Painsmith Landlord and Tenant Blog

A practitioners landlord and tenant law blog from PainSmith Solicitors

Agents signing prescribed information

We are running out of titles for deposit blogs. We have had some queries regarding a court case in which possession proceedings were thrown out because the Prescribed Information had been signed by the agent, not the Landlord. This is unreported and we do not know exactly what went on although it has been reported here:

Painsmith has also experienced a claim for possession defended on this same point: the tenant argued (i) that the certificate on the deposit protection certificate must, pursuant to paragraph 2(g)(vii) of the The Housing (Tenancy Deposits) (Prescribed Information) Order 2007, ( the Housing Order ), be signed personally by the landlord, (ii) that under paragraph 2(g) (iii) the landlord’s address etc must be provided and not the agent’s and that accordingly the s.21 notice is invalid.
In our case the matter settled so we can only speculate on the outcome of that hearing, which would have only been a county court decision and thus not precedent.

However we disagree with the above view. Section 2 of the Housing Order provides that prescribed information for the purposes of section 213(5) of the Housing Act 2004 (“the Act”) includes: at 2g (iii) “the name, address, telephone number, and any e-mail address or fax number of the landlord”; and at 2g(vii) confirmation (in the form of a certificate signed by the landlord) that—
(aa)the information he provides under this sub-paragraph is accurate to the best of his knowledge and belief; and
(bb)he has given the tenant the opportunity to sign any document containing the information provided by the landlord under this article by way of confirmation that the information is accurate to the best of his knowledge and belief.

The Housing Order sets out what information is needed for the purposes of the Housing Act 2004. Chapter 4 of the The Housing Act 2004 deals with tenancy deposit schemes. Section 212 part 9 of the Housing Act provides that “In this Chapter [ i.e. Chapter 4] – (a) references to a landlord or landlords in relation to any shorthold tenancy include references to a person or persons acting on his or their behalf in relation to the tenancy or tenancies……”.

So, for the purposes of s213, the obligations on the landlord are also onto a person or persons acting on his or their behalf i.e. his agent. The Housing Order prescribes what information must be given for the purposes of compliance with s213.

In our view “landlord” for the purposes of the Housing Order 2007 should share the definition with the primary legislation i.e. the Housing Act 2004. It is not logical to interpret the Housing Order 2007 in a way that is incompatible with its parent legislation.
It follows that in our view the deposit schemes are correct to allow the agent to sign.

However as we know, the courts can make some odd decisions so we might have to concede if a precedent is set in a higher court. Watch this space.

Filed under: England & Wales, , , , ,

Another Deposit case

Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues [2013] EWCA Civ 669 (14 June 2013)

So what’s the big deal?

The facts: On 12 January 2007, Mr Rodrigues entered into a fixed term tenancy agreement for a year less one day. The deposit was not protected as the compulsory tenancy deposit legislation (which required landlords to protect the deposit and serve the prescribed information) came into effect on 7 April 2007 i.e. after the tenancy agreement was entered into. On the expiry of the fixed term, Mr Rodrigues remained in occupation under a statutory periodic agreement and the deposit remained unprotected. On 22 June 2011 the Landlord served a section 21 notice and issued proceedings on it, which Mr Rodrigues defended, amongst other things, on the basis that the section 21 was invalid as it was served while the deposit was unprotected.

The decision: Firstly the Court of Appeal ruled that the statutory periodic tenancy was a new tenancy under Section 5 of the Housing Act 1988. This decision is uncontroversial as the wording of the section is clear.

The next question was – if a new statutory tenancy arose in January 2008, was a deposit received at this time (thus triggering the requirements to protect the deposit and serve the prescribed information?) The landlord argued that it didn’t as no money was physically received, i.e. no cash, cheque or bank transfer made but the Court of Appeal disagreed. In paragraph 38 of his judgment, Lewison LJ stated:

“In my judgment, although there is no evidence that the parties said or did anything of that kind, and it is likely that they were not aware of the nature or incidents of the legal process that took place when the fixed term tenancy came to an end, nevertheless the position as between them should be treated in the same way as if they had had such a discussion. The tenant should be treated as having paid the amount of the deposit to the landlord in respect of the new tenancy, by way of set-off against the landlord’s obligation to account to the tenant for the deposit in respect of the previous tenancy, given that the landlord did not seek payment out of the prior deposit for the consequences of any prior breach of the tenancy agreement”.

What this means: When a new statutory periodic tenancy arises, the deposit is received for the purposes of section 213 Housing Act 2004 as at that date and so must be protected and the prescribed information served.

What now?
Tenancies that were created before the deposit protection legislation came into effect i.e. before 6 April 2007, but rolled over into a statutory periodic tenancy after that date, fell to have their deposits protected on the expiry of the fixed term.

On the expiry of the fixed term and the arising of a statutory periodic tenancy, or a new fixed term, the requirements of the Housing Act deposit rules kick in for this new tenancy, which are that within 30 days of receipt of the deposit it must be protected and prescribed information served. Whether the prescribed information must be re-served has been a matter of discussion and you can enjoy some excellent analysis from Nearly Legal and David Smith of Anthony Gold Solicitors.

A cautious landlord and agent might prefer to re-serve for each new tenancy, (including a statutory periodic tenancy), than expose themselves to tenancy deposit claims or defences to section 21 possession proceedings.

Following this case there is undoubtedly a number of long-term tenants who could challenge the validity of any section 21 notice served on them. Landlords in doubt may want to consider returning the deposit to their tenants (with or without deductions) before service of a section 21 notice.

Interestingly, the courts service N5B form for accelerated possession proceedings asks the Claimant at section 7(a): “was a money deposit received on or after 6 April 2007?” After the Court of Appeal decision one presumes that the answer to this will, if a statutory periodic tenancy arose after that date, have to be answered affirmatively.
Statutory periodic tenancies that arose before that date and have never been renewed will not be affected by this decision.

On 17 June 2013 the deposit schemes made a joint press release here.

Filed under: England & Wales, , , ,

Not another Deposit case!

Taking six months’ rent up front is not a deposit, the Court of Appeal has ruled in Johnson & Ors v Old [2013] EWCA Civ 415.

The facts will strike chords with many agents and landlords: the rent was expressed to be £950.00 per month, payable in advance (standard AST practice), with the first six months’ rent to be paid “up front” (also common practice for example where a tenant might have failed a credit check). When the landlord brought possession proceedings the judge at first instance threw the case out on the basis that the six months’ rent up front was a security deposit, which had not been registered and that therefore the section 21 notice was not valid. The landlord appealed and won; the tenant then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which is where we are today.

The key issues included whether the rent paid six months up front was money held as security against future rent payment dates (the tenancy agreement made reference to the rent due date being the first of every month). If so, the tenant argued, it was a deposit as defined in S212(8) Housing Act 2004 and fell to be protected, which it had not been.

The Court of Appeal hearing the tenant’s appeal was unequivocal: the money paid was rent, and not “money intended to be held as security for the performance of any obligations of the tenant or the discharge of any liability of his, arising under or in connection with the tenancy”. The point was tested by “asking, rhetorically, how the tenant would have responded to a demand on 1 September 2010, for rent in respect of the month of September 2010……her answer would have been “why are you asking me for rent which I have already paid?”….”

