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Have Your Say: Tenants' deposits

House keys resting on a bundle of 10 notes
Tenant or landlord, are you aware of your rights and responsibilities?

Too many landlords are still not protecting their tenants' deposits, despite new laws obliging them to do so, according to the consumer body Citizens Advice.

Since last April most people taking out a new assured shorthold tenancy in England and Wales should have had their deposit protected by their
landlord through one of three officially sanctioned schemes.

But there is evidence that in some cases the money is not being safeguarded, leaving some tenants out of pocket.

Have you had problems with a landlord refusing to put your deposit in one of the three schemes?

Or if you are a landlord have you had to withhold a deposit from a tenant?

Do you think the deposit protection schemes work - or that more needs to be done to enforce them?

Tell us your experience.

We asked for your comments - a selection of which are below.

The debate is now closed.

MOST RECENT COMMENTS:

It's landlords that need help and protection, not the tenant
Phil, Eastbourne
There are far more unscrupulous tenants than there are bad landlords. I know from experience, having been ripped off by a tenant leaving our house damaged and dirty costing hundreds of pounds and days off work to rectify, to avoid the house sale falling through. If the government is serious about encouraging the buy-to-let as a supply of housing then it's landlords that need help and protection, not the tenant. We've now sold the buy-to-let - a bitter and expensive experience, the final rip off being the gas bill the tenants have left us with.
Phil, Eastbourne

I haven't had a problem with an agent refusing to put my deposit in a scheme but rather the opposite - I was told he (the agent) had to put it in a scheme for me or I couldn't proceed with the tenancy and would lose my admin fee which I had already paid up front and that I would have to cover the cost of putting it in such a scheme! This goes against the intention that the system was designed for - that the landlord/agent is responsible for joining a scheme - and I've been told there is nothing I can do about it!
Ben, Leeds

Tenants have a right to know which landlords are repeat offenders
Margaret Mills, Manchester
A friend's landlord refused to give back her deposit for "cleaning" and "damage" without any evidence of either, but she'd paid the deposit before the new scheme came in. When she said he wouldn't get away with it nowadays he replied that on the contrary, he loves the new scheme. He claims money for every conceivable thing (normal wear and tear is not claimable but he simply dismissed that notion) and if a tenant wants to challenge him it doesn't cost him anything to go to dispute resolution, so it's well worth him trying it on, he told her. Is anyone monitoring who these unscrupulous landlords are that are abusing the scheme? Surely prospective tenants have a right to know which landlords are repeat offenders.
Margaret Mills, Manchester

We don't charge deposits or fees on our unfurnished rented accommodation. This means that we lose out occasionally when a tenant abuses our trust, but helps genuine and honest tenants who need the money when they move in to turn our property into their home. Overall the system works well, the trust shown in the tenant is reciprocated with most tenants having a positive effect on our property and all our lives. Overall refurb costs are minimal and we probably gain more than we lose.
Richard Hunt, Southampton

I, like most landlords, signed up for a deposit protection scheme which is designed to protect the tenant from the landlord. It affords no protection to the landlord from the tenant. Most tenants know how to play the system and withhold their last months rent on purpose and then walk away from the property at a time to suit them and there is nothing that you can do to stop them. The tenancy agreements call for the property to be returned to the landlord in the same condition that it was provided at the start of the tenancy with the deposit being there to pay for justifiable repairs and cleaning if necessary as well as any missed rent. In most cases, not a hope. The moral of the deposit protection scheme is: do not rent a property to an individual, let it to a company and yes, place the deposit in a protection scheme and then you as a landlord at least stand a chance of not being ripped off at the end of a tenancy. Perhaps the need for the scheme due to a few unscrupulous landlords made a good sound bite for the government but no thought was given to protect landlords against unscrupulous tenants of which there are vastly more.
Brian Chambers, London

