In the past, deposits have been a notable cause of friction between tenants and landlords. With no protection in place, landlords were able to withhold some or all of the original deposit; and didn’t have to provide evidence supporting their right to do so.
Things have changed considerably since then. If you’re renting in St Albans, you’ll be pleased to know that all local landlords are enrolled in a compulsory deposit scheme. This means that your deposit is protected throughout your tenancy.
Deposit protection schemes – a guide
As before, tenants must still pay a deposit at the start of the tenancy. Most landlords in St Albans tend to charge the equivalent of four to six weeks’ rent, though this can be higher. A deposit is required in case the property is damaged at the end of the tenancy (or bills are left unpaid), and provides the landlord with financial protection, so they’re not left out of pocket.
However, landlords must now place the deposit in a government-backed protection scheme. As letting agents, Daniels Estate Agents use the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (you can learn more about it here).
The Tenancy Deposit Scheme’s Code of Recommended Practice lists the requirements that landlords and letting agents should meet as registered members. It’s important that the letting agent is registered with a scheme too, as often they’ll be the ones acting as ‘stand-in landlords’ during the tenancy.
It’s recommended that inventories are carried out at the start of the tenancy, as this gives both landlord and tenant additional protection. For example, if the oven is damaged before the tenant moves in, this will be listed in the inventory, and the tenant won’t be held responsible when their tenancy is over.
Be aware – even if the deposit is funded by another person (for example, parents or grandparents), the money still needs to be placed in a deposit protection scheme.
Custodial and insurance deposit protection schemes
There are two kinds of deposit protection scheme.
The custodial protection scheme requires the landlord to place the deposit in its protection for the entire length of the tenancy. This is then released after both tenant and landlord have agreed how much of the money should be repaid, and how much should be withheld to cover expenses (e.g. wear and tear).
Insurance deposit schemes are slightly different. In this instance, the landlord is charged a fee to have the deposit looked after, then repays the tenant when the tenancy is up. If the landlord refuses to pay the tenant, the insurance deposit scheme will pay them instead, then charge the landlord for this payment.
Responsibility for the deposit
As letting agents, we always remind our St Albans landlords that it’s our joint responsibility to place the tenant’s deposit in the protection scheme. We carry this out on behalf of the landlord, and ensure that it happens within 30 days of the tenancy contract being signed.
We also arrange for the deposit to be returned, if appropriate.