The court also gave short shrift to the idea that, as the agent held onto the money and drip fed it in monthly payments to the Landlord, the money held by the agent was a deposit. The Court found that the rent was paid over by the tenant, and the arrangements between the agent and landlord about how the monies were transferred was neither here nor there.

So what are the implications of this decision? The position remains as we have been advising agents and landlords to date: rent in advance does not constitute a deposit in need of protection. With the above being said, it is always advisable to have clear and well drafted tenancy agreement that all parties can follow.

It is important to differentiate this case from another common scenario: where an extra payment (usually a month’s rent) is received and held in case the tenant defaults on a rental payment during the tenancy but would be paid back. This is a deposit. Rent taken at the beginning of a tenancy in respect of the last month of a tenancy is not a deposit but an amount taken at the beginning to be applied in the event that there is any default is.

Filed under: England & Wales, , , ,

Deposit News

1 April 2013 has seen more changes to deposit protection.

There are now four authorised schemes: TDS, DPS and mydeposits have been joined by Capita tenacy deposit protection scheme . This is an insurance based, rather than custodial scheme, meaning that the deposit is held by the agent or landlord.

It’s all change in the established schemes too. TDS have relaxed their rules and have summarised the main changes on their own blog here and in pdf form here.

DPS has introduced an insurance based scheme. You can read about it here.

Mydeposits scheme in Northern Ireland went live on 1 April 2013. See their press release here.

Filed under: England & Wales, , , , ,

Trips and slips with Section 21 Notices

The agent, landlord or lawyer must comply with the requirements of the deposit protection rules. To serve a valid section 21 notice the deposit must be protected and prescribed information served pursuant to section 213 of the Housing Act 2004 as amended by the Localism Act 2011 within thirty days of the tenancy starting or the deposit being taken whichever is earlier. If the deposit is not protected then a valid section 21 notice cannot be served until either the deposit is handed back to the tenant in full or with agreed deductions. If the Prescribed Information (“the Information”) has not been served then a valid section 21 notice cannot be served until the Information is served . (N.B. doing the above will not avoid any potential claim for failure to protect the deposit).

Notices need to be served in accordance with the terms of the notice provisions in the tenancy agreement; such as notices being served by first class post deemed served two working days later. Notices served pursuant to a “break clause” must comply with section 21 (1)(b) of the Housing Act 1988 AND the provisions of the clause itself. The courts will interpret the terms of a break clause strictly.
Another major hurdle relates to notices served pursuant to section 21(4)(a) Housing Act 1988. It is easy to get the date wrong, where the fixed term runs from different dates to the rent payment date. The courts have approved a “saving provision” whereby the notice can ask for possession “ after the end of the period of your tenancy which will next end after the expiration of 2 months from the service”. The believed end date is included within an accompanying letter.
If the property requires licensing under part 3 Housing Act 2004 for a House in Multiple Occupation (“HMO”) being selective licensing of residential properties. A licence will be required or an application in the pipeline before service of a section 21 notice.

Top Tips to serving a valid section 21 notice:
1. Check that the deposit is registered and Prescribed Information served BEFORE serving a section 21 notice.
2. If the deposit is not protected then hand the deposit back to the tenant either in full or with agreed deductions.
3. If the deposit is in a scheme but the Prescribed Information not served, serve the prescribed information BEFORE serving the section 21 notice.
4. Check the tenancy agreement for the service of notice clause. Does notice have to be served in a certain way? If so, do it.
5. Is notice being served pursuant to a “break clause”? Follow the requirements of the clause.
6. If the tenancy is periodic the 21(4)(a) notice use the “saving provision”.
7. Don’t cut dates too fine. A longer notice period might be quicker than re-serving a notice.
8. Check the HMO licensing requirements with the local authority.
9. Rent: Continue collecting the rent and passing it on to the landlord.
10. Make the landlord aware a section 21 is a notice seeking re-possession not forcing the tenant to move out without possession proceedings. The notice allows the judge to grant mandatory repossession in Court

Filed under: England & Wales, , , , , , , ,

Deposits: so what is next?

We continue to receive many enquiries relating to deposits and the effect of changes brought in by the Localism Act.

It seems clear that the Courts are aware of the requirements generally and certainly the experience we have is that Judges are alive to the issues and are considering them. The up to date Accelerated Possession Claim form requires information about any deposit taken to be included and also for the Claimant who is the landlord to confirm compliance with the rules of the relevant scheme including the giving of prescribed information and compliance with any other conditions such as the requirement to serve the Terms and Conditions of DPS on a prospective tenant. This means that any solicitor instructed must ask questions with regards to the above and satisfy themselves that there has been compliance before they can sign a statement of truth and commence proceedings in the County Court. Without such compliance any section 21 notice served will be invalid and proceedings would be dismissed.

It is therefore important that all agents and landlords regularly audit their portfolios to ensure compliance and perhaps more importantly ensure that they have systems ion place to be able to demonstrate that compliance has taken place meaning that all prescribed information has been served and the deposit protected within thirty days of the tenancy commencing or the deposit being taken whichever is the earlier. As we have blogged about previously the consequences of not being able to demonstrate compliance may make obtaining possession under the no fault section 21 ground difficult and leave both agent and landlord open to claims for a penalty from the tenant under the Housing Act 2004.

With regards to penalties as yet there seems little guidance regarding the factors the Court will take into account. As a result it is vital that if a landlord or agent becomes aware they have not complied they should urgently consider what action should be taken. In general terms they can either try and remedy any breach (e.g. by serving prescribed information out of time); an/or return the whole of the deposit to the tenant. It is not believed that this will prevent a claim but it may stand as good mitigation if a claim is made by any tenant. Agents in particular should be able to show why a lapse occurred and what steps they have taken to prevent this happening again. The impression seems to be that Courts will look favourably on those who are open and straightforward and save the harshest penalties for those deliberately flouting the rules and then prevaricating when claims are made. A documented system and protocol for dealing with deposits may be useful evidence. It seems likely that professional indemnity insurers will become alive to these issues and may impose their own requirements upon agents whom they offer cover.

It is worth remembering that certain aspects of the pre- Localism Act case law still applies. Certainly it is believed that where there is a joint and several tenancy agreement any claim will need to be made by all the named tenants. It may be that other aspects as time goes by will be upheld. The difficulty currently for advisers is that we have little guidance and so the advice offered must err on the side of caution.

No doubt over the coming months more cases will be reported and certainly as and when we become aware of them we will post further articles on this topic but if any of our readers have any experiences we would really like to hear them.

Filed under: England & Wales, , , ,

I Haven’t Protected the Deposit? What can I do?

As regular readers of this blog will be aware the 6th April 2012 saw the amendments made to the Housing Act 2004 by the Localism Act 2011 come into force.

