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Where’s my deposit?

Katrine Sporle, The Property Ombudsman, adjudicates on a case of the non-return of an ‘unprotected’ deposit.

Katrine Sporle

Link to The Property Ombudsman feature

Complaint

The tenants complained that they did not receive their deposit or any explanation from the agent as to why they were withholding it. They suspected that their deposit was not protected with another scheme when the agent’s membership with Mydeposits was terminated.

Katrine Sporle image

Katrine Sporle

The tenants’ tenancy ended in December last year and they formally requested the return of their deposit. They contacted the agent to chase this in January 2020 when they were informed the deposit would be returned within 10 days.

Their deposit was not returned and there was no explanation provided.

The tenants attempted to raise a dispute with Mydeposits but were told that the protection was no longer valid following the termination of the agent’s membership.

The tenant wanted the agent to confirm if and where their deposit had been protected, why their deposit was being withheld and if they intended to make any deductions. They did not receive a response to this.

At the end of the tenancy and once the check-out had been completed, the agent should have communicated with the landlord to seek their opinion on whether they wished to try and make a claim against the tenants’ deposit. Had the landlord wished to seek deductions the Ombudsman would have expected this to have been communicated to the tenant, promptly. In this case, the tenant was not advised that the landlord wished to make any deductions so the deposit should have been released within 10 working days, in accordance with paragraph 17c of the TPO Code of Practice.

The agent should have communicated with the landlord to seek their opinion on whether they wished to try and make a claim against the tenants’ deposit.

The tenants raised a formal complaint about the return of their deposit with the agent. In accordance with their obligations under Paragraph 19d of the Code, the agent was required to acknowledge receipt of the tenants’ formal complaint within three days of receipt and promptly undertake a proper investigation. A formal written outcome of the agent’s investigation should have been sent to the tenant within 15 working days of receipt of the complaint.

The agent acknowledged the complaint, as required. However, they failed to provide any response.

CANCELLED MEMBERSHIP

In March 2020, the tenant received an email from Mydeposits which provided a letter that should have been sent to them in October 2019, but which had been incorrectly addressed so they had not received it. This letter set out that the agent’s membership was being cancelled and that the tenant’s deposit would cease to be protected by Mydeposits three months from 16 October 2019, and that the agent should provide proof of re-protection in order to comply with legislation. The letter went on to say that if there was a need to raise a deposit dispute Mydeposits should have been contacted immediately, but that they would only accept notification of a dispute if the property was vacated before the protection ended. The tenant contacted the agent and advised that they required proof that their deposit had been re-protected, and also asked the reason why their deposit had not been returned. They again provided no response or explanation.

The Ombudsman was critical of the agent for not returning the deposit, and that they did not give any reasons as to why. She was also critical that the agent failed to respond to the tenants’ complaint.

The tenants’ deposit remained protected with Mydeposits until 16 January 2020, however, they were not aware that they may need to seek assistance from them until after this date had passed and they could not, therefore, use their services, or the services of any other deposit protection scheme, as their deposit had not been protected after 16 January 2020.

The Ombudsman considered that agent’s actions caused the tenants avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience and financial loss.

Therefore, the Ombudsman supported the complaint and considered that the circumstances merited an award of compensation.

An award of £300 in compensation was made. The agent was also directed to return the deposit of £695, making the total £995.

November 5, 2020

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