Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Dispute Service Annual Report

The Dispute Service have published their annual report, which can be downloaded from their web-site (a direct link is here) and it makes interesting reading. I list below the points which struck me.

Generally it looks as if the service has been under some strain during the year, due partly to the increase in tenancies covered and partly due to a huge increase in deposit disputes. Interestingly the report states that the majority of the disputes come from a small number of agents, which, they say, is going to be reflected in the subscriptions (presumably to the offending companies).

The case of Harvey v. Bamford (reported on this blog here) caused them some concern, resulting in a chance of their terms and conditions to reinforce the requirement for landlords and agents to both protect the deposit and serve the notice on tenants within 14 days of receipt of the deposit money. Which, they say was the intention of the act.

There is some discussion of the insolvencies among a few unregulated agencies, which between them resulted in lost deposits of over half a million pounds. The result of this was an increase in premiums and the withdrawal of cover from unregulated agents (reported on this blog here). Apparently half of the agents affected joined NALS and so were able to continue their membership.

There has been a massive increase in deposit disputes in the past year. This was not entirely unexpected, although the number is higher than anticipated, and has caused TDS problem. The report suggests that agents should make more effort to resolve these, rather than just passing the decision on to TDS. The majority of the disputes appear to be about standards of cleaning. TDS has suggested that tenants be given a list of approved cleaners so that if one of these firms are used, the tenants will not be held responsible if the level of cleanliness is subsequently criticised.

Even though all of TDS membership is now presumably regulated agents (save for a few landlords) it is surprising (or perhaps not) that the report complains about poor reporting and documentation provided by agent members. As many landlords will attest, even being a member of a professional organisation does not appear to give any standard of quality.

The report ends with a selection of interesting arbitration cases, which are worth reading.

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