A deposit protection system has existed in New Zealand for many years and it works very well, so I don't see why it seems to be such rocket science to implement it here. As for Simon Lock's comment about being "locked in" to a property because of the delay in getting your deposit back, I would say that two month's wait was actually a treat! Of the five flats I have rented in London, I have never received a deposit back in less than eight weeks. In three cases my deposit was held with no justification whatsoever until I threatened the landlords with court action, at which point they returned it. One of these dragged on for over nine months - that's nine months interest they earned on my money, which should have been earning interest for me! I'd much rather have had it in a deposit protection scheme and have to wait two months for it. Many tenants are so jaded by these experiences that they stop paying rent two months before leaving, since it's easier than fighting to get their money back.
Anon, London

No - tenant deposit protection does not work, and it needs scrapping
Felix Stern, Leicester
Further comment to message already sent complaining about pro-tenant bias in your broadcasting coverage and government legislation. I note that despite significant adverse comment on the deposit protection scheme on your website, you are still asking, on the website, "Do you think the deposit protection schemes work - or that more needs to be done to enforce them? " This question is tantamount to asking the proverbial "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" and exhibits the pro-tenant bias typical of your general coverage. No - tenant deposit protection does not work, and it needs scrapping. Landlords are not a shifting population, and are already relatively accountable; tenants (most especially foreign students) are not - and the most immediate need is for legislation to deal with that problem.
Felix Stern, Leicester

I have a number of rental properties, each of which is managed through a different letting agent. All put the tenants' deposit money into an approved scheme - a privilege for which I, as the landlord, am charged between 15 and 25 each time. Where did this new cost come from? Is it just letting agents finding a new way to skim money from landlords? Is the tenant also paying for the privilege of having their deposit protected?
Anon, Haywards Heath

We... insist that the rent is paid monthly in advance
John Whitfield, Macclesfield
Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Roger Guest and have lost a considerable amount of rent due by unscrupulous tenants they are very much in the minority and I have over the last 10 years only had to withhold deposits (without agreement) on two occasions. Most tenants are extremely considerate and do there very best to maintain the property as if it were their own. However due to the intricacies of the scheme and our lack of trust in anything a government instigates we have ceased taking a deposit on our rented properties. What we now do instead is insist that the rent is paid monthly in advance and charge an agreed amount, based on the size of the property, also paid in advance for cleaning etc. This does away with any involvement with the tenancy deposit scheme and any arguments that invariably happen on the conclusion of the tenancy.
John Whitfield, Macclesfield

We paid a deposit to an agent and then was unable to get hold of them and realised the company seemed to have disappeared. We investigated the company and checked their accounts with Companies House and saw the company was in a lot of trouble. We then contacted all of the people that have anything to do with protecting deposits and discovered our deposit was definitely not protected. We applied online to take this to a small claims court after managing to trace a director of the company. Within two weeks of papers being served we received our deposit back along with the small fee we had paid to start proceedings. My advice to anyone who believes their deposit is not protected by a shady agent is to start doing your homework on the company and you may be lucky enough to get your money back before it goes to the wall.
Anon, London

As an ex-letting agent and current landlord, if tenants/landlords are worried that the deposit is not placed within a tenancy deposit scheme they should at least ensure that the agent is regulated by ARLA or RICS which have protected "bonded" client accounts audited annually to ensure monies are safe. If I were a private tenant I would ask which scheme the landlord wishes to use and ensure the deposit cheque is paid to the scheme and not the landlord. That way if they do not sign up to a scheme they cannot cash your money.
Rupert Dearden, Macclesfield, Cheshire

It can be very difficult to test a landlord's or agent's assertions that the deposit has been protected
Andrew Ketley, Manchester
I think there are still a few wrinkles that need working out. Obtaining proof that the deposit has, in fact, been protected can be a challenge. In theory the tenant countersigns to confirm the details are correct when the deposit is first protected. If this does not happen, it can be very difficult to test a landlord's or agent's assertions that the deposit has been protected, short of taking legal action, as the schemes' interpretation of data-protection legislation can be very unhelpful. The other point that could use some clarification is who is the actionable counterparty? Should a county court action be directed against the agent or the landlord? The landlord is ultimately responsible, but it is often the agent who holds the deposit. We moved in late April last year, shortly after the legislation came into force. A year later, we have only just managed to get the agent to tell us which scheme they claim to be using. I have been attempting to obtain confirmation, so far to no avail. Watch this space.
Andrew Ketley, Manchester