Prior to these changes various court decisions (in particular Tiensa v. Vision Enterprises Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 1224 and Gladehurst Properties Ltd v. Hashemi [2011] EWCA Civ 604) rendered the provisions on enforcement of the deposit protection scheme, in the words of Lord Justice Sedley, “a dead letter”. These decisions meant that where a deposit had not been protected it was relatively easy for landlords and agents to avoid any of the penalties as included in section 214 of the Housing Act 2004. The changes were meant to correct the errors in the original drafting and give the Housing Act 2004 real teeth.

The changes mean that if a deposit is now not protected (and more below as to what this means) properly then the landlord and/or agent will be subject to a penalty amount if the tenant makes an application to the Court. The other serious consequence is that a landlord will not be able to serve a valid Notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (Section 215 Housing Act 2004). This Notice allows a tenancy to be ended without the landlord having to prove any fault on the part of the tenant and is a sure way for a landlord of obtaining possession.

To properly protect a deposit there must be strict compliance with the rules of one of the authorised schemes (section 213 Housing Act 2004). This now means that the deposit must be protected within 30 days of receipt (not necessarily the same as the start date of the tenancy), together with the giving of any and all prescribed information and any other requirements of the particular scheme (some require an advice leaflet to be given). If the deposit has not been fully registered within this scheme the general view currently is whilst you can register the deposit out of time this will not afford you protection.

So if the deposit is not properly registered what can happen? Firstly you will not be able to use a section 21 Notice to seek possession. The court forms for accelerated possession have been changed to ensure that details of the deposit and its registration are included. In our experience Courts are looking at this information and considering if deposits have been properly registered. The tenant may also make an application under section 214 of the Housing Act 2004 to seek a return of the deposit and also a penalty amount.

The Court has the power to order the return of the deposit in full to the tenant or that it is paid into an authorised scheme. Whilst prior to the changes the Court had to award a penalty amount of three times the deposit this has been amended so the Court can award an amount between one and three times the deposit amount. It is here that the Court retains some discretion as to the amount. It will be for the landlord or the agent to adduce evidence to try and mitigate this amount perhaps by showing that there was a technical breach, financial hardship etc. Clearly an award requiring the return of a deposit and also a penalty of three times the deposit (which of itself could be more than 4 months rent) will be crippling to many landlords and if such a claim is made as a counterclaim in rent arrears proceedings may wipe out any and all arrears meaning that possession is not granted.

With regards to section 21 notices if the authorised scheme has not been strictly complied with the landlord cannot serve a valid Notice. At this stage there are no particular cases relating to the changes and how in practice the Court will look at this situation. It is however believed that simply complying with the requirements out of time will not of itself allow you to then serve a valid section 21 Notice. Section 215 does provide that you can return the deposit in full to the tenant. It is believed that tenants will be advised not to accept the return of the deposit so in this way preventing a landlord from being able to serve a section 21 Notice. If the tenant brings a claim under section 214 Housing Act 2004 and this has been determined, withdrawn or settled this will allow the landlord to then be able to serve a section 21 Notice. If a section 21 Notice cannot be served this would then mean that a landlord could not rely upon this mandatory no fault ground to bring possession proceedings. A tenant would then find themselves in the position of almost being akin to an assured tenant only able to be made the subject of a possession order if one of the grounds to Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 had been made out.

We are yet to see how the Courts interpret the amended Act and whether they give landlords “get outs” as they did previously. Most people will not want to be the no doubt expensive guinea pig to test this situation. The will of Parliament was to give the legislation teeth as part of the regulation of the private rented sector. It is vital that you do comply and if you become aware of a deposit which has slipped through the net take advice.

Filed under: England & Wales, , , , ,

Why do I need a tenancy agreement?

The simple answer to this question is that for most circumstances you do not strictly need a written agreement however if you don’t this can have unintended consequences!

As regular followers of the blog will know the starting point for determining the terms and what you should do in a particular instance is the tenancy agreement. If no written agreement exists it will be a question of trying to recollect what was discussed and possibly looking at any letters or emails about the negotiations to determine the parties intentions. This can result in the terms being unclear particularly if a dispute has arisen.

Assuming we are discussing Assured shorthold tenancies, which are the majority of private letting agreements, as many of you will know this is now the default tenancy in most cases ( for exactly what is an assured shorthold tenancy see the Housing Act 1988 as amended). If you are taking a deposit you are now required to register such a deposit with an approved scheme of which there are three. As part of this process you are required to give certain prescribed information. If you do not do you will not have complied with the rules. Most standard agreements which can be purchased ( such as those we produce and are for sale in our shop on our website) incorporate this information. For this reason giving an agreement, practically, can be easier to ensure the information is given and nothing is missed.

If then you have a written agreement you can specify the exact terms. Whilst you cannot contract out of rules laid down by Parliament, such as the landlords responsibility to keep the property in repair, you can make sure everything is clear. This can be things as diverse as the length of term and break clauses through to restrictions on smoking or loud music (although you might want to have a look at the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) guidelines to check the likely enforceability of your clause). Such comprehensive agreements allow you to effectively manage your investment and to make sure that both sides are clear as to what to expect from the other. Having an effective list of rules of occupation can assist in helping any potential disputes being seen off as having a clear reference to point to.

Whilst sorting out the paperwork can sometimes appear to be a chore if and when you are faced with a dispute it is vital. As we have repeatedly blogged the courts will take the agreement as the starting point. If you have no agreement in writing often the courts will find it difficult to impose onerous terms on one or other party unless it can be shown unequivocally that this was agreed. Whilst relying on terms other than rent or operation of a break clause to evict can be difficult in our experience without a rewritten agreement it is almost impossible.

So take 5 minutes and make sure you have an agreement which is up to date and covers what you want and require.

Filed under: England & Wales, , , , , , ,

Common Questions- “Olympic Lets”

1. Are the tenancies ASTs?
Most of you will be aware that for an AST the conditions are that the property is let to an individual who will use it as their principle home. Many Olympic visitors will be here in the UK on holiday therefore it is safe to assume that they will not be residing here and so will not have ASTs but “holiday lets”. These are simply common law tenancies. However some visitors maybe visiting contractors or employees and they will be working either at or during the Games. In those cases the property that you let could actually be let under an AST and the tenant could potentially remain there for 6 months provided they pay the rent as you will not be able to remove them using a section 21 notice. You are therefore strongly advised to find out the purpose behind the visit in order to safeguard the landlord’s position.

2. Do I have to protect the deposit?
Where a tenancy is not an AST then the deposit protection provisions of the Housing Act 2004 do not apply. However the risks described above should be borne in mind and there is no harm in registering a deposit if you are unsure.

3. Do I have to grant a tenancy at all?
It will be seen as a tenancy unless a landlord is living in the property and sharing basic amenities with an Olympic visitor. If you are concerned that the visitor could be eligible for an AST then you could adopt a serviced apartment arrangement whereby you provide services which are so extensive that they are incompatible with the tenants presumed right to exclusive possession. This will prevent the occupancy being a tenancy at all and so the protection granted by the Housing Act 1988 will not apply. However, this can be very hard to do in practice.

4. What about HMOs and licensing?
Whether the property is considered an HMO will depend on how many occupiers there are and whether they are occupying as their only and main residence. It is assumed that migrant workers occupy the property as their only or main residence. However, anyone here for a holiday will not be doing so. As always, the advice is to consult your local authority in cases of doubt.

