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Top Tips To Protect Your Deposit

On the 13 February, BBCs’ Inside Out South West broadcast an investigation that has been carried out into the theft of tenants’ security deposits. The investigation highlights how fourteen letting agencies in the UK were prosecuted in 2016 for stealing around £1 million pounds worth of deposit money. In 2007, it became a legal requirement for landlords to put a tenants’ deposit into one of the three government protected schemes.

These are the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) or My Deposits. Even though some deposits are lodged in the chosen schemes’ bank account, some are held in bank accounts which the landlord or letting agent can access. In these circumstances, it makes it easier for the landlord or agent to control what is repaid.

In response to this investigation, we want to provide you with some top tips to protect your deposit and prevent this happening to you.
 

  • Make sure your deposit is lodged with one of the three schemes mentioned above. This should have been outlined in your tenancy agreement and you should have received a ‘Prescribed Tenancy Certificate’ which confirms this. If you have not, there is a possibility that your deposit is not protected. In these circumstances, your landlord is breaking the law and you can take them to the small claims court and claim up to three times the deposit amount in damages.

 

  • Make sure there is an up to date inventory carried out at the property. An inventory is a documentation of the visual condition of your property and is instrumental in ensuring you are not charged for damages that were already present before you moved in. You would normally have seven days to dispute anything on the inventory which is incorrect by emailing your landlord or estate agent. We also recommend that you create your own inventory and email it to the landlord or agent at the start of your tenancy.

 

  • Before you sign your tenancy agreement, ask the landlord or agent to clarify the deposit scheme they are a member of and will be using. Get this in writing as this will be confirmed when you are sent your ‘Prescribed tenancy certificate’.

 

  • Ask your estate agent for proof that they are a member of the Property Ombudsman scheme. This way, should you ever need to complain about your estate agent, you know the problem can be reviewed by an independent adjudicator who can fine or even black list an agency.

 

  • Never pay your deposit in cash! Always make sure you make a BAC’S transfer and label this transfer ‘Deposit for (property address)’ so that there is clear indication what this money transfer was for.

 

  • Do your research. If you have heard horror stories about an estate agent or landlord, make sure you do your research into them before signing an agreement with them. Even if they are pressuring you to sign or tell you ‘there will not be much else on the market’ or ‘this property is going to be taken by this afternoon if you don’t pay’. Remember it can be expensive to get yourself released from a tenancy agreement if you are not happy with the landlord or agent.

 

  • Depending on which deposit scheme is used, your landlord or estate agent has ten days to dispute any deductions they wish to make from your deposit. If they do not, you can request for a full repayment by using the deposit ID which is issued on the ‘Prescribed Tenancy Certificate’ or confirmation email of your deposit payment.

 

  • Always ask for receipts for the deposit deductions. For example, if your landlord or estate agent is trying to charge you £200 for cleaning costs, make sure they provide you with proof that this is the exact amount that they paid for cleaning and that you are not being overcharged for things. If they do not, you can take the deposit deduction to the deposit schemes arbitration team, who will require this evidence for the deduction to take place. If your landlord or agent fails to provide this evidence, the deposit will be returned to you.

If at any time you find yourself in a difficult situation surrounding your deposit, discover it has not been lodged with a government protected scheme or that your landlord or estate agent has made unlawful deductions, email advice@su.rhul.ac.uk to book an appointment with our housing advisor.

Be sure to check out the BBC’s investigation on deposit theft for more information on the matter.