is the detail recorded within.
As you are aware we use Pinstripe Inventory for the inventory and check out report, please see attached a sample of this.
- What about brown furniture – how do you place a value on that? We have a cottage which has some “antique” furniture for which we have no receipts so hard to put a value on it.
- If you have exceptional items in a property, you need to make the tenant aware of their value and how they should be cared for. In your inventory, you should record the quality, approximate age and specifics of the item, so that the adjudicator can understand how you reached your claimed amount. Remember, you will not be awarded in full – the adjudicator must consider the approximate lifespan of the item and its condition at check in.
If you have any items like this in the property, you should make the office aware of this so we can notify the tenant, but we do recommend that you remove any items of sentimental or extreme monitory value.
- How do you make a deduction if there is evidence of smoking, that evidence being a strong smell of nicotine throughout the property?
- The check in report should record that the property “smells fresh” or “free of odour” and the checkout record the smell. You can claim for deodorising or cleaning of the property (if the lease allows).
As you can see from the sample inventory smells are noticed and noted.
- Could you direct us to the legislation (exact wording) which requires you to inform the tenant that the deposit was paid late?
- The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2019 (legislation.gov.uk)
- Could the SDS standard email “Partially paid deposits reminder” be sent to the tenant as well as the landlord?
- The regulations hold the landlord responsible for ensuring the deposit is protected, and therefore we issue reminders to the landlord. If you have agreed to a tenant paying their deposit in instalments, you will need to manage an agreed payment schedule outwith SafeDeposits Scotland.
- Why should the landlord be fined if the deposit is not lodged quickly, I understand it is making the deposit lodging important but why should the tenant receive the fine money?
- The tenancy deposit schemes do not dictate when the deposit should be protected – it is a requirement of the regulations. Penalties for non-compliance are paid to the tenant because it is their money which has not been protected, and to encourage landlords to comply with the legislation.
We lodge the deposit as soon as the has cleared with the bank. We would rather the funds with the custodial scheme and the prospective tenant, and landlord aware of the journey of their money.
- Will you accept a video inventory? and on what basis?
- We will accept a video but there are a few issues. The evidence portal has a file limit of 25mb, and a video can be larger than this. Secondly, they are limited in detail and are rarely detailed enough to be helpful on their own. Videos should be used in conjunction with a written inventory.
The recent request to the tenants for video inspections it highlights how quickly people walk move and on several occasions I have asked a tenant to go back and let me have another look at a certain area. If that was an inventory and to be checked at the end of the tenant it would be extremely inaccurate.
- Is a Google digital album of detailed photographs of the property acceptable – particularly if the tenant has confirmed by email that they have received the album and agree that it is a fair representation of the condition of the property at the beginning of the tenancy?
- Photographs should be used to support the written word of the inventory and there is a real danger of being over reliant on images. There are issues which don’t show up well on pictures, and the importance of a well written inventory cannot be underestimated.
Again as you can see from the attached sample inventory both photographs and written word is used.
- Do you have to put an actual value against all items on inventory? Difficult especially in furnished property with crockery, pans, pictures etc
- No, but if you wish to claim for something that has been damaged (such as a carpet), knowing the value when new helps demonstrate its expected life span and an appropriate contribution amount.
- Are there standard item depreciation figures… durations available from SDS?
- No, the adjudicator is looking for a demonstration that you have been fair and reasonable, and that you have taken fair wear and tear, and betterment into account. If you would like advice on making fair calculations, we can help via our end of tenancy line (03333 213136, option 5).
- Can I phone and speak to the adjudicator before a case is actually adjudicated?
- No, the adjudication process is completely evidence based and the adjudicator will not contact or enter discussion with either of the disputing parties.
- Are there any inventory companies in particular SafeDeposits Scotland would recommend or that they can say has been trained/coached with Safe Deposits Scotland?
- We cannot recommend any particular company – one could argue that it blurs the lines of impartiality, but we can look over the current inventories you use and give constructive feedback.
- Some inventory companies will not test or list windows or electrical appliances. How can a landlord best capture evidence of items in fully working condition, prior to the tenant moving in? (I have recently had an issue with a window, which was not captured on move out inventory).
- In the first instance you should try to instruct an inventory company who will carry out the task that you are asking them to – you cannot claim for anything not recorded on the inventory, so it is important these items are included. The checkout report is the final inspection of the property, meaning you cannot add anything after the fact.
- Are the end of tenancy helpline and self-resolution services only for landlords, not tenants?
- They are available to both parties.
- Do you have to register your deposits with SDS in order to benefit from the end of tenancy helpline and self- resolution? Do you charge for this service as extra?
- We do not charge for any of our services. You do have to be a member of SafeDeposits to use these mechanisms. If you would like to discuss the benefits of using SafeDeposits, we would be happy to arrange for someone to contact you to discuss – switching schemes is very simple.
