Prescribed information is information landlords, who have taken a tenancy deposit, need to serve on their tenants about the tenancy deposit protection scheme they have used to protect the deposit money. Plus information about the deposit and the tenancy.
Both the protection of the deposit and the service of the information must be done within 30 days of receipt of the deposit money. Or penalties will apply.
However, it seems that many landlords are still unaware of the need to protect the deposit money! Of those who do protect the deposit money, a significant number are unaware of the need to serve the prescribed information.
So what is the prescribed information?
First, it is important to remember that it is the INFORMATION which is prescribed, not the form. There is no official prescribed information form as such, although there are several forms around that you can use.
The information that needs to be served is set out in regulations. It consists of two types of information:
- Information about your scheme – this is covered in the leaflet which all schemes provide to their landlords for this purpose, and
- Information about your tenancy – the best way to provide this is to use one of the template forms available. Your scheme may provide you with one, otherwise, I have one for my Landlord Law members or you can buy one from law stationers.
One thing which people often leave out is the clause in your tenancy agreement which sets out what items you are entitled to deduct from the deposit money (required by s2(g)(vi) of the regulations).
This won’t be in your certificate but it is pretty crucial. Because if you don’t have such a clause in your tenancy agreement you are not entitled, legally, to make any deductions from the deposit.
This is why it forms part of the information you need to give to the tenant – they need to be able to check what you are entitled to do with their deposit.
What happens if you don’t serve the Prescribed Information?
There are two penalties:
- You are liable to the tenant for a penalty of up to 3x the deposit sum (but the tenants have to sue you to get it), and
- You cannot serve a valid section 21 notice
There is not a lot you can do about the liability for the penalty, other than to deal with the problem promptly so the Judge (should your tenant ever sue you) is more likely to award the 1x penalty rather than the 3x one.
The section 21 problem is more easily solved – in most cases this can be resolved by serving the prescribed information first. Even though it is served late it will still be enough to allow you to serve your section 21 notice. But you need to be sure that you have done it properly as it is likely to be careful scrutinised.
Note however that I am informed that many Judges are taking the view that landlords must refund the deposit money before being entitled to serve a valid section 21 notice where the deposit has been protected and it is just the prescribed information which has not been served. So to avoid potential problems you may prefer to do this.
If you protect your deposit with My Deposits, then because of the way their terms and conditions are drafted, you will also need to refund the deposit money first (unless their terms and conditions have been amended by the time you read this article).
Help for landlords
Landlords can find help and guidance on dealing with this situation via my Landlord Law service.