#ExpertView: Customer service levels in the adjudication process
In this week’s #ExpertView blog, Michael Hill, Executive Assistant and Adjudicator at Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), outlines the customer service provided by TDS throughout the adjudication process.
When tenancies come to an end there are sometimes disagreements over the deposit. At TDS, we provide free alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for tenancy deposits that are protected by us, whether protected in our Custodial or Insured scheme.
If a landlord, agent or tenant raises a dispute with us, it is referred to our professional, impartial adjudication team and, based on the evidence provided, they will decide how much should be awarded to each party.
TDS has recently been awarded the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Accreditation. Our adjudication team works closely with the customer service team to make sure the process is as simple and transparent as possible. But how do we do that?
We have an online portal for disputes
Most tenancy deposit management is now done digitally, so our systems allow agents, landlords and tenants to manage their tenancy deposit disputes online. Our online portal allows our members to upload the evidence they’d like considered quickly and efficiently. This portal is transparent, so the parties to the dispute are able to see the evidence uploaded and what the adjudicator is basing their decision on.
If customers need to contact TDS, we also have dedicated in-house operations teams to provide support. It is still important for TDS to maintain a personal approach to the service we provide, which is why we have our team on hand to help resolve any tenancy deposit-related issues.
We remain impartial
We must remain impartial to both parties and have a number of processes in place during the adjudication process to ensure that a fair decision is made.
It is always important that the parties try to come to an agreement over the deposit and we provide a wealth of guidance documents and templates, such as the Deductions Template and the Product Lifespans Guide, to help them through this process. If the parties do need to come to us with a dispute that they would like settled, we will take all steps available to ensure we reach the correct and fairest decision. Our adjudicators have undergone training and are members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration.
We keep it simple
We try to keep our reports short and easy-to-read, avoiding legal and technical jargon.
Our adjudicators try to explain all decisions in as much detail as necessary. We feel that the parties deserve to understand exactly why the decision has been made and hopefully we can provide guidance to our members to help them avoid a difficult situation in future.
We keep you in the loop
Our system is set up to notify tenants, landlords and agents through every step of the process and the parties can check the progress of the dispute at any time. We do all we can to keep both parties in the loop about what stage the dispute is at.
We strive to provide the best service possible which includes completing the adjudication process as quickly as possible ensuring that the tenancy deposit is distributed in accordance with the decision. We endeavour to complete all adjudications within 20 days but normally this timescale is a great deal lower. May 2017/18 saw TDSNI resolving disputes, from the time the adjudicator received all evidence, in just 4.4 days (average for TDS Custodial) and 2.8 days (TDS Insured).
You can find out more about tenancy deposit disputes, including details of the process and tips on presenting your case to an adjudicator here.
About the author
After studying law at university, Michael Hill joined TDS in early 2015. Having started as a caseworker, Michael began working as a full-time adjudicator in September 2015. He currently works part-time as an adjudicator and part-time as executive assistant to the CEO, Steve Harriott. Michael has been responsible for adjudicating in over 2,000 disputes.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.
TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.
TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.
TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.
TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland's leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.
TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.
These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.