Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tenancy deposit scheme contractors named

Well we now know the companies who are going to run the tenancy deposit protection schemes. From 6 April every landlord who takes a damage deposit will have to be a member of one of these three schemes.

The first is the general custodial scheme. This will be free of charge and open to everyone. The deposits will have to be handed over to the scheme administrators who will hold them until the end of the tenancy (the interest on the money held will pay for the scheme costs). So not very popular with landlords who like to have the deposit handy to use for repair and other work, and also to swell their own bank account. The company running it is to be Computer Investor Services PLC, a large company whose web-site gives little information about the scheme other than a pdf press release.

There are then two ‘insurance backed’ schemes. These are the schemes which will allow the landlord to hang on to the deposit money, so long as he pays an insurance premium (so the company can pay the deposit back to the tenant if the landlord fails to cough up at the end of the tenancy).

The first of these is being run by the Dispute Service Ltd. This is the same company which has been running a (very successful) trial scheme for letting agents for the past year or so. The current scheme is just for agents who are members of ARLA, the NAEA and RICS, but the statutory scheme will be open to other agents and landlords. The chief executive is Lawrence Greenberg who was also in charge of the tenancy deposit scheme trialed by the Independent Housing Ombudsman several years ago, so he is very experienced in this type of work. I note for example that this is the only one of the three companies who will be providing their own arbitration service rather than using the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. I suspect that this scheme will have the least teething problems, in view of their past experience.

Finally there is Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd, which is sponsored by the National Landlords Association and which will be administered by Hamilton Fraser Insurance. I understand that the National Landlords Associations' initiative (which will no doubt help increase their membership) has annoyed greatly some of the other landlords associations. There is a surprising amount of friction and antagonism between the various landlords associations (and sometimes even within individual associations) which is a bit of a shame really, as they all ought to pull together rather than wrangling among themselves. After all no-one else is going to look out for their interests. However it is good to see that at least one of the schemes will have a (no doubt considerable) input from landlords, who will probably ensure that it is run in a landlord friendly manner. I am sure that this scheme will be very popular among landlords.

So there you are. The delegated legislation which will set out the rules and regulations governing how precisely these schemes are to operate has not yet been published, but is expected to be laid before Parliament some time early in the new year.

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