The DPS makes tenancy deposit protection even easier

We’ve made protecting and returning tenants’ deposits even easier with our latest service enhancements. As well as a new look website which launched successfully this week, we’ve introduced:

› Repayment ID reminders via text message › ‘Organisation’ as a new registration category › Incremental deposit payments › Simplified direct transfer process › Ability to cancel joint repayment claims started in error

The enhancements are part of our ongoing commitment to simplify deposit protection and, more crucially, speed up the repayment process.

Whilst repaying deposits only takes two days once we have agreement from both parties, the biggest barrier is misplaced repayment IDs by both tenants and landlords each month – without these, they cannot start or complete the deposit repayment process.

The latest addition to our SMS service is the fastest way for tenants to receive repayment ID reminders. Tenants simply text us and ask for a repayment ID reminder. We’ll then instantly issue the reminder via return text message. Tenants can only use this service if their mobile number is registered, so it’s important that landlords register the correct mobile number for their tenants.

The enhancements also coincide with our application for a licence to take our considerable experience as the UK's only custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme and apply it to Scotland.

Here’s a little more information on each of the enhancements launched this weekend:

SMS repayment ID reminders Tenants can text The DPS requesting a reminder of their repayment ID. The DPS will instantly issue the reminder via return text message so it is important that landlords ensure a correct mobile phone number is registered for their tenants.

New registration type Organisations such as NHS Trusts, companies or Universities can register deposits as an ‘organisation’ rather than ‘letting agent’ or ‘landlord’, if they do not fall into either of these two categories.

Incremental deposit payments Landlords, letting agents and other organisations can now pay deposits in stages if their tenant is unable to pay the full deposit upfront, or has agreed a payment plan prior to taking the tenancy.

Enhanced direct transfer payment service This enhanced process makes it easier for landlords, letting agents and other organisations to pay for new deposits.

Ability to cancel joint repayments if started in error Previously the requesting party would have had to contact The DPS to rectify any errors, causing delays in getting their deposits back.

Revamped website The new website allows easier navigation to the pages that visitors need to access. Whether the user is already registered and protecting deposits or simply browsing the site, they can quickly access information that is relevant to them with regard to managing deposits or getting help online.

For more information visit our new-look website.

DPS operating company has applied to protect tenancy deposits in Scotland

As you may know, the Scottish Government is introducing legislation that will make it compulsory for all landlords and letting agents in Scotland who take deposits for a relevant tenancy to protect them with a Government approved tenancy deposit scheme. Unlike England and Wales, there won’t be any insurance-based schemes to protect Scottish tenancy deposits. Approved providers will operate custodial schemes – like The DPS – where the money is handed over to the scheme to protect for the duration of the tenancy.

The LPS Scotland – run by the same company as The DPS – has submitted an application to run a scheme and, once approved by the Scottish Government, will be the only provider in Scotland with any experience of running a custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme.

There are some differences in the Scottish requirements to those in England and Wales which we’ll be looking to communicate with our landlords and letting agents with properties in Scotland very soon.

I’m also giving a presentation on 9th November in Edinburgh to introduce the legislation, what it will mean for landlords, letting agents and tenants and how The LPS Scotland will work once approved.

I’ll also talk about our experience of running the DPS in England and Wales and how that knowledge will benefit the running of The LPS Scotland.

If you’re a registered DPS landlord or letting agent with property in Scotland why not come along to find out how it will affect you - email The LPS Scotland to register your interest.

To find out more about The LPS Scotland, visit the website or read the latest blog post:

The Letting Protection Service Scotland (The LPS Scotland) prepares to protect tenancy deposits

You can also follow them on Twitter (@LPS_Scotland).

Tenancy deposit protection amendments proposed by the Localism Bill

At our ADR workshop in Leeds last week I was interested to learn that some of the attendees weren’t aware of the changes proposed by the Localism Bill that will affect tenancy deposit protection under the Housing Act 2004 (the Act). With that in mind I thought it would be useful to summarise them here:

30 days – not 14 – to protect deposits and issue Prescribed Information

Currently the Housing Act requires that landlords/letting agents protect a tenant’s deposit within 14 days from the day it is received – the Localism Bill has proposed that this be amended to 30 days. This will remove landlord’s/agents’ ability to rely on ‘administrative oversight’ for any delay in protection.

The requirement for providing the Prescribed Information to the tenant will also be changed to within 30 days of receipt of the deposit.

Closing the loophole

Following high profile court cases – like Universal Estates v Tiensia late last year – the Localism Bill has proposed a change that will close the loophole regarding the ‘initial requirements’.

Rather than it being mandatory to comply with the ‘initial requirements’ of a tenancy deposit scheme, the proposed change will give tenants the ability to approach a county court to enforce compliance by a landlord with its obligation to protect the deposit and supply the Prescribed Information – where this has not been done – within 30 days of receipt of the deposit.

