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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Tenancy deposits: more protection needed

In 2013, Northern Ireland followed the rest of the UK in introducing a statutory tenancy deposit scheme. The aim of the Scheme is to protect tenants’ deposits through an independent Scheme Provider.

Whilst the Scheme has been a very positive development in the protection of tenants’ money, there are a number of issues which have come to the attention of Housing Rights through enquiries to its advice line.

Inadequate level of protection

Housing Rights continues to get many calls from clients whose deposits have not been protected. We find it disappointing that this is still a common occurrence more than 2 years after the legislation came into force. Housing Rights believes that the DSD should consider taking further action to raise the profile of deposit protection and work with local councils to ensure that they are fully carrying out their enforcement functions.

Failure to protect should be an ongoing offence

Although local councils have the authority to pursue landlords who have not protected a deposit, it is generally the case that they are unable to do so where the matter is referred to them after 6 months of the deposit having been paid. The Magistrates’ Court has previously ruled that Section 19 of the Magistrates’ Court (NI) Order 1981 time-bars an action taken after the 6 months. Housing Rights believes that the relevant authorities need to look at amending this piece of legislation to ensure that the intention of the Scheme is fully realised in practice.

Repayment of a non-protected deposit

The current Regulations do not provide for the repayment of a non-protected deposit even if the matter reaches court. Clearly this is a serious gap in the legislation and needs urgent attention. Housing Rights believes that the Regulations should be reviewed so that a court can rule for a tenant’s deposit to be repaid.

Retrospective protection

At present the Regulations only protect deposits paid on or after 1 April 2013. However, there are many tenants who have paid a deposit prior to this date who continue to live in the accommodation to which the deposit relates. Housing Rights believes that all private tenants, regardless of when they paid their deposit, should be afforded the same protection.

Adjudication decisions

Dispute resolution is a key part of the Scheme. Housing Rights believes that the wording of the legislation should be reviewed so as to ensure certainty regarding the status of adjudicators’ decisions.

Housing Rights Briefing Paper

Housing Rights recently produced a briefing paper on the Scheme which highlighted what improvements are needed in order to give all private tenants the same level of protection for their deposits. It also looked at lessons which can be learnt from other jurisdictions.

Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Policy, Landlord

This article was written on 25 November 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.