- Please could you tell me whether the resolution service is the same across the whole of the UK? Would this mean that any deposit scheme will come to the same kind of decision?
- All tenancy deposit schemes abide by the same principles of adjudication. Each scheme will have their own evidence gathering process, but the documents required remains the same. What makes SafeDeposits different is that we will actively work with the landlord and the tenant to reach an amicable resolution without the need for full adjudication, saving time and allowing faster repayment.
- If a tenant causes damage which is the subject of an insurance claim can we claim back the excess fee from their deposit?
- If this is in the tenancy agreement and the cause of the damage has been proven to be a result of the tenant, then yes.
- What advice would you give over condensation issues?
- You should seek the advice of a damp specialist – you need to show that the tenant is liable for any damage/dilapidation. As there are so many causes of condensation and mould, having a professional opinion will help apportion blame. If the tenant’s behaviour is to blame, the cost of the contractor’s report can be sought as part of any deposit deduction.
- For students – where leases are often signed many months in advance – is it legal to ask for deposits months before lease starts?
- There is no such thing as a “holding deposit” under the regulations, so as far as the schemes are concerned the deposit becomes active at the tenancy start date. We will not turn away any deposit, so if you were to take one and protect it in advance, but the tenancy didn’t come to pass, we will return the deposit to the bank account it came from.
- When tenants are doing payment plans to pay up the deposit, will this mean any payment after 31 working days is invalid.
- No, the system will ask you what the total deposit amount is, and which amount you are sending that day – this creates an audit trail on the account should there ever be a question raised. Each time a new instalment is received, you should protect it straight away and this will ensure you remain compliant.
Although it is rare a tenant is paying a deposit over time, if they are this means that you will received several emails confirming deposits.
- What is the best way to deal with deposits regarding pets? Take 2 months’ deposit or require damages to be specifically paid for?
- Ultimately, damage is damage, regardless of who or what caused it. The adjudicator still relies on the lease and the inventories. If you are taking an additional deposit for a pet, be sure to protect it with a scheme and update the lease to cover this (i.e. that the pet is allowed under certain conditions or the deposit can be used for any pet related damage).
- If a tenant damages something in the house which ruins its aesthetics but not its functionality, e.g. a dent in a door, should they pay for a replacement door?
- No, this is betterment. The tenant can only be charged a proportionate amount and the landlord must factor in fair wear and tear. At the end of the day, the item still functions as intended, albeit with a dent.
- If a tenant damages a carpet beyond repair and we have no proof the carpet was in great condition before, how do we go about resolving this? What is a reasonable amount to deduct for indelible marks on carpets that don’t need replacing immediately, but the damage is beyond wear and tear?
- Where there is a technicality like this and you know that the adjudicator will not be able to uphold your claim, the self-resolution service is the way to go. We will work with you and the tenant with the intention of reaching an amicable resolution, based on fair deductions and responsibility.
- How do you deal with changing a deposit if you change your company name and draw up a new lease with the same tenant? Can the deposit just be transferred or does it need to be refunded to the tenant and re-lodged?
- We can do an internal transfer to another account – all we need is the new user PIN and the surname associated, and the transfer is instant.
Our clients who were with DB Letting will have received an email to confirm that the deposit is now held by Safe deposits on behalf of Glasgow Property Letting as these have been changed over, but most landlords received email confirmation of the deposit being lodged and that is one of the few emails received.
- How do you deal with a landlord who wants to charge the tenants deposit for chimney cleaning but the tenant says they have never used the fire?
- We’d need to see the lease and evidence that the chimney was cleaned prior to the tenant moving in, and evidence that it had to be done again at the end. It may be worth considering a small rent increase and the landlord arranging a regular clean – this absolves the tenant of any responsibility and the landlord can be satisfied that the work is being done.
- Can a landlord claim above the deposit amount if the damage rectification exceeds the deposit?
- No, they are limited to the deposit amount, but it’s important to tell us the full extent of the claim. The landlord can pursue the remainder through an alternative source, such as the First Tier Tribunal.
“Every July, I look forward to taping a Christmas show – in July in Nashville. In 98-degree weather. I love it.” – Larry the Cable Guy
“Being a traditionalist, I’m a rabid sucker for Christmas. In July, I’m already worried that there are only 146 shopping days left.” – John Waters
I have been reading about many people having a Christmas in July to make up for not having a traditional family Christmas in December. My family in Australia for many years have had a Christmas in July party, but that may just be an excuse for a party, like an April Hat Party or a September Soccer Soiree!
Take care and stay safe and remember if you have a tradition in your house of “pinch punch first of the month” to reply “White rabbits, no return.” Aside from being a slightly violent playground game, the origins are interesting. Salt was meant to make witches weak, so the pinch signified the use of salt to weaken the witch, while the punch was then administered to banish the witch for good. Saying the words ‘pinch punch for the first of the month‘ therefore became a way of welcoming in a new month and protecting yourself from bad luck.
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