Rent Deposit Scheme - Information for Landlords

The Rent Deposit Scheme is operated by the Housing Advice and Homelessness service to assist people to whom the council owes a duty towards, to access the private rented sector who would otherwise be denied because they can’t afford the start up costs.

We do this by:

  • Providing a guaranteed deposit equivalent to one or two month’s rent
  • Allowing the deposit to be used to cover any damage and/or rent arrears
  • Providing a fast-tracking service if the tenant has a Housing Benefit claim
  • Referring tenants to you without charging a ‘finder’s fee’
  • Assisting with inventories and tenancy agreements without charge
  • Providing ongoing support to both parties throughout the tenancy where appropriate
  • Good market rents
  • Longer term lets

The primary objective of the scheme is to help prevent homelessness throughout the Borough, and it is offered to all private landlords, but only to tenants who have been proposed by the Council’s homeless officers.  The scheme does not manage your property or tenancy for you.

Health and Safety standards to be met

The landlord must provide (this list is subject to change):

  • Gas safety certificate, issued within the preceding 12 months
  • Periodic electrical inspection certificate, issued within past 5 years
  • Portable appliance test certificate in respect of any electrical appliances supplied for the intended use of the tenant
  • Energy performance certificate
  • Declaration that all soft furnishings supplied by the landlord to tenants complies with the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) Regulations 1988

The following fire precautions are to be provided:

  • The escape route should be of sound, conventional construction and should not pass through risk rooms (e.g. kitchen or living room)
  • Doors must be sound, well constructed and close-fitting (fire doors are not required)
  • Walls and floors should be of sound, conventional construction
  • Grade D, LD3 fire detection and alarm system i.e.: Interlinked, mains wired smoke alarms with integral battery back-up located in the escape route at ground and first floor levels, with Additional interlinked smoke alarms with integral battery back-up located in any cellar
  • Fire blanket to be provided in the kitchen

The property should be in a good state of repair, free from hazards and with no evidence of dampness or mould growth.

All amenities to be in proper working order

N.B. It is not possible to cover all potential hazards and it is, therefore, essential that, in any individual case, the opinion of an environmental health officer is sought if there is any doubt about the suitability of the property for occupation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How quickly could the tenant move in? A meeting is arranged with yourself or letting agent representative, the prospective tenant and the Council officer at the property, to complete the paperwork. This can be arranged within a week of receiving the initial property details.

Should I let furnished or unfurnished?  It’s your decision. If you let the property furnished, you would probably be able to let it sooner. However, there would be ‘wear and tear’ on your furnishings, and you legally can’t claim on a deposit for wear and tear. However, the Inland Revenue allows you to deduct 10% of the net annual rental income as an allowable expense when you let a furnished property. If you do let furnished then you should ensure fire safety regulations are adhered to on all items including sofas, mattresses etc. It is also recommended that all portable appliances are PAC tested.

Even if you let unfurnished, most tenants would require the use of white goods such as fridge/ freezer, cooker, washing machine, floor coverings, carpets and curtains.

Who will receive the Housing benefit – me or my tenant?  The starting point is that Housing Benefit will be paid to the tenant who will then pay the rent to the landlord as and when it becomes due. It is not possible to demand Housing Benefit be paid to the landlord directly without providing good reasons for doing so however the vast majority of cases that come through the Rent Deposit Scheme will be eligible for direct payments to the landlord as the opinion of the Housing Advice and Homelessness department falls as a good reason.

If the Housing Benefit is paid to the tenant and the rent is not forwarded in accordance with the tenancy agreement then you should inform the Council immediately so arrangements for the following payments to be made to you can be arranged.

Housing Benefit have asked me to repay money that I was owed in rent, do I have to repay this? Housing Benefit rules changed in April 2006 to minimise the circumstances in which an overpayment of Housing Benefit is recoverable directly from the landlord. This can now only happen in the following limited circumstances:

  • Where the landlord knew they were being overpaid but failed to tell the HB Office eg HB amount exceeds rent, or where HB continues in payment for a tenant that the landlord is aware has left
  • Where HB is paid past tenancy termination date
  • Where HB is paid past death of tenant

What exactly does the deposit cover? It DOES cover:

  • Damage – as confirmed by reference to the inventory held at the Council
  • Missing items – as confirmed by reference to the inventory held at the Council
  • Rent arrears – as confirmed by your rent accounts and proof as required by the agreements terms, and not disputed by proof from the tenant
  • Loss of rent - as a result of the tenant leaving without bringing the tenancy to a proper end (e.g. by not giving the proper notice)

It DOES NOT cover:

  • Any damage or missing items which cannot be confirmed by the inventory
  • Interest or fines charged on late payments
  • Any rent arrears if not proven beyond reasonable doubt
  • Any gardening costs
  • Fair Wear and Tear
  • Any losses in excess of the Scheme amount

NB. Landlords and tenants in the past have not always provided sufficient documentary support of their claim. We will always act fairly towards both the landlord and the tenant, and in all cases the decision of the Principal Advice & Homelessness Officer will be final.

What is ‘Fair Wear and Tear’? ‘Fair Wear and Tear’ has been defined by the House of Lords as: ‘reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces (i.e. a passage of time)’. The Association of Residential Letting Agents provide more information on how to judge what could be considered fair wear and tear.

What happens if I want the tenant to leave? You must provide the tenant with a valid notice to quit. This will usually provide at least two months notice of your intention to possess the property. You must provide a copy of this notice to the Council.

Will the Council advise the tenant that I require a possession order from the Court? The Council looks at each case on an its merits and where adequate notice of your intention to possess the property has been provided a possession order will not normally be required. However we cannot guarantee that we will re-house the tenant or that the tenant will agree to leave the property voluntarily and in such cases due process must be followed which may involve obtaining a possession order and subsequently a warrant for eviction.

Related pages

Rent Deposit Scheme - information for tenants

Homelessness Strategy

Contact

Housing Advice and Homelessness
Stevenage Borough Council
Daneshill House
Danestrete
Stevenage
Herts
SG1 1HN

01438 242242
housing.advice@stevenage.gov.uk