Ulster Unionist Social Development spokesperson, Michael Copeland MLA, has criticised Minister Nelson McCausland for failing to smoothly introduce the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. The Scheme is due to come into operation over the next number of months, however significant concerns have developed as to how it will be implemented, as well as a failure to adequately consult upon the proposals with landlords.
The East Belfast MLA said:
“In January 2012, the Ulster Unionist Party brought forward a motion in the Assembly calling for a Tenancy Deposit Scheme to be introduced in Northern Ireland. Such a scheme would give protection to people living in private rented properties by ensuring their deposits are only used within clearly defined guidelines. The dispute service would be free and the schemes would apply to anyone who lets property and receives a deposit. It would also provide landlords with a mechanism in which their decisions could be independently verified and therefore provide tenants with the confidence that what they are being charged is both fair and justified. It would also rectify an unfairness which has unfortunately been allowed to develop between here and the rest of the United Kingdom over recent years.
We urged the Minister of Social Development to have a scheme in place by September 2012 to offer protection for that year’s intake of students but unfortunately he failed to do so and what we are now seeing is him pushing it at through at the last minute amidst huge concern from landlords.
It is deeply regrettable that now, having previously delayed laying the regulations for so long, the Department is now finding that it has failed to effectively communicate the proposals with the wider housing sector. Landlords have contacted me expressing concerns about everything from the tight deadlines to what they consider excessive penalties – often 3 times the original value of the deposit.
I am glad that a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, a longstanding Ulster Unionist Call, is now within sight, but the Department have clearly failed to communicate with and convince all key stakeholders. Worryingly, the Department is running out of time to put this right.”