Protection after the tenancy has ended

If a tenant makes an application to the county court once the tenancy has ended, the landlord will no longer be able to retrospectively protect the deposit in order to comply with the Act.

Currently the courts can order either the repayment of the deposit to the tenant, or the immediate protection of the deposit with a custodial scheme. A new proposed subsection to the Act will ensure that if the tenancy has ended, the only option is for the landlord to repay the deposit, or part thereof, to the tenant.

Revised sanctions for non protection

Currently, if a landlord is required to pay a fine to the tenant for failing to comply with the Act, then the judge has to award three times the amount of the deposit. Under the new proposals the Judge will have discretion to award not less than the amount of the deposit and not more than three times that amount.

Section 21 notices

Section 215 of the Housing Act will also be amended to provide clarity that a section 21 notice may not be given where a deposit has not been protected within the 30 day period under section 213(3) or (6), however this prohibition may be mitigated where:

  • the deposit has been returned to the tenant in full or with such deductions as have been agreed;
  • an application to the county court under section 214 has been made and has been determined by the court or withdrawn or settled between the parties.

The above changes are awaiting Royal Assent; if they’re passed they will come into force in April 2012. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of the Bill and if passed we’ll let you know of any enhancements we’ll implement to stay ahead of the changes.

To familiarise yourselves further with the proposed changes, have a look at the Localism Bill (section 171) and view the amendments against the Housing Act 2004 (sections 213 – 215 are relevant).

There’s now even more to Ask Emma!

I blogged a few months ago about how we had streamlined our customer support services by launching a new ‘Help’ page on the website and the work to enhance those services hasn’t stopped there. Emma, our online virtual agent has now had over 62,000 enquiries and since launch we’ve continued to monitor and develop the information she has at her fingertips so that she can answer all your questions effectively.

Prompted by a few recent enquiries and some of your suggestions, we’ve put some more information at her disposal so she’s now better equipped to answer your questions on:

›       Lost Deposit IDs

›       Registration problems

›       Methods of contacting us

›       Payment referencing

›       Overseas landlords

We’ll continue to update Emma and our other support services with the latest information but we’d like to hear from you too – perhaps there’s an issue that Emma couldn’t help you with? Leave us a comment if you have any feedback for her.

Bogus calls from people claiming to be from The DPS

I wanted to warn you about a bogus phone call that one of our tenants received this week. The tenant in question had been contacted by someone claiming to be from The DPS. The caller told the tenant that he owed The DPS money, and asked that it be paid in to a specific bank account.

Under no circumstances does The DPS ever make phone calls saying that tenants, landlords or letting agents owe us money. Please report any calls like this to your local police authority.

An industry first: dispute resolution guidelines released by the three TDP schemes

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve jointly published a 'Guide to Tenancy Deposits, Disputes and Damages' with the other two deposit protection schemes (my|deposits and TDS)

The new guide outlines the principles on which all three scheme administrator’s adjudicators make decisions so that the process is consistent and transparent for letting agent, landlord and tenant alike; regardless of which scheme you use.

Since 2007, around 47,000 disputes have been settled by our collective alternative dispute resolution processes and whilst we’ve always worked to the same principles, by pooling information on disputes and their eventual outcomes we’ve been able to identify common issues and work together to publish guidelines which cover:

›      How to avoid disputes in the first place

›      How to collate  evidence, and the types of evidence accepted by adjudicators

›      What an adjudicator looks for when considering a dispute

›      How to deal with common problems such as wear and tear.

This is the first time we’ve worked together to publish educational information that’s aimed at landlords, agents and tenants alike and it’s great to have had such positive feedback already.

You can get hold of a copy for free – download it from our website now – and understand for yourself how disputes are adjudicated, potentially helping you avoid these situations in the future.

Click here to download the guide.

Don’t forget important deadlines over the bank holiday period!

With the two bank holiday weekends fast approaching, it is important to stay on top of any deadlines that may occur over this period, particularly if you’ve got a deposit going through ADR or the Single Claim process. Please note that deadlines in respect of the Single Claim process are governed by legislation and cannot be extended.

However, if you think you may experience problems with meeting your ADR deadline, email and let us know. Please remember to contact us before your deadline expires, not afterwards!

Our office will be closed over the bank holiday periods but you will still be able to contact us via email which we’ll respond to during normal office hours.

Two million tenants protected by The DPS

We’re heading into our fifth year of operation and since we launched back in April 2007 we’ve safeguarded the deposits of more than 2 million tenants! Since launch, we’ve protected deposits totalling £1.1 billion on behalf of 20,000 letting agents and 250,000 landlords and currently we’re protecting 720,000 deposits worth £550 million.

It’s great to see so many tenants, landlords and agents in England, Wales and even Scotland choosing to safeguard their tenant’s deposits with us; it’s particularly pleasing as we didn’t have an existing member base when we started up in 2007.

