Is prescribed information really that important?

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If you are a landlord there are over 100 pieces of legislation which might affect you, according to the Residential Landlords Association.

The majority of landlords let only one property, and not all use a letting agent so navigating your way through the myriad of rules and regulations is no easy task.

Deposit protection has to be a top priority for landlords, but the associated paperwork, ‘prescribed information’, must not slip through the net – and this is why.

Is prescribed information really that important?

In brief, yes. Prescribed information is the written details of how and where the deposit is protected, and how the tenancy deposit scheme works. It must be served within 30 days of receiving the deposit, and even if you protect the deposit correctly landlords face the same penalties for not serving prescribed information:

  • Compensation to the tenant of between 1 and 3 times the deposit value.
  • The return of the deposit in full.  
  • Not being able to evict a tenant using a Section 21 notice until the section 21 has been served

The Court of Appeal confirmed that prescribed information is just as important as protecting the deposit, not just paperwork on the side. In Ayannuga v Swindells it found nothing in the legislation to say it is any less important, or subject to any lesser penalty, than the protection of the deposit itself. The landlord argued PI to be a point of procedure and that his tenant was at no real disadvantage for not having receiving it.

To serve or not to serve? The end of the Superstrike Saga

If you were protecting deposits during 2013/14 you will know about the controversial court case Superstrike v Rodrigues, where it was implied that new PI was needed whenever a fixed term tenancy continued on a periodic basis even if all other circumstances remained the same. This caused consternation; why does a tenant need new paperwork if it’s just the same as before?

There is a lot on the internet about Superstrike but don’t get distracted. Thankfully, the Deregulation Act cleared things up earlier this year. Now, when your fixed term tenancy ends and your tenants continue to live in the property on a renewed tenancy (including a statutory periodic) you do NOT need to serve new prescribed information if;

  • The property remains the same;
  • The tenant(s) remain the same;
  • The landlord(s) remain the same;
  • The deposit protection scheme used remains the same.

 This was very good news for landlords and agents. The focus of prescribed information is back on its real purpose – not just another piece of procedure, but ensuring tenants know their rights regarding their deposit money.

Prescribed information top tips

  • Always make sure prescribed information has been served within 30 days of receiving the deposit. If you miss the deadline, still issue it as soon as possible but you may still receive a penalty for late service.
  • Use the template form provided by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. The TDS template corresponds directly to requirements of the legislation so you can be confident you’re complying.
  • Including PI as part of the tenancy agreement is a useful way to be sure the tenant has received it.
  • Not sure if you need to serve PI? If in doubt, serve. Too much paperwork is better than not enough – otherwise you could face serious penalties.
  • Remember! Prescribed information is incomplete without the scheme leaflet ‘What is the Tenancy Deposit Scheme?’.
  • Remember! ‘Relevant persons’ must also receive prescribed information – a relevant person is anybody that has paid the deposit on the tenant’s behalf.

Posted by on 13 August 2015

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