This article has been written in response to a landlord’s query: “I want to raise a dispute, but my tenant cannot be contacted – what should I do?”
In the modern property market, tenancy lengths can vary anywhere from a few months to years. This can be good news for landlords benefitting from long term security with tenants in situ, but with longer length tenancies you may find that you struggle to contact the tenant as the tenancy is reaching its conclusion or once the tenants move out. The reason this may happen is that the longer the term of the tenancy, the more chance there is of mobile numbers and email addresses changing. Contacting the tenants at the end of a tenancy is a crucial part of the deposit return protest as you may need to discuss any proposed deductions.
Preparation at the beginning of a tenancy can help avoid being left in the lurch, with no means of contacting your tenant. We recommend ensuring you have contact information for all of the tenants, including an email address and mobile number as well as an alternative contact number. You should also take a forwarding address to use once the tenancy has ended and the tenant has moved out. This will allow the deposit holder to be able to discuss the return of the deposit with the tenant and TDS to contact them in the event of a dispute. During the tenancy, when arranging periodic inspections of your property, you could incorporate some follow up questions for example asking if the mobile number and email address on file are still accurate.
With the TDS Insured scheme, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, as to the return of the deposit, either party can raise a dispute with TDS and ask us to adjudicate. If you reach the end of a tenancy and find you have no means of contacting the tenant, by law TDS are unable to adjudicate. If the missing party cannot be contacted within 3 months; either party can claim the disputed deposit by going through court. Alternatively, if the deposit holder cannot contact the tenant (or landlord), the deposit should be transferred to a suitable client account as the tenant is able to re-appear and go to court for up 6 years after the tenancy has ended.
Within the TDS Custodial scheme, we require an email address or mobile number for a tenant when the deposit is registered which allows us to engage with the tenant. If we are only provided with a mobile number, we will text and write to the tenant to confirm their deposit is protected and encourage them to activate their account so they can raise/respond to a payment request at the end of their tenancy. This process helps to avoid situations where a tenant (or landlord) is uncontactable and the deposit cannot be paid to the appropriate parties.
TDS can accept a dispute as long as we have the means to contact all parties, if letters are returned or emails bounce back as undeliverable, we cannot adjudicate as the party is then uncontactable.
If you have the contact information for your tenant and they choose not to respond, this is a different situation to an uncontactable tenant. In the event that either party receives, but does not reply to our notification, they are then treated as consenting and the dispute can progress to an adjudicator.
In the TDS Custodial scheme, if you raise a repayment request and the other party does not respond within 30 days, you can then complete a statutory declaration form which must be signed by a Solicitor, Notary or equivalent individual. We will send your application and evidence to the other party, who have 14 days to respond. If after this period we receive no response, we will then pay you the amount of deposit you have claimed. Should the party respond and disagree with your claim we will then resolve the dispute through our dispute resolution process.
The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; we offer both insured and custodial protection. We also provide fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.