Trading Standards has approved a new alternative dispute resolution body for the private rental sector.
It’s The Dispute Service Ltd, and it has now been authorised by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute to help resolve tenancy deposit complaints regarding rented property from one of its tenancy deposit scheme members.
A statement from the CTDSI says that tenants who feel they’ve reached a dead end with their complaint with their landlord or letting agent can contact the body via an online form, an email, by post or telephone to ask it to take up their grievance, so long as the landlord or agent is a member of one of its tenancy deposit schemes.
The Dispute Service Ltd - a not-for-profit company - has operated several statutory tenancy deposit protection schemes in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for many years.
As part of the overall service, agents, landlords and tenants have access to free dispute resolution for disputes about the deposit distribution at the tenancy’s end. The Dispute Service Ltd also runs mediation and conciliation services for tenants and landlords who need help resolving a broad range of issues during a tenancy.
The Dispute Service Ltd has now sought – and gained – approval for the scheme to be an approved ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ body.
Since 2015, legislation has required UK traders to inform consumers of an approved ADR body to help consumers resolve their complaints, if they’ve already been through their own customer service procedure.
Andy Allen of the CTSI - which is the official ADR auditing and awarding body - says: “The media is full of stories about a potential buy to let exodus of landlords selling properties, therefore renters have enough worries on their plates to contend with.
“So this announcement couldn’t be more timely for renters; it’s good for them to know that there is some help out there to assist with tenancy deposit disputes.
“We all rely on a roof over our heads for every aspect of our lives – our work, our families and our leisure time – so it’s important that if we rent somewhere to live, we want this process to be problem-free.
“So as a tenant, if you become embroiled in a dispute over how your deposit should be repaid, you will certainly recognise that moving house is acknowledged as one of the most stressful things we can do. Whilst many tenancies can go smoothly, the internet is also peppered with stories about things that go wrong.
“CTSI is pleased to see the Dispute Service Limited becoming an approved ADR body for its tenancy deposit schemes. It is joining an expanding ADR environment and we hope that other organisations will continue to set up such schemes or have existing schemes approved.”
The Housing Act 2004 requires landlords and letting agents in England and Wales to protect tenants’ deposits on assured shorthold tenancies. The Dispute Service Ltd provides several tenancy deposit protection schemes in England and Wales. It also provides schemes for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
This ADR service can only deal with disputes about a deposit protected by one of its tenancy deposit schemes where a landlord or letting agent wants to make a deduction from the tenant’s deposit.
It cannot resolve cases which involve justifying what’s known as a ‘set-off’ – that is, where for example the tenant says they withheld rent because repairs were not carried out. No fee will be applied to either the renter, landlord or agent.
Alison MacDougall, director of resolution at The Dispute Service Ltd, says: “We have been operating a free ADR service for tenants, agents and landlords in the private rented sector for a number of years and deal with over 20,000 disputes a year, helping tenants move on to their next property and landlords address any issues for future tenants.”
Disputes which can be considered under this ADR scheme include claims for are cleaning; damage; redecoration; gardening; and rent arrears.
Exclusions include where a legally-binding decision has already been made by another ADR service or court; disputes which are being pursued unreasonably, or are frivolous or vexatious; in certain cases, where the dispute is raised more than three months after the end of the tenancy.
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