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Newly approved help for tenants in dispute with landlords over tenancy deposits

Posted 03/03/22

Feeling hard-done-by? Haven’t been able to get your tenancy deposit back after the end of your rental? Don’t know where to turn for help? If the answer to these questions is yes, then help is at hand.

There is a new Government-endorsed route for customers to go down, following the approval of an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) body - The Dispute Service Ltd. The service is now authorised as an ADR body to help resolve tenancy deposit complaints regarding rented property from one of its tenancy deposit scheme members.

Tenants who feel they’ve reached a dead end with their complaint with their landlord or letting agent can  contact the body via an online form, an email contact form, by post or telephone to ask it to take up their grievance, so long as the landlord or agent is a member of one of its tenancy deposit schemes.

The Dispute Service Ltd (a not-for-profit company) has operated several statutory tenancy deposit protection schemes in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for many years. As part of the overall service, agents, landlords and tenants have access to free dispute resolution for disputes about the deposit distribution at the tenancy’s end. The Dispute Service Ltd also runs mediation and conciliation services for tenants and landlords who need help resolving a broad range of issues during a tenancy. The Dispute Service Ltd has now sought – and gained – approval for the scheme to be an approved ADR body.

Since 2015, legislation has required UK traders to inform consumers of an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body to help consumers resolve their complaints, if they’ve already been through their own customer service procedure. The ADR body must be relevant to the sector in question.

Andy Allen, ADR project leader at CTSI (the ADR auditing and awarding body), said “The media is full of stories about a potential ‘buy-to-let’ exodus of landlords selling properties, therefore renters have enough worries on their plates to contend with. So this announcement couldn’t be more timely for renters; it’s good for them to know that there is some help out there to assist with tenancy deposit disputes!

“We all rely on a roof over our heads for every aspect of our lives – our work, our families and our leisure time – so it’s important that if we rent somewhere to live, we want this process to be problem-free.

“So as a tenant, if you become embroiled in a dispute over how your deposit should be repaid, you will certainly recognise that moving house is acknowledged as one of the most stressful things we can do. Whilst many tenancies can go smoothly, the internet is also peppered with stories about things that go wrong.

“CTSI is pleased to see the Dispute Service Limited becoming an approved ADR body for its tenancy deposit schemes. It is joining an expanding ADR environment and we hope that other organisations will continue to set up such schemes or have existing schemes approved.”

The Housing Act 2004 requires landlords and letting agents in England and Wales to protect tenants’ deposits on what are known as ‘assured shorthold tenancies’. The Dispute Service Ltd provides several tenancy deposit protection schemes in England and Wales with free, impartial dispute resolution for when disagreements arise over how the money is divided upon return/how the deposit should be repaid. It also provides schemes for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This ADR service can only deal with disputes about a deposit protected by one of its tenancy deposit schemes where a landlord or letting agent wants to make a deduction from the tenant’s deposit. It cannot resolve cases which involve justifying what’s known as a ‘set-off’ – that is, where for example the tenant says they withheld rent because repairs were not carried out. No fee will be applied to either the renter, landlord or agent.

Alison MacDougall, Director of Resolution at The Dispute Service Ltd, said: “We have been operating a free ADR service for tenants, agents and landlords in the private rented sector for a number of years and deal with over 20,000 disputes a year, helping tenants move on to their next property and landlords address any issues for future tenants.  We are delighted that our service has been endorsed by the CTSI as an approved ADR body and we look forward to continuing to work with our customers in the sector to provide effective and efficient redress.”

Disputes which can be considered under this ADR scheme include claims for:

  • cleaning
  • damage
  • redecoration
  • gardening
  • rent arrears

Exclusions include:

  • where a legally-binding decision has already been made by another ADR service or court
  • disputes which are being pursued unreasonably, or are frivolous or vexatious
  • in certain cases, where the dispute is raised more than three months after the end of the tenancy

CTSI’s Andy Allen added: “4.6 million (20%) of the 23 million households in England alone rented their home from a private landlord in the two years from 2016 to 2018 according to Government statistics, so clearly a smooth-running rental, including getting a deposit back, is important to many people.

“It’s certainly worth taking a pragmatic approach if something isn’t quite right, but if you do have a valid complaint and feel that your landlord isn’t resolving it to your satisfaction, there is now another road for renters to go down.

“Originally this ADR initiative came about as a result of a European Directive following the recognition that the court system was too slow and expensive as a practical way of dealing with consumer disputes. The reality is that most people don’t go to court, so this is a very valid alternative to doing nothing.”

CTSI is appointed by the UK government to audit and approve bodies which meet requirements of the consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Regulations (The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes – Competent Authorities and Information – Regulations) 2015.

There are currently 59 approved ADR schemes, everything from retail to parking, to higher education, furniture, the motor industry and will writing. More information is available from https://www.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/adr-approved-bodies

ADR is a range of processes that offer parties easier, quicker and more cost-effective methods to resolve complaints compared to the court process. To become an approved body to which traders can send consumers, an organisation providing ADR has to be audited and prove that it meets the regulations’ standards.

ENDS 

Notes to Editors

  • The Dispute Service Ltd is a company limited by guarantee. The company was originally set up in 2003 to provide voluntary deposit disputes services for letting agents. Since then the company has secured Government backed tenancy deposit protection services across the UK, undertakes conciliation and mediation activities in the private rented sector, operates an insurance claims adjudication service, develops dispute resolution software solutions and is soon to launch an Ombudsman redress service for purchasers of new homes.
  • The Group consist of a number of subsidiary organisations and has a turnover [2021] of £10.5m, employs 140 staff and has offices in Hemel Hempstead, Glasgow and Belfast.
  • An assured shorthold tenancy is the most common type of tenancy if you rent from a private landlord or letting agent. The main feature that makes an AST different from other types of tenancies is that your landlord can evict you without a reason, so long as they follow the correct procedure. ASTs can be fixed term (often six or 12 months) or periodic (rolling weekly or monthly).
  • Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is a training and membership group that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. CTSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. www.tradingstandards.uk

CTSI is also appointed by the UK Government to audit and approve bodies which meet requirements of the consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) directive.

      For further information please contact the CTSI press office on 01268 582206 during office hours.

  • Legislation now requires UK traders to inform consumers of an approved Alternative Dispute     Resolution (ADR) body to help consumers resolve their complaints, if they've already been through their own customer service procedure. The ADR body must be relevant to the sector in question. The legislation came into effect in October 2015.
  • Consumers should use an ADRscheme when they have failed to resolve a complaint, when they have already gone through a company's customer service procedure and when they are thinking of enforcing any consumer rights. At the moment traders (and consumers alike) don't have to use the ADR scheme, although the law requires there to be an ADR scheme in each sector. If you are a trader selling to a consumer then there needs to be an ADR body.
  • ADR is a range of processes that offer parties easier, quicker and most cost-effective methods to resolve complaints compared to the court process. To became an approved body to which traders can send consumers, an organisation providing ADR has to be audited and prove that it meets the regulations' standards.


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