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Deposit protection for joint tenants

Tenancy deposit protection schemes have been operating in Northern Ireland for just over a year.  The summer months in Northern Ireland are always a busy time for tenancy changeovers, particularly in college towns where large numbers of students live.  With this in mind, it’s important to understand how deposit protection works for joint tenants.

26 June 2014
  • Deposit

Lead tenants in joint tenancies

If the tenancy agreement is a joint agreement, the deposit for the property is regarded as one deposit, even if it is composed of individual payments from different tenants. Each tenant’s individual deposit will not be protected independently.     

All tenants will have to agree to appoint one of their number to act as the lead tenant. This lead tenant will be responsible for all communication relating to the deposit.  The lead tenant is the only tenant who can ask the deposit scheme administrator to adjudicate if the tenants disagree with the landlord’s decision to withhold some or all of their deposit.

When a landlord protects the deposit in a scheme, he or she will give the lead tenant’s name to the deposit scheme administrator and confirm that the other tenants have all agreed to the appointment of the lead tenant.

What happens if the lead tenant has to leave?

The landlord can appoint a new lead tenant, as long as all the other tenants have agreed to this. If the tenants want to change the lead tenant, they’ll have to ask the landlord to organise this.  The landlord can nominate one of the other original joint tenants to be the new lead tenant and will have to confirm that all tenants have agreed to this change.

What happens at the end of the tenancy?

When a tenancy ends, the landlord will normally make a proposal to the scheme explaining what the scheme should do with the deposit money.  A copy of this proposal will be sent to the tenants.  The lead tenant has 30 working days to respond to this proposal.

If the scheme hasn’t received a response from the lead tenant within 15 working days, they will write to the other tenants offering them the opportunity to appoint a new lead tenant.

Do all tenants get an equal share of the money back?

The landlord’s repayment proposal can specify that different amounts be returned to different tenants.  This could happen if one tenant is solely responsible for damage to the property. 

The lead tenant can dispute

  • the amount returned and
  • how the amount has been divided between tenants.

If the lead tenant accepts the amount but disagrees with how it has been split, the deposit scheme administrator will divide the returned money equally between all tenants. 

What happens if the lead tenant doesn’t return the money to the other tenants?

At the end of the tenancy the money is paid into an account specified by the lead tenant.  It is then up to the lead tenant to ensure that all other tenants receive their fair share of the deposit money.

If a lead tenant does not return the money to the other tenants, they may have to take legal action against the lead tenant in Small Claims Court.  It is essential that all the other tenants in the property have a forwarding address for their lead tenant.

Deposit protection in Northern Ireland

Only three companies are authorised to provide deposit protection services in Northern Ireland.  They are:

  • TDS Northern Ireland
  • My Deposits NI and
  • the Letting Protection Service

A landlord must give tenants information about the scheme he or she is using to protect the tenants’ deposit within 28 days of this money being paid over.  The scheme leaflet should explain the exact procedures tenants need to follow to get their money back at the end of the tenancy.

TDS NI has produced a useful guide, explaining exactly how it deals with joint tenancies