Our letting agent used a tenancy deposit scheme as required, but told us that we had to pay a fee for bringing in an external company who will do the inspection when we leave. That fee was 75, but we got it down to half that because they had not told us about it beforehand, despite us having asked if there would be any additional fees. They claimed that the law requires that there is an external assessor to draw up and assess the inventory, and that, therefore, we would have to put the fee. Later I found out that this was untrue: the law does not require an inventory, let alone an external assessor.
Lasse Thomassen, London

The landlords should have greater scrutiny on them
Jules, Cheshire
I had the awful experience of my rented home being repossessed in January. I went through a reputable large agent and this didn't protect me or my deposit. The landlord chose to keep the deposit instead of the agents. As a court order bounced on my doormat for repossession and the threat of bailiffs turning up - despite me being a good tenant - bills paid on time and house kept immaculate. If they hadn't paid the mortgage then the chances of getting my deposit back were nil. My solicitor said I could take them to court but it would take time and I could possibly be out of pocket and may never get the money back despite a court order. Never mind assessing the tenants, the landlords should have greater scrutiny on them.
Jules, Cheshire

I recently moved back to Belgium after years in the UK. The money I deposited with letting agencies in the UK was never secured and I never earned any interest on it, which I would have, had I deposited in a savings account. In Belgium, the law protects tenants. Deposits are generally made into a joint account, which requires the signatures of both tenant and landlord to be released. The deposit accumulates interest savings meanwhile, which belong to the tenant. This system requires a fair bit of admin, but is well worth it.
Sarah Verschueren, Belgium

I cannot understand how they can justify the way they trash the places
Anon, Midlands
I have always considered myself a reasonable landlord since the only property I have let is my own family home while we have been overseas and therefore, it has been in my interest to maintain it to a high standard for the sake of my family and the tenants. While I have been overseas I have been the tenant and always taken care of the houses I lived in and try my best to vacate them in the same condition. It has been unusual for me to have to deduct from the deposit for damage to my house. However the last time we rented out the house, it was left in a terrible mess and I had to fight long and hard to get money for the big clean, even though the deposit was not nearly enough to cover the damage done. I was initially asked to delay moving back into my home so that quotes could be obtained from different companies and was told that could take a few weeks. My tenants would not give permission for any of the money to be released for cleaning so I went ahead to enable me to move back in. There were carpet burns, rubbish left around, overgrown garden and absolute filth. I refused to wait for all the quotes as we had nowhere to stay and I ended up doing much of the work myself and in stages. I had to gather a lot of photographic evidence and keep all my receipts and fight very hard. In the end I got some of the money I was due but that took months. I understand that there are many landlords out there who are without principles but I believe that the majority are good people. But as someone who has rented out her house many times before, my opinion of many of the tenants is now one of mistrust. And I cannot understand how they can justify the way they trash the places they live in and expect not to have to pay the consequences. The next time I have to leave I will be selling up not renting out.
Anon, Midlands

The courts have no discretion
David Culleton, Sunderland
I am a landlord. You pose the question "Does more need to be done ...." (to ensure compliance with the law). The most draconian penalties already exist for non-compliance. The tenant automatically receives three times the deposit as compensation if the landlord does not protect the deposit within 14 days of its receipt or fails to provide the necessary (very complicated) statutory information within 14 days. The courts have no discretion, no matter how honourable the intention of the landlord, this level of compensation is mandatory according to all of the official government literature describing the scheme.
David Culleton, Sunderland