5. I have heard there is some issue with short lets.
Lettings under 90 days inside London can be controlled by local authorities. A number of them will do so during the Olympic period. However, the control is by way of planning and requires a planning permission to be obtained for a short letting. However, a breach of planning is not a criminal offence. The local authority will have to identify the breach and then serve an enforcement notice. It is only once this notice has expired that an offence is committed. Normally these notices give a period of time to put the planning breach right and by the time this is up the Olympics will be over and the short let will have ended. However if you want to be cautious you should be able to obtain the permission for a modest fee.

6. What if the tenants do not leave at the end of the term?
The usual common law principles apply to a holiday let. That is that the tenant must vacate at the end of the tenancy. If they do not then landlords may apply for possession to the Courts the day after the term ends.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , , , , , ,

The Localism Act

Most landlords and agents are aware of the current provisions relating to tenancy deposit protection under the Housing Act 2004. Many will also be aware of the damage that has been done to the provisions by the many, many, many, many court decisions. As a reminder two of the Court of Appeal decisions:

Tiensia v Vision Enterprises Ltd (t/a Universal Estates) – a landlord can protect the deposit at any stage, even if more than 14 days have elapsed since it was received, without penalty as long as they do so before the case comes before a court.

Gladehurst Properties Ltd v Hashemi - a tenant could not bring a claim for an unprotected deposit at all once the tenancy was over.

The government has therefore resolved the problems posed by these cases by radically amending the legislation. This is being done by way of the Localism Act, which should come into force on or around the 6th April.

The New TDP Legislation
The changed legislation has three components:
1. Alteration of the current 14 day timescale for protecting the deposit;
2. The closing of current loopholes exposed by the courts;
3. Change to the current regime of penalties.

1. Under the old current provisions the landlord is obliged to protect the deposit and provide the prescribed information to the tenant and any relevant person within 14 days of receipt, however this 14 days will be changed to 30 days from the date of receipt.

2. The decisions in Tiensia and Hashemi will no longer assist landlords who have failed to register the deposit within the 14 days. Therefore, a landlord will be obliged to protect the deposit within 30 days and if he fails to do so he is in breach of the legislation and the tenant can immediately issue proceedings against him or his agent. Protection after 30 days, or after issue of proceedings, is not sufficient to cure the landlord’s failure. Landlords will not be able to argue the Hashemi point once the tenancy is over either as tenants are also going to be entitled to issue proceedings once the tenancy has ended. The so-called ‘must also’ loophole, which allowed landlords to return the deposit to a tenant before a hearing and then assert that the court could not return that money to the tenant and therefore it could not ‘also’ make an award of the three times penalty, has also been closed by the simple expedient of removing the word ‘also’ from the text of the legislation.

3. The draconian three times the value of the deposit penalty will also cease. The court will have a discretionary power to award a penalty of between one and three times the value of the deposit. Therefore, a landlord who has protected the deposit as soon as they became aware of the problem and acted reasonably will be penalised at the lower end of the scale while landlords who have been less cooperative will find themselves penalised at the top end of the scale. If a landlord has however failed to protect they will be liable for not less than a penalty of one times the deposit.

What has changed?
This all means that the Tiensia and Hashemi decisions will not have any force after the 6th April. However, many parts of the legislation are wholly unchanged. There is no change in the definition of a deposit, or the restriction on taking property as a deposit instead of money. So, court decisions which interpret these unchanged parts of the legislation are not affected.

There is no change in the requirement to protect the deposit within a set time after it has been received in connection with an AST. So money that the landlord or agent has obtained which is intended to be used in relation to an AST agreement falls within the legislation.

Therefore, the county court guidance that states that taking the last months rent in advance at the start of the tenancy is probably a deposit remains valid, as does the Court of Appeal decision which holds that a promise to pay money at some future date does not qualify as a deposit, as this requires money to be paid by the tenant with the intent that it will be returned. Likewise, the obligation to serve the prescribed information properly and in full also remains unchanged. It also remains the case that a lettings agent is liable for a failure to protect the deposit and can be sued in preference to the landlord. However, the advent of the new variable penalty would now allow a court to make an order against the agent with the penalty fixed at the lower end of the scale if they were not responsible for registering the deposit.

One component of the Hashemi decision also remains valid that is that any claim for an unprotected deposit must be taken by all the tenants together and not by one acting unilaterally without the consent of the others.

Section 21
Where the deposit has not been registered and the prescribed information not sent to the tenant within 30 days the landlord only really has one option if he seeks vacant possession. That is to hand the deposit back to the tenant and the serve the notice. Landlords will of course not be happy about this as many like the security of being able to call for that money when there are dilapidations, so this is all the more reason for getting it right.

What do you need to do now?
It is not clear whether the new provisions will apply to tenancies that began before the 6th April 2012 however we advise that agents and landlords should begin to check agreements now and register deposits and provide prescribed information if they discover they have not done so to avoid the new scale penalties.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , , ,

TDS

We have blogged on the issues surrounding the release of Deposits following possession proceedings here. Many of you will be interested to note that the TDS have replied to this blog here.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , ,

oooooooooooooh more options!

A short blog to highlight to readers that TDS and the Residential Landlords Association have created a fourth tenancy deposit scheme with price structures that are targeted at private landlords. The scheme is called Deposit Guard and the scheme will not charge an annual subscription fee or joining fee. For more information click here.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , ,

All very frustrating, but what are the options?!

Painsmith has recently encountered the Kafkaesque world of the tenancy deposit protection schemes, specifically the DPS and its new rules relating to the release of the deposit following a court hearing.

DPS is currently refusing to release deposits where the courts have not specifically ordered it and they have changed their rules to reflect the same. Under rule 29 (a) DPS will only release the Deposit if the Court Order specifically refers to the Deposit and how much to be paid out to the tenant.

Several of our landlord clients have obtained a possession order on the grounds of rental arrears and are finding it impossible (or very nearly impossible….or just very expensive) to get the deposit released, even where the contract specifically allows for the deposit to be applied against rental arrears.

Of course it is always open for the tenant to agree the release of the deposit to the landlord, but once possession is obtained many tenants lose interest in co-operating with their former landlord.

In the absence of an agreement from the former tenant the landlord is left to apply to the scheme to ask for the release of the deposit. We believe this should simply be a matter of drawing the scheme’s attention to the court order for possession and rent arrears and the clause in the contract, which allows the deposit to be used against rental arrears, where applicable.

However on more than one occasion recently a landlord’s application to the DPS for the release of the deposit has been refused and the applicant referred to clause 29 of the terms and condition ( see above) and informed that if they want DPS to release the deposit to them they must either arrange for the Court Order to be amended or a Third Party Debt Order to be obtained.

Concurrently, courts are refusing to make orders that would satisfy the DPS rules with many judges refusing to address the issue of the deposit on the grounds that it is a matter for the scheme and they do not want to usurp the jurisdiction of the Adjudicator.

