Deposit protection during the Coronavirus crisis – your questions answered

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the way we live and work. It’s also affecting a range of activities relating to tenancies, deposit protection, and disputes. We’ve gathered together the top questions you’ve been asking and shared our answers below.

 

I'm a landlord/letting agent I'm a Tenant

 

Frequently asked questions from landlords and letting agents

My tenant is having problems paying their rent. Can they use the deposit to pay it before the tenancy ends?

No. If your tenants are having problems paying rent, we recommend you speak to them to discuss their options.

My tenant has decided to leave the property before the end of the tenancy. Can I claim the deposit for rent in lieu of notice?

If you’re sure that the tenant has left permanently and has no intention to return, then you can submit your claim and provide supporting evidence as usual.

 

My tenant is moving in during lock-down. Can I perform an inventory and check-in report?

Moving house is permitted in England and Wales. This means check-in reports can be completed but the inventory clerk or letting agent will need to follow the guidelines on social distancing and working in other people’s homes

The government guidance to letting agents recommends that inventory appointments for check-ins should be arranged while the property is vacant, just before the tenants move in.

You should still give your tenants the opportunity to review the inventory and request any changes they feel should be made. Send them a copy of the inventory, along with any photographs taken, by email or post and ask them to review it within seven days. Make sure you keep a copy of the email you send to the tenants, or proof of posting, so you have a record if a dispute arises. What makes a good inventory?

 

The tenancy is due to end during lock-down. Can I still complete a check-out report? 

Moving house is still permitted in England and Wales.  This means check-out reports can be completed but the inventory clerk or letting agent will need to follow the guidelines on social distancing and working in other people’s homesIf a tenant is self-isolating, they should only move out of the property once the recommended time has passed and they're free of any symptoms.

 

It's also important to give your tenants the opportunity to agree or disagree with the check-out report. Make sure you keep in touch by phone, text or email throughout the process and keep records of any communication you have with your tenants. In the event of a deposit dispute, you’ll need to explain to the adjudicator why the check-out was delayed, and what steps you’ve taken to reach an agreement with the tenant.

 

My tenants are moving out. Is there a time limit on starting the repayment process?

No. There’s no time-limit on starting the repayment process.

 

My incoming tenant wants a professional deep clean to be carried out before they move in because of coronavirus. Can I charge my outgoing tenant for this?

Your outgoing tenant can't be expected to leave the property in a better condition than when they moved in. If a full professional deep clean wasn't carried out before they moved in, they will not be required to have one carried out when they leave.

Guidance issued on 13 May does suggest that landlords may need to carry out cleaning between tenancies to minimise potential spread of the virus before a new tenant moves in. In this situation, the outgoing tenant will not be liable to pay the cost.

 

I need to submit a Statutory Declaration as the tenant hasn’t responded to my claim but I can’t get my Declaration witnessed because of the lockdown. Will you accept my Statutory Declaration without a witness?

The Statutory Declaration process is defined by law and we can’t make changes to this unless instructed to do so by the Government.

Unfortunately, we haven’t received any guidance from the Government allowing us to change the process during the lockdown, so we can’t accept unwitnessed Statutory Declarations for the time being.

 

I need to get quotes from contractors before I submit a claim, but they’re not operating due to lockdown.

The government guidance states that contractors in England will be able to work as long as they follow guidelines on social distancing and working in other people’s homes. This means it's possible for invoices, estimates, quotations and receipts to be obtained. 

For situations where this isn't possible, such as self-isolation, you should estimate costs for repairs or other remedial work to allow the repayment process to progress. You may be able to ask a contractor to provide an estimate on the basis of photographs if they can’t visit the property.

It may also be possible to reference costs from publicly available information, for example the replacement cost of an appliance, fixtures and fittings etc. It’s important to remember that any costs claimed for replacements should reflect the residual value of the item. Adjudicators will take the age and condition of the item at check-in into account when making their decision. Read more on how Adjudicators make their decisions.

 

My gas/electrical safety check is due. Can I still complete this?

Guidance issued by government on 1 June 2020 reiterates the importance of gas safety inspections, and the requirement for them to be kept up to date. If a tenant is not vulnerable, shielding, or self-isolating, the inspection can be carried out under general guidance issued by the government to contractors in respect of working in other people’s homes. If a tenant is vulnerable, shielding or self-isolating, the gas check can be delated until after any self-isolation period has ended. If you are shielding, an inspection or repair should only be carried out if there is a direct gas safety risk that affects the tenant’s safety. Again, the contractor will need to follow the government guidance on working in other people’s homes.

 

I’m unable to comply with dispute evidence deadlines.

Let us know as soon as possible if you’re having difficulties collating your evidence because of lock-down. We will try and agree a new deadline for the submission of evidence. We’ll let you and your tenants know if we have agreed an extension to any deadlines. 

 

I am reducing my tenants' rent or offering a payment holiday. Can I claim any arrears from the deposit when the tenancy ends?

Landlords and agents should be clear that any reduced payment which is offered doesn’t remove the obligation to pay rent, but just defers the payment date. Normal contractual rules still apply. A landlord therefore needs to make sure that if any payment holiday is offered, it's backed up by a very clear email spelling out that the deferred payment is still to be made when the crisis is over. 

 

I protected a tenancy deposit but the tenant didn’t move in due to coronavirus. I want to repay the deposit to them but it’s currently locked due to anti money laundering regulations.

If you have a genuine reason to request deposit repayment within the restricted period, you’ll need to provide us with a copy of the tenancy agreement or other proof of the tenancy. We can remove the restriction if your evidence confirms the tenancy is genuine.

 

Frequently asked questions from Tenants

I’m having problems paying my rent. Can I use my deposit to pay rent before the tenancy ends, or to cover the last month’s rent before I move out?

No. If you’re having problems paying your rent, we recommend you speak to your landlord or letting agent and discuss your options.

 

Did these answer your questions? Take a look at our learning centre for more information on deposit protection or get in touch.