Shelter Scotland is preparing for the annual surge of students seeking advice on how to get their deposits back from landlords.
According to the charity, the number of students in Scotland seeking housing advice via their website and telephone advice lines peaks at the end of June as students start to vacate their accommodation and pursue the return of their deposits.
Research by NUS Scotland shows that a third of students believe their deposit has been unfairly withheld by a landlord at some point.
Cleaning costs are the most commonly contested issues between landlords and tenants, accounting for 38% of all deposit disputes.
Last year in June alone, 432 students searched Shelter Scotland’s website for advice on housing and accommodation rights, a 50% increase on other months during the year. September sees a similar increase, mirroring a time when thousands of students across Scotland take up their tenancies.
The Scottish Government’s own research estimates that up to £3.6 million in deposits is being wrongly withheld from students and other tenants in the private rented sector.
Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“Landlords who withhold deposits unfairly cause hardship to thousands of students as they attempt to move between tenancies. In order to achieve a transparent and fair system for students and indeed all private rent tenants across Scotland, Shelter Scotland has played a lead role in pushing for a tenancy deposit scheme which was passed in the last Parliament. Surges in students looking for advice on how to get their deposit back are evidence that the scheme needs to be introduced to prevent rogue landlords from withholding deposits unfairly.”
He added: “Of course, the scheme is also there to protect landlords, who in some cases are entitled to withhold deposits, or part of them, to recover losses for damage to their properties. The introduction of a tenancy deposit scheme would be of benefit to both sides.”
Unlike many other countries, Scotland has no regulation of rental deposits in the private rented sector. Although a tenancy deposit scheme is due to be in place in 2012, until it is implemented the balance of power remains with landlords who are free to determine how deposit money should be held, how quickly it should be returned and who should benefit from the interest accumulated during the tenancy.
When the tenancy deposit scheme is implemented, all deposits will be held by an impartial third party. At the end of a tenancy, landlords should inform the scheme if any of the money needed to be held to cover damages or unpaid bills, and the rest would be returned to the tenant. If there is a dispute, the scheme is in place to offer arbitration.
Graeme Brown added:
“Evidence from Shelter Scotland’s clients suggests that this problem can affect anyone who rents privately, but can be particularly difficult for students, who tend to have several tenancies during their studies. They can unfairly lose between £320 and £450 every year of their studies. Until the tenancy protection scheme is up and running, students are left vulnerable to the very real threat of homelessness due to a lack of funds to secure their next property.”
//BOXOUT// Advice to Students
What if my landlord has kept my deposit unfairly?
You may believe your landlord has kept back your deposit unfairly if, for example, they:
- have considered fair wear and tear to the property to be damage
- are claiming you have damaged the property or left it in a bad state when you haven't
- haven't given you any reason for not returning your deposit.
Your landlord or letting agent should give you reasons for refusing or delaying the return of your deposit when you leave. This should include a breakdown of specific costs, including:
- details of any unpaid bills they say you owe
- the costs of repairing or replacing any specific items they say you have damaged or removed
- the costs of any cleaning that has needed to be done.
- If your landlord or letting agent does not include a breakdown of the costs, you can write to request that they do so.
Decide whether you agree with the costs. If you are prepared to accept responsibility for some costs and not others, write back and say so, stating the balance you expect to have returned. If you've taken photos of the property that back up your case, include these with your letter. If you think the level of any of the costs (such as those for repairing damage or cleaning) are unreasonably high, you are entitled to ask for receipts to be provided.
If your landlord or letting agent still refuses to return the money, write back and give them a deadline to reply in writing. Explain that if you don't get your deposit back, you will be forced to take action in the small claims court. Keep copies of all your letters.
Notes to Editors:
- Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity. Shelter Scotland believes that everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.
- Spokespeople are available for interview, telephone the media office on 0844 515 2442.
- For more information about Shelter Scotland visit www.shelter.org.uk
- Follow Shelter Scotland on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/shelterinscotland Twitter – http://twitter.com/shelterscotland
Contact: Sabina Kadic
Phone: 0844 515 2442