You will recall that part of the point of these schemes was to take the matter of deposit handling away from the courts and instead use an alternative dispute resolution, that is the Adjudicator. However landlords find themselves facing courts that refuse to deal with the deposit because it is a matter for the scheme, and the scheme refusing to release the deposit without a court order so the whole thing becomes farcical.

Painsmith has historically been involved in deposit protection reform and we would suggest that between the schemes and the courts there needs to be some clarification.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , , , ,

Sentencing…

This not really a heading that one would expect on a Landlord and Tenant blog but with the country up in arms in many cases about the sentencing of the rioters and the recent Court of Appeal decisions we thought it prudent to mention the case of Premier Places.

Brandon Weston and David Christopher Williams ran Premier Places, a lettings agency with offices in Worcester and nearby Redditch. They were sentenced this week for a long-running fraud but the sentences were suspended.

Weston who ran the business pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud between 1 April 2007 and 28 February 2008 and was sentenced to 12 months in jail. But the sentence was suspended for two years and so he will not go to jail unless he is convicted of another offence within that time. He was also ordered to serve 250 hours of community service which is an alternative to custody. Williams, the book keeper, was sentenced to serve eight months, suspended for two years plus 150 hours of community service. He pleaded guilty to three charges of forgery of an accountant’s signature.

In sentencing, the Judge at Worcester Crown Court took into consideration the fact that Weston exhibited genuine remorse and was bankrupt with the events having had a devastating effect on his family.

According to prosecutors, Weston had interests in a restaurant, “The Glasshouse” in Worcester, a family home, a house in France and seven other houses in Worcester he was also allegedly taking £8,500 out of the business every month.

Daniel White of Counsel for Weston confirmed that he had signed over to the prosecution or sold all his assets and that his life had been turned upside down following his bankruptcy.

Premier places were a member of TDS (the Dispute Service) which has made good the losses suffered by both tenants and landlords at a cost of some £63,000. As most of you know the deposit should be held in a designated client account which is treated as a trust account and is therefore ring fenced from the assets of any company. However the deposits were not ring fenced despite the reassurances given to the tenants and landlords.

Steve Harriott, the Chief Executive of TDS, says that the sentences are “a kick in the teeth” for the tenants and landlords who were the victims of the scheme and that it “undermined the excellent work of properly self-regulated agents.”

Whatever your opinions maybe on the sentencing of these agents we at PainSmith Solicitors do agree that the industry needs to be regulated and that just like lawyers agents should undergo a minimum amount of training every year.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , ,

Change in Tenants

Sam asked “change of occupancies can be a legal minefield so some clarification on the best procedure would be helpful.”

The document you need is the Deed of Assignment.

The 3 main points to note:

Deposit
We do not know how many of you have been affected by this but DPS in their rules (16c) state that they will only allow registrations to be changed where you have the written consent of the outgoing tenant. So the Deed should include a clause which states that the outgoing tenant permits the landlord to change the registration of the deposit into the name of the new tenant and that the new tenant and outgoing tenant agree to settle the issue of any deposit monies to be passed between them themselves.

Inventory
The Deed also needs to include clauses relating to the inventory. When a tenancy is being assigned the new tenant must be given a copy of the inventory and given the opportunity to go through it before the Deed is signed. This may mean an additional visit to the property. However when the inventory is agreed this should be noted in the Deed and the inventory should be attached to the Deed. If the new tenant takes issue with the condition of the property then have the outgoing tenant and the new tenant deal with that between themselves even if that means the outgoing tenant compensates the new tenant and then have them contact you to finalise the Deed. The new tenant must agree that the condition of the property when they move in is as per the inventory compiled at the beginning of the tenancy. Agents and landlords should not finalise the Deed until the inventory is agreed to as this will affect the landlord’s ability to make any claim on the deposit at the end of the tenancy if the need arises.

It is recommended that you consider both the issues above no matter what scheme the deposit is registered with.

Signature
As you are no doubt aware when tenants enter into a tenancy they do so on a joint and several basis. This means that when one gives notice you can accept it on behalf of all of them and when one defaults in his rent payment you can seek the default amount from those that have already paid. It is due to this joint and several principle that many argue that when there is going to be a change in tenants that the remaining tenants consent should be sought and they should also sign the Deed.

It is therefore advisable that all the tenants that remain also sign the Deed along with the outgoing and new tenant and of course the landlord. However obtaining everyone’s signature is sometimes easier said than done. Whilst you can choose not to release the outgoing tenant unless they obtain the consent of the others, if for example, they are leaving the country they are unlikely to be too concerned about the procedure that they need to follow. Therefore if you obtain the signature of only the outgoing and new tenant along with the landlord the new tenant has at best an equitable right to remain in the property where rent is paid and accepted. This means that possession proceedings can be pursued against all those in the property following the assignment but the assignment needs to be fully explained in the court papers.

The problem with this issue is that there is no legislation or case law that supports the view that everyone should sign or not as the case may be. There is also the concern that in the case of an assured shorthold tenancy the new tenant could argue that he has 6 months security of tenure because he has a new tenancy. At PainSmith, 2 solicitors a barrister and 2 paralegals argued over this issue for some time and still there is no consensus. Therefore whilst the easy option is to sign a whole new tenancy this may not be what the landlord wants because of the security of tenure issue and as such the Deed with only the outgoing and new tenant signing maybe the only option available with the landlord warned of the above risks. To minimise the signature being a problem agents could consider handing tenants a letter at the outset explaining that if there is to be a change that everyone will have to sign a Deed and if they do not that not change will be considered. We can draft a template of this letter for readers to purchase if needed.

Sam thank you for the feedback and sorry for the delay!

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , ,

Yes, they’re back…

in court arguing over a deposit again!

Suurpere entered into an assured shorthold tenancy agreement with the landlords Nice and Anor for a period of 6 months on the 9th January 2009.

For a number of reasons the relationship between the parties began to deteriorate and the landlords served a Section 21 and issued possession proceedings on this notice which was in fact defective.

The landlords did not lodge the deposit with a scheme pursuant to Section 213 of the Housing Act 2004 until the 20 July 2009. On the 10 August 2009 the tenant issued for this breach, which included the landlords’ failure to provide the “prescribed information”.

On the 14 August 2009 the tenant left the premises allegedly due to the landlords unlawful harassment. The deposit was returned to her in full on the 1 September 2009. In their defence the landlord’s confirmed that the tenant had received her rent in full and that their failure to register the deposit was a “innocent technical breach”.

The county court judge applied the decision in Draycott and held that because the landlord had registered the deposit before the tenant issued proceedings, the sanctions in Section 214 (4) (3 times the penalty) did not apply. The tenant therefore appealed.

The landlords claimed that pursuant to the Hashemi case because the tenant “vacated” on the 14th August 2009 the court had no power to make an order under Section 214 (4).

However, the Appeal court held that in Hashemi the date on which the tenancy ended was clear but in this case the tenant did not accept that her tenancy had been determined because she brought a claim for wrongful eviction, claiming that she was forced to vacate as a result of the landlord’s harassment. Therefore Hashemi did not apply.

