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What the dispute service statistical briefing tells us about the PRS in 2020

Friday 04 December 2020

TDS looks at The Dispute Service, latest Statistical Briefing for 2019-2020, which includes information about the growth of the private rented sector (PRS) and data on tenancy deposit disputes in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

As the industry’s trusted Statistical Briefing, data is collated from a variety of external sources including Freedom of Information (FOI) alongside unseen data gathered in-house by The Dispute Service. This year’s report features insights on:

  • Tenancy deposits protected throughout the UK
  • Tenancy disputes – who raises disputes and why?
  • Tenure

Tenancy deposits rise showing industry growth

In England and Wales, deposits taken on Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST’s) must be protected in a Government approved tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. Tenancy deposit protection legislation came into force in April 2007 and over the years there has been a steady increase in the number of tenancy deposits protected, reflecting the increase in the size of the private rented sector. 

Over the 12 months from March 2019, deposit protections in England and Wales increased from 3.9 million deposits to over 4.1 million at the end of March 2020. It will be interesting to see the impact of the pandemic over the next period, which will be featured in the Dispute Service’s next statistical review.

Deposit disputes down

Despite the rise of deposit protections in the last year, there has been a small decrease in disputes with 34,993 in 2019-20 compared to 35,513 in the previous year. To put that in perspective, alongside the number of deposits protected the rate of disputes is well below one per cent.

Who raises disputes and why?

The report reveals who raises the most disputes between tenants, agents, and landlords.

TDS allows agents, landlords, and tenants to raise disputes within its insured scheme. Disputes in the custodial scheme, however, arise because the parties are unable to reach an agreement during the repayment process and are not specifically raised by one party.

In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of disputes raised by tenants. In the year to March 2020, this has continued to rise from 67.4 per cent in the previous year to 74 per cent.

The data also shows why disputes are raised across England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

Unsurprisingly, cleaning was the top reason for deposit disputes, just as it has been in previous years, with 42 per cent of disputes involving cleaning issues. This was closely followed by damage to property (41 per cent) and redecoration costs (39 per cent).

By understanding why disputes arise, TDS hopes that landlords, letting agents, and tenants can take measures to avoid common issues occurring. To help, the scheme has provided a collection of real-life dispute case studies, guides, and adjudicator insights on its website. The resources are freely available below.

TDS Information Lounge

enure in the Private Rented Sector grows in Wales and Northern Ireland

Tenure in the private rented sector in England dipped from 4.83 million homes in 2016 to an estimated 4.81 million homes in 2018. However, the private rented sector remains larger than the social rented sector which, in comparison, was an estimated 4.087 million in 2018, a decrease from 4.3 million homes in 2001.

The number of owner-occupied homes in England showed an increase from 14.73 million homes in 2001 to 15.277 million homes in 2018. A similar picture emerges in Wales showing the rapid growth of the private rented sector, from 90,000 homes in 2001 to 204,000 in 2018. In comparison, the social rented sector has decreased from 243,000 homes in 2001 to 227,000 homes owned by local authorities and housing associations in 2018.

The PRS in Northern Ireland has grown strongly since 2001 and has increased from an estimated 37,000 homes to 119,000 in 2018. The PRS is now almost the same size as the social rented sector which has decreased from 149,000 homes in 2001 to 127,000 in 2018.

The PRS continues to grow across all regions with the deposit cap and other legislation making rent more accessible for many. Despite this growth, deposit disputes are less than in previous years suggesting landlords and tenants are becoming increasingly successful in negotiating between themselves in the event of a deposit claim.

Access the full statistical briefing report here: TDS Statistical Briefing 2019-2020.

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