Eastenders praised for spotlight on deposit drama

It may be known for its hard-hitting storylines, and far-fetched who-dunnits, but BBC soap Eastenders has been praised for shining the light onto some of the issues facing the PRS.

The soap has recently run a storyline featuring a tenant who has their tenancy terminated by a less-than-savoury landlord. The tenant requested their deposit back, and the landlord stated that they need to carry out a property inspection before handing back the money.

The tenant has seemingly left the property in good shape, however the landlord (in typical Albert Square fashion) was facing financial troubles, and wanted to keep hold of the tenant’s deposit, so had a devious plan up his sleeve to keep hold of the deposit. He deliberately poured coffee over the carpet, before photographing the damage and withholding the deposit until he had priced up the cost of repairs.

The traumatised tenant threatened to expose the sneaky landlord as a rogue, and the ensuing argument resulted in him handing back the full deposit in cash.

The vast majority of landlords look after their tenants and abide by the law, but there’s a small minority who don’t and that can be a problem if tenants are unaware of their rights. Masood (landlord) had a legal obligation to protect Carmel’s (tenant) deposit with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving the money however it’s not clear whether he did in the storyline. These schemes exist to protect tenants from rogue property-owners absconding with or unnecessarily withholding deposits and to give upstanding landlords and lettings agents an impartial adjudication of disputes.If Carmel’s deposit hadn’t been protected, she could have taken legal action against Masood for not complying with deposit protection legislation. Deposit protection schemes give landlords and tenants access to free alternative dispute resolution services, protecting both parties and resolving disagreements without having to go to court. My advice to Carmel would be that she should have carried out her own inspection when she took on her lease, documenting any evidence of existing damage and reporting it to her landlord and keeping relevant records of the correspondence. If an inventory is agreed at the start of a tenancy, disagreements on damages at the end can be avoided. The show is, of course, fictional, but it has a track record for raising issues faced by people across the country which, in part, creates its mass appeal. It’s great that deposit protection issues have been raised and we’d encourage any viewer engaged in the private rented sector to take heed of what their rights and responsibilities are so they don’t find themselves in a similar situation to Carmel and Masood.

Mike Morgan, director of dispute resolution of TDS

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