The tenant relied on Tiensia and argued that due to the landlord’s failure to register the deposit with a scheme and provide the requisite information in the prescribed form she was entitled to an award of a sum of money equal to 3 times the amount of the deposit. The Court of Appeal agreed with this and awarded 3 times the deposit because the tenancy had not been lawfully determined.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , ,

Back Again….

Some of you will note that we have blogged on the Localism Bill previously and the expected changes to the Housing Act 2004 specifically the sections on the registration of deposit. The amendments were not supported by the Commons and it was assumed that alternatives would be proposed. However, no such alternatives have been proposed and Lord Best has therefore introduced the original amendments into the Lords.

The Bill started its committee stage on 20 June and given that in the House of Lords committees are always ‘committees of the whole House’, i.e. every peer is able to contribute a huge number of amendments are expected.

Filed under: England & Wales, England only, , , ,

Gladehurst Properties Limited v Hashemi

Call me lazy but here’s the summary of the case.

The Court of Appeal in their judgement held that the case of Tiensia did not assist the landlord in this case because the landlord had never complied with the initial requirements or provided the prescribed information and given that the lease had now ceased they cannot do so.

The landlords arguments in defence of the application were:

  • That it could not be the intention of the legislature to require compliance with s.214 of the Housing Act 2004 after the lease when deposits were generally handed back after some appropriate deductions;
  • That the word ‘tenant’ in s.214 could only mean a tenant in a lease that was subsisting;
  • That none of the schemes intend for deposits to be registered once the lease has ended and if the claim by Hashemi were to succeed this would mean that tenants could have a claim for some years after the lease is over;
  • As an alternative that the landlords liability should be limited to the deposit amount that is held by the landlord because most of the despot had been returned.

In response to the above arguments the court held that the legislation does not make it a prerequisite of any application by a tenant that the lease must still subsist. The legislation also does not include a definition for ‘tenant’ although it is accepted that the word is used to refer to former tenants by the DPS. Finally that the word deposit had a clear meaning which was the deposit money paid at the commencement of the tenancy.

Taking all of this into account and the circumstances of this case the Court of Appeal has made the decision that the court cannot make an award for three times the deposit where the lease has expired. Whilst it was recognised that a landlords failure to register the deposit was unlawful it was not a criminal offence for which there were criminal sanctions imposed.

The obvious problem with this decision is that if no liability is going to be imposed then landlords will simply choose not to register the deposit and will only do so if the tenant makes a threat to go to court during the tenancy. When this was put to the court the response was that tenants could still rely on the Act to make an application for the award during the tenancy. In relation to the loss of the benefit of the deposit adjudication services that tenants would experience from this becoming a common strategy the Court noted that they would be able to make use of the small claims track in the county courts…..which was one of the things that tenancy deposit protection was introduced to get away from!

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , ,

Hashemi – a summary

Gladehurst granted Mr Hashemi and Mr Johnson (the tenants) an assured shorthold tenancy of a flat for a fixed term of one year from September 2007. The monthly rent was £2,080. A deposit of £6,240 was paid to Gladehurst. The terms of the agreement provided that the deposit was to be held by Gladehurst. The deposit was never registered in accordance with the Housing Act 2004.

The tenants vacated the property in October 2008. Following an inventory check out, Gladehurst paid back the deposit minus various deductions. Mr Hashemi then wrote to Gladehurst requesting receipts and a breakdown of the sums deducted from the deposit and he put them on notice that he would make a claim for three times the deposit under s214.

In February 2009, Mr Hashemi issued a claim against Gladehurst in both his own name and that of Mr Johnson. Gladehurst in its defence pleaded that it had not been fully aware of the impact of the 2004 Act, but accepted that it applied. The defence also asserted that the landlord had all the necessary receipts for the dilapidations and other expenses paid on behalf of the tenants.

In April 2009, District Judge Manners, of her own motion on the papers, struck out the claim on the basis that the tenancy ended before the application was made. Mr Hashemi applied to set that order aside. District Judge Stary dismissed that application in so far as it related to the s214 claim, but reinstated the claim for the deductions of £618. Mr Hashemi appealed.

HHJ Cryan allowed the appeal and found for Hashemi. He noted that the landlord:

… never dealt with the deposit in the correct way in accordance with Act and still retains part of it … There can be no question that in accordance with the scheme of the Act a landlord should not be holding any part of a qualifying deposit at this stage, or at least without the safeguards of the Act being in place.

Gladehurst then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , ,

Hashemi v Gladehurst

We believe the decision will be handed down on Thursday.

Filed under: England & Wales, England only, , ,

Potts –v- Densley & Pays

The High Court has handed down its decision in the case of Potts v Densley today. Previous blogs can be viewed here.

We acted on behalf of the Claimant who in this instance was the Tenant with James Browne of counsel.

Facts

The landlord first let the property for a term of one year commencing on 12th May 2007. The property was managed by a lettings agent. A deposit was taken of £1,500, which was correctly registered with the TDS scheme. In 2009 an agreement was made between the parties that a new tenancy would be agreed at a lower rent, without the management of the agents. It was agreed that the deposit would be withdrawn from the TDS and paid direct to the Landlord who would be responsible for protecting it themselves.

In order to assist the Tenant the Landlords agreed not to insist on a further deposit upon this renewal. Instead they agreed to wait for the return of the deposit from the agent and then register it upon receipt. The Landlords received the deposit of £1,590 on 18th June 2009. In the meantime on the 15th June 2009, the Tenant exercised a break clause bringing the tenancy to an end on 15th August 2009.

On the 10th August the Landlord offered to pay the deposit back to the Tenant however, the Tenant refused the deposit and insisted that the Landlord register the deposit with a scheme pursuant to their obligations under the section 213 of the Housing Act 2004. The Landlords failed to do so and the Tenant issued proceedings on the 12th August 2009. The Landlords in response no doubt registered the deposit with the DPS custodial scheme on the 17th August 2009, 2 days after the Tenant vacated.

The Prescribed Information as required by s213 (3) and s213 (6) was never served.

Before Her Honour Judge Hallon, it was held that there had been a breach of the requirement to secure the deposit, because the initial requirements of the scheme can not be complied with after a tenancy has come to an end. This is despite the decision in Tiensia. However, the judge refused to award the penalty of three times the deposit because she held that there had been a technical breach of the requirement to secure the deposit and that given the:

“unusual circumstances of the case, it would not be in the interests of justice to do so”.

She did not deal with the prescribed information at all.

The Tenant appealed.

Two main issues were raised in the appeal. First that the judge had no discretion to refuse to impose a sanction once she had decided there had been such a breach and it thus follows that she was wrong to refuse to award the penalty. Second that the judge erred in failing to deal with the issue of the Prescribed Information.

The Judgment of Today

The Honorable Mrs Justice Sharp when referring to the County Court decision above states at paragraph 23 of her judgment:

“it is obvious that the judge had considerable sympathy with the position of the Landlords on the facts found by her and considered it would be unjust for them to be subject to the sanction provided for non compliance, under section 214 (4) of the Act”.

