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Disputes over the return of a deposit - which tenants pay at the start of a tenancy and have returned to them at the end if there if there is no damage to the property – can be the biggest cause of aggravation between tenants and landlords.

However, a new law that came into force in England and Wales on April 6 2007 should ease most of these problems.

There are three official tenancy deposit schemes that landlords and letting agents must subscribe to:

The Deposit Protection Service, Tenancy Deposit Solutions and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme cover all assured shorthold tenancies for rent up to £25,000 a year.

Its aim is to encourage tenants and landlords to agree from the start on the state of the property and provide a free, independent dispute resolution service if there is a disagreement.

But according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents, which supports the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, while 60 per cent of landlords are aware of this protection, fewer than half of all tenants know about it.

“Tenants should ask their letting agent or landlord which scheme they subscribe to. says: Solicitor Tessa Shepperson of legal advice website landlordlaw. and author of Renting: The Essential Guide To Tenants' Rights (Lawpack), “If there are disputes at the end of a tenancy, it is easy for tenants to find out about procedure for complaining on the scheme's website.”

Letting agents and landlords are required to protect deposits within 14 days and provide tenants with details of the scheme chosen. When the tenancy ends, the condition and contents of the property should be checked against the agreement made at the outset. The landlord or agent should then return the agreed deposit within ten days.

As soon as they move into the property, tenants should take photographs of any areas of concern, such as flaky, damp walls or damaged furniture that could be disputed later.

Tenants should report accidents or breakages to the agent or landlord immediately to ensure they are property documented and resolved at the time.

Contacts:, or thedisputeser,, landlord Financial protection for tenants: Tenancy deposit protection Since its introduction in 2007, The Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme has brought an extra layer of protection for the majority of people renting homes in England and Wales.

Its aim is to make sure tenants are treated fairly and make it easier for landlords and agents to settle disputes over compensation paid for damage to rented properties.

Below tells you everything you need to know about the Tenancy Deposit Protection:

What is Tenancy Deposit Protection?
Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) means that landlords collecting deposits, or agents who doing so on their behalf, are required to join a statutory scheme to ensure tenants get their deposit, or part of it back, if they have kept a property in good condition.

Disputes over how much should be returned are mediated by an independent dispute solving service.

I'm a tenant, how does this affect me?
Tenants will continue to pay a deposit, but the landlord or agent must place the money in a holding scheme, or retain it and sign up to an insurance-based scheme.

The landlord decides which scheme to use, but must inform the tenant of its details within 14 days of taking the deposit. If there is a dispute at the end of your tenancy there is a dispute, it can now be settled by an alternative dispute resolution service (ADR), linked to the scheme, rather than resorting to a court of law. Using the dispute service is not a legal obligation, but disputes will now only go to the courts if the landlord and tenant do not agree to use this service.

I'm a landlord or agent, how does it affect me?
If you are a landlord or agent and collect a deposit on an assured shorthold tenancy you can choose from a custodial or insurance-based scheme. • The custodial scheme The Deposit Protection Service will see landlords hand over a deposit within 14 days of receiving it, and it will be held until the end of the tenancy. The landlord and tenant then agree how the deposit will be divided, if at all, and inform the scheme which will return it to both landlord and tenant.

If there is a dispute, the amount disagreed over will be held until the dispute resolution service or courts decide what is fair. The custodial scheme will be completely free, with no charges for money transfers or dispute resolution, and interest accrued on deposits held will pay for its running.

• The insurance-based schemes Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd and The Tenancy Deposit Scheme allow landlords to retain deposits, but they must pay a premium to the insurer.

When a tenancy ends the landlord returns the agreed amount. If there is a dispute, the disputed sum is handed to the insurance scheme for safekeeping until it is resolved. If the landlord fails to comply, the insurance scheme will return to the tenant the deposit they are entitled to. Under both schemes, deposits must be returned within ten days of agreeing how it should be divided, or the dispute resolution service reaching a decision.

How are tenants who have a tenancy agreement taken out before 6 April 2007 but stay after the end of that tenancy affected?

This will depend on two circumstances:

• For a statutory periodic tenancy - the tenancy continues with no new agreement but on a rolling basis - tenancy deposit protection will not apply, as an AST will have been created.

• For a replacement/renewal tenancy - Where a new fixed term tenancy has been agreed, a new tenancy agreement created, or the rent has been changed. This is a new tenancy and so tenancy deposit protection will be applicable.

The deposit previously paid under the earlier tenancy is repayable to the tenant at the end of the agreement, so it should be returned to the tenant and a new deposit sought and covered. Or, if the landlord continues to hold the original pre-April 2007 deposit as security in respect of the new tenancy it must be protected under scheme

How can we avoid problems with the deposit?
Tenancy deposit protection underlines the key importance of a comprehensive inventory, listing any damage, checked and signed by both tenant and landlord, or agent. Tenants and landlords should use digital cameras to take a series of photos at the start of a tenancy, which are agreed by both parties.

Get the best deal from renting a home
Demand for rented accommodation has grown significantly as potential first-time homebuyers become jittery about the slowing property market and frustrated by expensive mortgages.

Subsequently, rents are rising for the first time in years, making it even more important that tenants save money and know their rights.

Choose tenants carefully
With an assured shorthold tenancy agreement - where there is one or more tenant, the contract will state that all tenants are 'jointly and severally' liable for covering the rent. So if one tenant fails to pay the rent the landlord is legally entitled to pursue the other tenants for that share of monies. To avoid being left out of pocket, tenants should be sure their housemates are trustworthy.

Check for dangers
Around 30 people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues that have not been adequately installed or maintained.

All landlords are required by law to have gas boilers and appliances checked annually by a Corgi registered plumber or gas maintenance worker.

Remember insurance
All too often tenants, especially hard up students, forget to insure their belongings. But if their rented property is broken into your landlord will not cover to cost of replacing your valuables.


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