New scheme announced to settle landlord and tenant deposit disputes
A new scheme announced today by Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland will focus on solving the issue of deposit disputes between tenants and landlords in the Northern Ireland private rental sector.
In a first for Northern Ireland the scheme – known as the Tenancy Deposit Scheme – will take effect from April 1st 2013 and will involve an independent third party holding on to cash deposits and mediating in any conflicts between a tenant and landlord.
Speaking about the scheme, Minister McCausland said, “Tenants across Northern Ireland can now be afforded the same protection as those in Great Britain.
“This scheme will provide assurances for tenants and protection for landlords helping to minimise long drawn out legal proceedings and disputes.
“Return of tenant deposits is an issue I hear of time and time again and I’m pleased that Northern Ireland citizens can now be reassured their money is safe.
He added, “The new scheme will encourage a more professional approach to tenancy deposit practice, minimise disputes and go some way to improving the sector’s reputation as a desirable option.”
Local SDLP Councillor Connaire McGreevy welcomed the scheme, describing it as ‘mutually beneficial’ for tenants and landlords. “Having a third party who acts as a referee should a dispute arise between parties is preferable to what prevailed before.
“The protection afforded by the scheme will go some way to improve confidence in the private rental market. These improvements will assist people not only on benefits but also students from our area staying in Belfast or elsewhere who can sometimes encounter difficulties with the private rental sector.
McGreevy added, “The scheme will also help give people whose rented homes have been repossessed, some recourse to get their deposits back and therefore find somewhere else to live.
“It is important to stress that the majority of landlords are not unscrupulous and many go above and beyond their responsibilities to tenants. This scheme simply insures greater protection for both tenant and landlord.”
Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Chris Hazzard MLA also welcomed the scheme. “It is important that the rights of tenants are protected and while the majority of landlords are responsible there are those who abuse their position and penalise their tenants without due cause.
“The private rented sector has moved from being a small cog in the provision of housing to the social rented sector to being the largest provider, regulation is essential to protect people who chose this sector to live.
“The independent panel set up under this scheme will give tenants confidence that their deposit will be returned providing they meet the terms of their agreement.
Hazzard added, “Given the draconian charges being brought forward by the British Tory Government in terms of the bedroom tax many more people, especially young people will be forced into private accommodation so the extension of this legislation to the North has to be welcomed.”
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