She then went on to say that to award the penalty for a breach of a technical nature when the deposit was not returned due to the insistence of the Tenant pursuant to section 214 would:

“do a very considerable injustice”.

With regards to the 2 points of appeal, Mrs Justice Sharp upheld the County Court decision and based her reasoning on the decision on Tiensia. That is that Landlords had until the date of the hearing of the Tenants application to comply with the provisions and having secured the deposit before the hearing they had a complete defence to the Tenants application.

On the matter of the prescribed information, Mrs Justice Sharp held that due to the failure to plead this in the particulars of claim submitted by the Tenant, the judge had not erred. The issue over the prescribed information was mentioned in court by the Tenant and also mentioned in the Tenants witness statement. However, it was held that this was not clearly pleaded but had it been the judge would no doubt have dealt with it.

Conclusion

Whilst we welcome the release of the decision the area of law is not concluded. It does appear that you can register the deposit after the tenancy but the judge did not deal with implied or the actual requirements of the scheme because they had not been pleaded. It may be the case that it is an implied “initial requirement” of all 3 deposit schemes that the deposit be registered before the tenancy ends. Even if it is not an implied requirement is it likely that it will become explicitly stated requirement!

There of course remains the decision of Hashemi v Gladehurst which has the potential of changing this decision.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , ,

The Position of the Stakeholder

After the introduction of Tenancy Deposit Protection agents are required, where they are holding deposits, to do so as a stakeholder. We have noticed that on the Helpline there is still some confusion about what this actually means.

The case of Manzanilla Limited v. Corton Property and Investments Limited; John Maciver (Southport) Limited; Rootbrights Limited and Halliwell Landau (a firm) [1996] EWCA Civ 942, sets out the position of a stakeholder very clearly:

Where a stakeholder is involved, there are normally two separate contracts to be considered. There is first the bilateral contract between the two principals, the landlord and tenant in our case, which contemplates two possible alternative future events and by which the parties agree to pay a sum of money to a stakeholder to abide the happening of one or other of them. In the case of a tenancy agreement, the relevant event would be the failure to maintain the Premises for the duration of the agreement or to pay any costs associated with the occupation of the Premises, such as utility bills. The second contract is the tripartite contract which results from the deposit of the money with the agent as stakeholder on terms that he is to keep it until one or other of the relevant events happens and then pay it to one or other of the parties accordingly. The agent as stakeholder is a party to the second contract but not the first. The agent’s rights and obligations are not normally expressly spelled out. They are implicit in the transaction itself, and must be discovered, not by implying terms, but by analysing the relationship of the parties which arises from the deposit of the money.

The following propositions emerge from the authorities:

  1. The relationship between the stakeholder and the landlord and tenant is a contractual one. The relationship is that of debtor and creditor, and is similar to that between a banker and his customer.
  2. An agent is normally entitled to retain the interest on the money. This is usually described as his reward for holding the money. This right may be excluded by special arrangement, usually within the tenancy agreement
  3. Until the event which the stakeholder holds the money against happens, the agent holds the money to the order of both the landlord and tenant and is bound to pay it (strictly speaking an equivalent sum) to them or as they may jointly direct.
  4. Subject to the above, the agent is bound to await the happening of the event and then to pay the money to one or other of the parties according to the event. For a lettings agent this event will usually be the end of the tenancy and an agreement between the parties as to what should happen to the money, the decision of a Court, or a request from an approved TDPS to pay the money to them to await dispute resolution. The money is payable to the party entitled on demand, and if the agent fails to pay in accordance with a proper demand he is liable for interest from the date of the demand.
  5. If the occurrence of the event is disputed, the agent cannot safely pay either party, for if he mistakenly pays the party not entitled the payment will not discharge his liability to the other. In these circumstances he may (i) interplead and pay the money into Court; (ii) retain the money pending the resolution of the dispute; or (iii) take the risk of paying one party. The choice is entirely his.
  6. If he takes the second course, he may notify the parties that he is content to await the outcome of the dispute. There is then no need to join him in any proceedings which are taken to resolve it. If he is not joined, the Court cannot order the money to be paid to the successful party. All it can do is to declare that the successful party is entitled to give a good receipt for the money. In practice this is now unnecessary as the agent will normally be required to pay the money to an approved TDPS who will hold it pending the outcome of any Court action.
  7. If the agent is not content to wait for the outcome of the proceedings, he may be joined in to those proceedings in order to compel him.

Whilst the position seems clear in light of the above it is strongly recommended that the agent advises both the landlord and the tenant what the stakeholder principle entails and assures them that no action will be taken until the dispute between them is resolved.

We find more often than not that agents become embroiled in dilapidation disputes at the end of a tenancy and to the frustration of landlords fail to refer the matter to either the appropriate TDPS in the correct time period or advise the parties to seek legal advice. Whilst some agents perseverance is commendable sometimes walking away and allowing the landlord and tenant to talk to each other is the better option.

Filed under: England & Wales, England only, ,

Localism bill

As some of you will recall we mentioned some possible changes to the Tenancy Deposit Protection legislation. These TDP changes do not however, appear to have survived the committee stage of the bill. This is not to say that they will not get back in later but it is of some concern that what we considered to be improvements has been overlooked.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , , ,

Deposits, set for change?

The Localism Bill rather surprisingly (or not, depending on which side you are on) includes new sections which are designed to make amendments to the Housing Act 2004 and specifically to the tenancy deposit protection provisions.

The changes are intended to clarify the concept of ‘initial requirements’ and remove the late protection loopholes as discussed in Draycott v Hannells and Tiensia v Universal Estates. The Bill also hopes to remove the loophole of returning the deposit to the tenant in full prior to any proceedings and then asserting that s214(4) does not apply because in the absence of a deposit they can not be subject to the three times penalty.

If the changes are implemented tenants should find it far easier to pursue landlords or agents who have failed to protect their deposits and landlords will not be able to register the deposit and escape liability after the initial 14 day period.

From the landlords point of view the changes are an improvement because it is hoped that the law will be a little more certain with less grey areas and loopholes! The Bill will also be introducing a variable penalty rather than a fixed 3 times the deposit penalty. The tenant will be entitled to their deposit back or have it paid into the custodial scheme and then will also receive a further sum of money equivalent to not less than the deposit and not more than three times the deposit.

The benefit of this regime for the landlord is that when making an order the Court will consider why the landlord did not protect the deposit, what the landlord knew or should have known about his obligations, and how quickly he resolved the situation. This means that landlords that are still ignorant of the legislation may still be penalised but they may be subject to a more manageable penalty.

It is not certain or clear whether the amendments will make it into the legislation but given the case law surrounding this issue it is likely that the amendments will become law.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , ,

Meanwhile back at Deposit protection HQ….

While we await the outcome of Potts v Densley & Pays in the High Court, followers of deposit protection litigation might be interested in a case with similar facts to Potts, but a different outcome in the county court.

Gemma Shepley v Majid Yassen, Tameside County Court, Thursday 13th January 2011 (Unreported), has been spotted and commented on by Nearly Legal.

To recap, in Potts v Densley & Pays the main issue is, can the tenant sue for the usual penalties where the landlord has protected the deposit after the end of the tenancy but before the court hearing and failed to provide the prescribed information?

