Malcolm Ferey, Chief Executive, Jersey Citizens Advice Bureau Limitedwww.cab.org.jeMalcolm@cab.org.je
AboutThe Jersey Citizens Advice Bureau has campaigned for many years for legislation that would provide tenants with a greater level of protection. Jersey relies heavily on the rental sector to provide accommodation for its residents and it is only fair that there is a modern legal framework which provides clarity and protection for both tenant and landlord.
In 2011 the Bureau saw a 10% increase in the number of client contacts and the year-to-date figures show that we continue to see a high demand for our services. In 2012 the economic climate continues to give policy makers cause for concern and at the Bureau we see how this impacts on individuals and their families. Housing problems are the second biggest issue that the Bureau dealt with in 2011, with advice being given on 1,684 occasions.
The Bureau was therefore pleased to be included in a recent consultation process by being invited to submit a written response to the Health, Social Security and Housing Scrutiny Panel, concerning the proposals outlined in the Draft Residential Tenancy (amendment) (Jersey) Law 201- (P67/2012). The States have subsequently agreed, in principle, to these amendments and when enacted, this law will set out the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, giving a degree of protection to tenants who, at present, have limited redress when disputes arise, often having to resort to personally instigating Civil Court action to recover outstanding rental deposits or overpaid rent.
It is the Bureau’s assertion that a Tenants’ Deposit Scheme, the compulsory use of condition reports, access to tenancy agreements that contain agreed minimum standards and standard forms of notice, may alleviate the current problems associated with rental deposit disputes, complaints concerning housing conditions and early termination of leases.
The Bureau understands that some landlords and indeed, some tenants, may find these proposals to be somewhat onerous. However, it is our belief that the current system is open to abuse and that regulation is long overdue. Whilst we appreciate that the majority of landlords are fair and reasonable in their dealings with tenants, we continue to see significant numbers of clients, both landlords and tenants, who are experiencing problems.
Until this new legislation is enacted, if a landlord does not wish to provide a formal schedule of the condition of a property on a new lease, our advice is for tenants to take digital photographs of each room in the premises and attach print-outs of these photographs to each copy of the signed lease. This forms a record of the state of the property at the start of the lease and can assist with any future disputes that may arise upon termination.
To illustrate the scope of the problem, the table below lays out the number of relevant Housing issues that the Bureau has dealt with this year, up to 18 September 2012.
Rental Deposit Disputes
At the time of writing, the Bureau looks forward to when those in the unqualified sector will be able to have access to leases for the first time, thus improving the outlook for a sizeable sector of our community.