EastEnders praised for raising tenancy deposit issues

SafeDeposits Scotland has praised EastEnders on a recent storyline tackling issues faced by some in the private rented sector and has provided advice for others who may be in similar situations.

In scenes aired recently on the popular BBC One soap, Albert Square landlord Masood Ahmed returns to Albert Square and terminates Carmel Kazemi’s tenancy in the property he rents to her. When Carmel asks for her deposit back, Masood says he needs to carry out an end of tenancy inspection before returning her money.

Although Carmel has left the property in good order, Masood, who is facing financial difficulties, attempts to sabotage the return of her deposit by pouring coffee over the carpet. He then arranges to meet Carmel to discuss the deposit where he accuses her of causing the damage, claiming he has photographic evidence and will withhold the deposit until he has assessed the value of the repairs.

Deadlocked in typical Walford fashion, it’s only when Carmel threatens to expose Masood as a rogue and a tyrant does he return the full deposit in cash. Despite some regional differences in regulations south of the border, leading deposit protection and dispute resolution scheme, SafeDeposits Scotland, has highlighted how the situation could have been avoided if both Carmel and Masood had followed a few easy steps.

Commenting on the storyline, Victoria Smith, operations manager at SafeDeposits Scotland, said: “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 had a legal obligation to protect Carmel’s deposit with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme within 30 working 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.”

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