The good news is that all three legally required deposit protection schemes, DPS, mydeposits and TDS are still running their dispute schemes so if a dispute over the deposit occurs at one of your properties, you still have access to redress. But, as with many things across the industry, the process has been subject to a few changes due to the impact of Covid-19, so it’s important to note the common approach agreed by all three schemes.
Some conditions could change over time
Although the government reinstated the ability to move house from 13 May, many tenants may have had to move out of properties without a full check out report being conducted at the time. Adjudicators will accept checkouts carried out after the tenant has left but landlords must bear in mind that the condition of some areas of dispute (such as the state of garden areas) may have changed extensively between the time when the tenant moved out and when the check out was conducted. Adjudicators will bear the passage of time in mind when it comes to ruling on deposit deductions. That said, things like damages and basic cleanliness are unlikely to alter a great deal no matter how much time has passed and will likely be judged at face value.
Extensions may be granted when necessary
If you are struggling to provide evidence relating to a deposit dispute due to circumstances caused by Covid-19 (due to lack of access for example), let your deposit scheme know as soon as possible and they may be able to organise an extension. Their focus will be on balancing the need for a fair outcome for all parties and ensuring deposits are repaid without any unnecessary delay.
Virtual checkouts can provide real benefits
As mentioned above, from 13 May when all house moves (not just non-essential) were permitted, in-person checkouts were reinstated, but please be mindful these are dependent on company policy (and must be carried out with the appropriate social distancing). Landlords or agents who don’t feel comfortable conducting these types of checkouts should consider asking a tenant to take them on a video walk-around of the property before they leave it.
A picture is worth a thousand words
In circumstances where in-person or virtual checkouts are not possible, landlords are well within their rights to request photographic evidence of the state of the property. Even the most basic smartphones and tablets have photo functions. As ever, creating an appropriate audit trail is the safest way to protect you and your property from any dispute.
Processing times may be longer than usual
As with many other industries, deposit scheme agencies may be operating with skeleton staff or reduced capacity. Please accept the process of assessing claims, adjudicating disputes and returning deposits may take slightly longer than usual. These are extraordinary circumstances we are living through and landlords, agents and tenants should be reassured that while the processes may take longer when it comes to fair assessments and adjudications it’s still business as usual.