As the scheme has grown we’ve concentrated on enhancing our service to make deposit protection as easy as possible. We’ve introduced more online functionality, a facility for tenants to check whether their deposits have been protected, SMS reminders and, most recently, our online service agent ‘Emma’ who’s been working hard with over 15,000 requests since launch.

In order to keep you up to date with all the changes and make sure you know what’s required of you, over the last year we’ve:

›       Sent 85,000 text messages reminding tenants to reclaim deposits

›       Sent 400 Tweets

›       Written 50 blog posts

›       Held 4 ADR workshops for landlords and letting agents

›       Recorded 1 podcast with Landlord Law

It’s vital to keep awareness up, particularly at the moment when we’re in the midst of a private rental sector boom and more home owners are finding themselves thrust into the role of reluctant landlord and even more people are forced to rent as they’re priced out of the market.

We’re still registering around 200 new landlords a day though, so I’m confident the message is hitting home.

Automated replacement repayment IDs are here

You can now request a replacement repayment ID over the phone and have it emailed or posted to you instantly, without needing to talk to one of our agents. 23% of enquiries we receive are for replacement repayment IDs, so to speed up the process and reduce your call times, we’ve updated our Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, adding an option to request a replacement repayment ID.

The new service went live last night so now, if you call 0844 4727 000, you can select the first option to request a reminder 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – so no need to wait for your laptop to load up or until you can speak to an advisor.

In order to validate your request over the phone you’ll need to enter either your deposit ID and the deposit amount or your registered phone number, so make sure you have these to hand before calling; once validated, the reminder will be sent to you instantly via email or post, depending on the details held on your account.

This service will soon be available via SMS messaging – I’ll keep you posted.

Emma proves very popular

Our new online service agent, Emma, has been busy since she launched a little under 3 weeks ago. Emma has already received over 13,500 requests for help from our customers.

The most frequently asked questions are:

›       I want a repayment ID (10%)

›       How do I reclaim my deposit (8%)

›       How do I access my online account (6%)

We’re constantly monitoring these requests to gauge whether the information available is meeting our customers’ needs and we’re continually enhancing the service to ensure all enquiries can be answered.

If you have a question about The DPS, why not Ask Emma today?

Meet Emma, our new virtual agent on hand to answer all your questions

We’re continually assessing our customer support functionality and content to ensure it’s efficient, up to date and providing you with the best possible service, and it’s now even easier to find the answer to your enquiry with the help of our new virtual agent Emma. You can ask Emma anything relating to The DPS and she will return the most appropriate answer based on the information you have provided.

If you need further information or clarification on any of your questions, Emma will offer more options or direct you to our online contact form which, once submitted, will be sent directly to our Operations team who’ll respond as quickly as possible.

In addition and in order to streamline our support channels, we’ve created a new ‘Help’ page on the website where you can find all our online customer support. This ensures that you can find the answer to your question quickly, without the need to call or email us; enabling you to efficiently self-manage your tenancies.

On our new ‘Help’ page, you’ll find:

Ask Emma Our new virtual agent, on hand to answer all your DPS questions

Quick Links A list of our most common enquiries – click the relevant action to be taken straight to the right page.

Frequently Asked Questions Our extensive list of FAQs are an alternative to Ask Emma and address 90% of all enquiries – if the answer to your question is not there, you’ll be directed to an online form which is sent directly to our Operations team.

Glossary People are often confused by all the tenancy deposit protection jargon, this list of terms and phrases relating to deposit protection and our service will help.

Contact Us If you need to write to us, or call us, you’ll find our details here.

Whether you’re an existing customer with an enquiry, you’re looking to register with the scheme or simply have a question for us, our ‘Help’ page is the best place to start!

And coming soon – instant repayment ID reminders! The most common request on a daily basis is for repayment ID reminders. To ensure that you’re sent this reminder as quickly as possible, we’ve automated it so that as soon as you make the request via phone or online form, a repayment ID reminder email will be dispatched to you immediately without the need to speak to anybody.

We’ll let you know as soon as this is available.

The DPS enhances FAQs

I’m excited about the enhancements we’re making to our customer service channels – this week sees the introduction of our new, improved FAQ section of the website. Following your feedback, we’ve worked to streamline the FAQs so that they walk you through the topic of your choice and direct you to the most relevant answer intuitively. We’ve also added in yet more areas of information and have segmented by customer type (landlord/letting agent/tenant) so that you get to the answer you need as quickly as possible.

If you can’t find the answer you’re after, you’ll reach a ‘contact us’ form which prompts you for key information about your query, which will help us to answer you as fast as possible. If the question you’re looking for a response on is answered in the FAQs, we’ll send you the link to that answer by return so that you know where to find it for future reference.

I wanted to make sure that you knew that as well as the front office service that you get from us, we have a continuous improvement programme behind the scenes which ensures that we’re always looking for ways to improve what we deliver.

I’ll keep you informed of other plans we have afoot in due course!