Landlord fined for ‘minor’ deposit error

Judges are getting tough with landlords who make minor errors over the new data protection laws.

The Appeal Court has fined a landlord the maximum of three times the amount of deposit for failing to serve a leaflet about deposit protection on a tenant – even though the information was freely available for download online.

The ruling, which was unreported, is scant on detail but serves as a warning to landlords that if they do not follow deposit protection rules to the letter, they cannot expect any sympathy from the courts.

In this case, the landlord had not given the tenant ‘prescribed information’ as laid out in the Housing (Tenancy Deposits) (Prescribed Information) Order 2007.

This includes the name and contact details of the deposit protection scheme, instructions about disputes and key contact information for the scheme and landlord. This information must be given to the tenant within 30 days of the deposit going on protection.

In Ayannuga v Swindells, the landlord had missed giving some minor details that were available to the tenant elsewhere.

After a while, the tenant built up rent arrears and the landlord attempted to get a possession order from a county court.

The tenant claimed the landlord had failed to observe the terms of the law, but the judge dismissed the claim.

The tenant appealed and the complaint was upheld

Luke Maunder, a property lawyer said: “This case has important implications for residential landlords and residential letting agents.

“It is not uncommon for minor pieces of information to be omitted from the prescribed information, particularly as the act allows it to be produced separately from the tenancy agreement, and some required items instinctively seem less important as the tenant can find it easily elsewhere.

“In this case, the landlord failed to provide details of the procedures to be followed in certain events. Details of the tenancy deposit scheme had been provided, but the omission of the additional information – potentially as simple as including a leaflet provided by the scheme – has cost him thousands.

“The maximum fine is three times the deposit, but the landlord also forfeits the original deposit, so in reality it is four times. As a deposit is usually at least a month’s rent, a small error can be very costly.”

He advised buy to let landlords and letting agents should ensure that they provide all the necessary prescribed information.

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