SafeDeposits Scotland – Looking to the future
By Alan Partridge, SafeDeposits Scotland
SafeDeposits Scotland begins its second decade with advances in technology, expansion of services and support for Scottish communities.
New look, new location
Last summer SafeDeposits Scotland marked ten years of tenancy deposit protection enforcement in Scotland, and of course the scheme’s own tenth anniversary. Our second decade is starting with some exciting changes. A bright and bold rebrand aligns SafeDeposits closer to its parent company The Dispute Service, also responsible for operating award-winning tenancy deposit schemes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland alongside other services.
SafeDeposits’ feet remain firmly planted on Scottish soil however and in fact the only tenancy deposit scheme based in Scotland will later this year move into new, bigger, premises in Glasgow just a few doors from our current office. The move is to accommodate an already expanded team and allow for further recruitment so that SafeDeposits Scotland can continue to provide industry leading customer service to landlords, letting agents and tenants.
Recent growth of the team has already helped us to extend our opening hours and since January it has been possible to reach someone on the phone at SafeDeposits between 8am and 10pm, Monday to Friday – adding an extra 30 open hours each week to the previous 9am-5pm operation. This not only provides more flexibility to customers who are busy 9 to 5, but eases demand on phone lines during those core hours and helps maintain prompt call answer times which average around 10 seconds.
Moving forward with technology
SafeDeposits’ new website and system launched in summer 2022 and customers are now enjoying the benefits of numerous improvements and enhancements. We acknowledge that there were some initial teething issues and that change in any established system can take a bit of getting used to for users, but feedback now is favourable and in particular new customers who had not used the previous system are overwhelmingly positive about the user experience.
Among the new features available is the ability to carry out a bulk download of prescribed information forms and deposit protection certificates – particularly helpful for letting agents and landlords with large portfolios. In a similar vein, landlords and agents can now run reports from their user accounts, putting at their fingertips summaries of information such as deposits protected by status, historic deposit repayments and payments made to the user.
Functionally, another new feature allows users to transfer a deposit from one property to another – i.e., if one of your tenants moves to another property in your portfolio – making this a much quicker and simpler process. The tenant changeover process, for when one tenant moves out, but others remain, has also been simplified and furthermore tenants themselves can now help move things along by having the ability to start this process too.
Meanwhile in the field of alternative dispute resolution, the evidence portal has become more streamlined with a view to making the process more straightforward, as well as helping identify the most important pieces of evidence required in a submission. The new ability for parties to self manage the self-resolution process, including an online chat function, before committing to formal adjudication is proving successful. In April of this year for example, 59% of dispute cases were resolved through self resolution – representing the majority of parties who enter dispute reaching a mutual agreement and avoiding having to wait for the outcome of a longer formal adjudication.
Giving something back
Alongside our day to day duty of providing tenancy deposit protection and supporting landlords and letting agents in their compliance with regulations, SafeDeposits Scotland remains committed to doing what we can to help the wider private rented sector (PRS) and the Scottish communities we serve thrive. On this front, 2023 is yet again a year of positive new developments.
Those familiar with SafeDeposits will already be aware of our grant-giving charity, the SafeDeposits Scotland Charitable Trust. With aims of promoting education and advancing conflict resolution in the PRS since 2016, the Trust has awarded over £900,000 in funding to projects the length and breadth of Scotland that support landlords, letting agents and tenants alike.
The Trust is actively seeking applications from organisations and individuals who can deliver projects that meet its aims and would encourage landlords and letting agents who are in contact with any such parties to spread the word and potentially help generate a new initiative that benefits the sector. Further information on the SafeDeposits Scotland Charitable Trust can be found at www.safedepositsscotlandtrust.com
What’s new for 2023 is the SafeDeposits Scotland Community Fund. Completely separate to the SafeDeposits Scotland Charitable Trust, this new fund has been established to award small grants to projects that make a contribution to either sustainability and the environment, employability and career skills, social inclusion, technology and digital inclusion or improving the local community.
Further information on the Community Fund, including how to apply and details of initiatives it supports, is available on the SafeDeposits website.
To join SafeDeposits and for details on all our services, visit www.safedepositsscotland.com and to speak to a member of the team call 03333 213 136.