Alison MacDougall, Director of Dispute Operations at Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) on what you need to know about tenancy deposits and Covid-19.
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated social distancing and lockdown measures have brought many activities to a standstill in the private rented sector (PRS).
As a result, many landlords have struggled to carry out normal tenancy processes and are confused as to what to do to remain compliant with regards to tenancy deposit protection.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), has received many questions from landlords, letting agents and tenants over recent weeks.
In response to the confusion, TDS has created a Covid-19 FAQ hub on its website. The web page covers frequently asked questions on tenancy and deposit-related issues at pre-tenancy, during tenancy and post tenancy stages during these unprecedented times.
To support the FAQs, TDS is also running a series of #AskTDS blogs about each stage of tenancy in light of Covid-19.
This follows a successful Covid-19 webinar hosted by the NRLA and TDS in April.
In this week’s NRLA news centre article, TDS offer guidance on a particular area of concern for landlords: when to return a deposit if a check-out inspection can’t be carried out.C
Check-out delays and deposit release
Accompanied visits to a property can’t take place during lockdown, making it impossible to carry out normal check-out inspections in person with a tenant.
One option is to ask the tenant to conduct a live virtual walk-round of the property using their smartphone for the check-out, which may be enough to convey the general condition of the property for the purposes of deposit return.
You can ask the tenant to open cupboards and to show you around the garden, for example, to ensure that you are getting an opportunity to inspect all areas of the property. If regular inspections have been made during tenancy, this could suffice.
However, the video won’t pick up odours or surface cleanliness, so a virtual check-out is down to the landlord’s discretion.
If a video check-out is carried out, TDS advises that the landlord keep details of that walk-through with a clear explanation of when and why it was used in place of a physical visit.
Normally, the check-out needs to happen as close to the end of tenancy date as possible for the simple reason that the property’s condition will not have been affected by any other activities carried out by cleaners or contractors, for example.
In a situation where the landlord can’t access the property due to the presence of a virus or a virtual check-out won’t suffice, TDS are temporarily relaxing the timeframe required to submit the check-out report to four weeks.
This should allow enough time after the tenant has left for any traces of the virus to have left the property.
It is essential that any delay of the return of the tenancy deposit is communicated clearly and agreed with the tenant via email, ideally. This will ensure the landlord has a communication trail that can be audited and used as evidence should a dispute arise.
Clear and comprehensive communication records are essential during Covid-19, as this will help the adjudicator to understand why decisions were made, if a claim is made.
The award-winning customer service team at TDS are answering many questions each day on concerns around check-ins, end of tenancy inspections, deposit disputes and returns, and the deposit cap and rent reductions, to name a few. They are publishing the answers to the webpage regularly and updating answers as government guidance dictates.
TDS advises all parties to visit the webpage regularly for updates. Visit: https://www.tenancydepositscheme.com/covid-19/