The Shepley v Yassen facts mirror Potts: the deposit was not protected during the tenancy, and after the end of the tenancy the tenants issued proceedings (in May 2010) for the usual remedies. The deposit was protected in August 2010 with DPS. But the prescribed information was never served on the tenants.

The (County) court held that protection after the end of the tenancy was not acceptable. The cases of Draycott and Tiensia were distinguished on the basis that in those cases the deposits had been protected late but had still been placed into schemes before the tenancy ended.

NL comments that this “seems to be absolutely correct. If a landlord can put the deposit into protection after the tenancy has ended then it makes a total nonsense of the legislation and almost encourages a “wait and see” attitude.”

Painsmith agrees. Currently no-one is sure of their position when a deposit is protected after the end of the tenancy and this is disconcerting for both landlords and tenants. With the Potts v Densley & Pays judgment still not handed down, landlords, tenants and lawyers are indeed having to wait and see, whether we want to or not. A High Court decision that deposits cannot be protected after the end of the tenancy would be welcomed.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , ,

Potts –v- Densley & Pays Update

As advised on the 4th February 2011, PainSmith attended the hearing at the High Court today.

There were 3 issues considered by the court, 2 of which were subsidiary and therefore not relevant for the purposes of this blog.

The main issue before the court was, can the tenant sue for the usual penalties where the landlord has protected the deposit after the end of the tenancy, albeit before the court hearing.

The judgment has been reserved but we hope that the court will hand it down in late March and obviously we will publish the decision as soon as we receive it on this blog.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , ,

Releasing the deposit after an order for possession

We sometimes get asked about the apparent arbitrariness of judges when it comes to ordering the release of the deposit when making an order for possession based on rental arrears. Some judges make orders along the lines of “All or any deposit monies paid by the Defendant to the Claimant be credited to and set off against judgment debt together with any costs outstanding”. Others refuse to deal with the deposit at all and say that it is a matter for the relevant deposit protection scheme despite the landlord/landlord’s representatives making submissions requesting an order such as the above.

The fact that the judge does not make reference to the deposit in the order does not stop the landlord from claiming the deposit as payment towards any judgment for arrears, interest and legal costs obtained, however you will have to follow the prescribed process that is required under the rules for each scheme. For example, the DPS requires landlords to make a single claim and obtain a statutory declaration before they agree to the release of the money to the landlord. It is therefore important for agents to familiarise themselves with the rules of the scheme that they are registered with when advising landlords on how to proceed.

You can view all our posts on deposits by following this link.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, ,

Tenancy Deposit Protection- A Further Binding Decision

On Wednesday 9th February 2011 PainSmith has a case appearing in the High Court which should provide a further binding decision on Tenancy Deposit Protection under the Housing Act 2004.

In Potts –v- Densley & Pays there are two issues for the Court to consider:

1. Whether the trial judge had made the wrong decision in refusing to award the penalty pursuant to s214 of the Housing Act 2004 for three times the value of the deposit despite having found that the Landlord had breached s213 by failing to lodge the deposit with a deposit scheme.

2. Whether the prescribed information required to be given to the tenant pursuant to s213 (5) and s213 (6) of the Act had been complied with in these particular circumstances.

This case relates to the registration of the deposit post the expiration of the tenancy and PainSmith is acting for the Claimant. Although it is unlikely that we will receive a decision on the 9th February it will no doubt be reported on this blog as soon as we receive it.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , ,

Court of Appeal Rules on Tenancy Deposit Protection

At 0945 this morning, 11 November 2010, the Court of Appeal handed down its judgement in the two conjoined cases of Universal Estates v Tiensia and Honeysuckle Properties v Fletcher. The decision was a majority decision of Lord Justices Rimer and Thorpe, with Lord Justice Sedley dissenting.

Facts
The facts in the two cases were as follows. In Universal Estates the tenant was taken to Court for possession for arrears of rent. The possession claim was adjourned after she indicated her intention to counterclaim, although that counterclaim was not for an unprotected deposit. The deposit was then registered with MyDeposits but it was, of course, late, more than 14 days from the date of receipt. The High Court has held, in the case of Draycott v Hannells Lettings, that registration more than 14 days after receipt of the deposit cannot be penalised. However a breach of the initial requirements of the relevant deposit scheme can incur the penalties and it was argued in Universal Estates that the MyDeposits scheme had such an initial requirement. In Honeysuckle a claim for possession for rent arrears was also commenced. The tenant’s counterclaimed on the basis that the deposit was not registered. The deposit was protected before the hearing of the matter by the Court, again with MyDeposits.

Therefore the issues before the Court of Appeal were whether it was permissible to protect the deposit more than 14 days after its receipt and at what date there should be a consideration of the protection status of the deposit, at the date of issue of proceedings or at the date of the Court considering the situation at a hearing.

Decision
In short, the Court considered that the High Court had decided correctly in Draycott v Hannells and that late protection is acceptable. Where the Court of Appeal has gone further is that it has ruled that provided protection has been done, and the correct information provided, before the Court comes to consider the matter at a hearing then that is acceptable, even after proceedings have been issued for non-protection. Therefore the landlord’s deadline for compliance is the Court hearing itself and not the date by which proceedings have been issued. The Court did hold that if a tenant is compelled to issue proceedings to force the protection of a deposit then they are probably entitled to their legal costs in so doing. It should be noted here that the Court emphasised the importance of pre-action conduct and discouraged any attempt to ‘ambush’ landlords by issuing proceedings for an unprotected deposit without writing to them first.

The Court further held that no scheme can impose an initial requirement that a deposit must be protected within 14 days, a failure to adhere to which will allow a tenant to claim against the landlord. Therefore the current imposition by The Dispute Service scheme of a requirement to register within 14 days is no more than an administrative requirement for that scheme and registrations with that scheme made after 14 days are not invalid for the purposes of tenancy deposit protection legislation although the scheme may consider them violations of its rules and may therefore adjudicate on the deposit in a manner that is against the landlord’s interests.

The Court made no comment on what the correct position should be if the deposit is not protected until after the tenancy has ended. This remains a live issue and one which must be considered.

All three judges commented that the interpretation which they have been forced into is totally unsatisfactory and they found it hard to believe that this is what Parliament intended when it made the legislation. The consensus certainly appeared to be that the legislation is now toothless and largely without value. The onus now seems to be on Parliament to consider reform of the legislation as a matter of urgency to restore a proper balance.

Full text of decision.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, ,

Universal Estates v Tiensia- The Wait is Over

The judgement in the two conjoined Court of Appeal cases of Universal Estates v Tiensia and Honeysuckle Properties v Fletcher will be handed down on Thursday 11 November 2010 at 0945.

As regular readers of this blog will know these cases deal with tenancy deposit protection matters and relate to late protection in the MyDeposits scheme and protection after Court proceedings for non-protection have already begun.

There is a rumour that the landlords in both cases have won but we do not know this for certain. The precise position is likely to be much more complex than this.

We intend to be at Court for the decision and will be posting the results as soon as possible on the 11th.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, ,

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