04 June 2014
New regulations designed to protect tenants’ deposits have been lodged by the Housing Minister, Deputy Andrew Green.
The Draft Residential Tenancy (Deposit Scheme) (Jersey) Regulations will remove the risk of deposits being withheld unfairly by landlords following the end of a residential tenancy agreement and provide a simple framework for landlords and tenants to manage deposits.
The aims of the tenancy deposit scheme are to:
- reduce the number of unfairly withheld deposits
- ensure deposits are kept safe throughout the period of a tenancy
- ensure deposits are returned swiftly and fairly, particularly if a dispute arises
- encourage continued improvements in property management standards.
Deputy Green said that while the majority of the Island’s landlords behaved professionally and responsibly and retained deposits only when they needed to do so, a minority did act unfairly towards their tenants.
“It is reasonable for landlords to retain some or all of a deposit when it is needed to repair damage caused during a tenancy, for example, or to cover unpaid bills or rent arrears. However, a minority do cause difficulties for their tenants and in doing so have a negative impact on their welfare and financial circumstances, which also impacts on the perception of the wider private rental sector,” he said.
If approved, the new regulations will introduce a scheme under which landlords pass on deposits paid by tenants to be held by an independent third-party for the duration of a tenancy, giving tenants greater confidence that the money they have paid is being held securely and will be repaid smoothly at the end of an agreement.
Deputy Green said that an important feature of the new regulations was the provision of a free and independent dispute resolution service to assist when landlords and tenants were unable to agree over the return of a deposit.
Currently, the only way of challenging the retention of deposits is through legal action and, though both landlords and tenants will still be able to pursue disputes through the Court if they wish, it is anticipated that the new deposit scheme will encourage more people to come forward with genuine disputes over the return of deposit money.
“These regulations provide the basis for a scheme which supports and encourages both landlords and tenants to handle deposits and the agreements responsibly from the outset,” said Deputy Green.
The Minister will also introduce compulsory property condition reports later in the year to ensure that there is an accurate account of the condition of the property at the beginning and end of each tenancy agreement, which will further assist when returning deposit money.
The regulations are part of a continuing programme of work being undertaken by the Strategic Housing Unit based within the Chief Minister’s Department which is modernising the statutory framework for the residential rental sector in Jersey.