What happens if someone is subletting, as happened to me? I didn't know I was being conned until the owner of the flat wanted to come round and inspect some work that had been done. Only then did I find out that my deposit was not protected. When questioned as a result, the person subletting simply stated that I would be paid back my deposit by the next person who moved into the house, the onus therefore being on me to find someone to move into the room immediately after I left. I would not receive the money back otherwise, and the person subletting would be guaranteed the money for the real rent whatever my leaving situation. There are thousands of people in a similar situation - either sofa surfing or renting rooms as bed-sits in shared houses.
Anna, Reading

There should be a better and fairer system for tenants in place
Erica Johnson, Luton
I have lived in rented property for nearly 10 years. The last one my partner and I moved out of was rented from my previous employer through a letting agency whose owner is a friend of my previous employer. After never having problems getting a deposit back we now find that on this occasion we have had nearly half of our deposit kept back for cleaning costs, despite our cleaning the house, re-cleaning after being told that it wasn't good enough and trying to negotiate costs with them. The landlord doesn't want to know and the letting agent won't return our phone calls. There is no protection in place if you do not agree to what they are keeping back money for. We were willing to negotiate but have been frozen out - we have even found out that they are in the middle of refurbishment less than three weeks after we moved out. There should be a better and fairer system for tenants in place.
Erica Johnson, Luton

I am a landlord, letting out my home because I am working abroad where I am also a tenant. I have always tried to be a good landlord but my experience is that tenants think it is fair game to do as little as possible to get the deposit back and often deliberately don't pay the last months rent before leaving to ensure they get it back. Just as tenants need the deposit to move onto the next home, houses need to be clean to rent to the next tenant. While living in Germany I experienced the best solution. Landlord and tenant open a joint account with the bank; the banks have special accounts for the purpose, only when both agree is the deposit released with interest to the tenant. This way the tenants have an interest in getting their money with interest back at the end of the tenancy; it is protected against inflation thereby keeping its value for the next deposit.
Stephen, Paris

All tenants have lost their deposits and landlords have lost one or two month rent
Wayne Johns, Southampton
The deposit protection scheme is not only important for tenants renting directly from a landlord, but also if an agent is involved. My agency recently went bankrupt and it turns out they had not protected any of their clients' money, even though they stated in the rent agreement that they would use one of the protection schemes. The agency is now in liquidation and no monies are left in their accounts. All tenants have lost their deposits and landlords have lost one or two months' rent. It appears that, by contract law, it is the landlord who is responsible for the agent's actions, therefore, the tenants seem to have a claim against the landlords for the lost money. This should be a warning to landlords to check the agency they use (i.e. registration with landlord associations) and ensure they are complying with the law. This also shows that tenants should contact the protection scheme and ensure their money has been paid in.
Wayne Johns, Southampton

This is the other side of the coin when the landlord obeys the law and the tenant does not
Sally James, Solihull
We have had a terrible experience as landlords with deposit protection. Our tenant caused terrible problems involving the police, non-payment of rent, abusive phone calls and emails. He eventually left without notice on December 31 2007 - he had been giving us notice and then withdrawing it for three months. He left the maisonette dirty with a load of rubbish, the garden was overgrown and he still owed us some rent. He left us no keys so we incurred a considerable amount of money to right the maisonette for a new tenant. We had no opportunity for him to sign the inventory as he was uncontactable. We applied to the deposit protector to retain his deposit of 825 and supplied them with paper evidence of all expenditure, bank statements to show non payment of rent, invoices for lock change, cleaning, and gardening. It went to arbitration and he was awarded the whole deposit back with interest as he stated that he had done the garden and that we owed him money for accommodation he was forced to take while we repaired his shower! The whole process was a farce and I am now in dispute with them and have asked for the reasons (with documentary proof) that we were not compensated for our expenditure. This is the other side of the coin when the landlord obeys the law and the tenant does not.
Sally James, Solihull

A fine of a multiple of three could perhaps be applied against tenants' unpaid rents and bills
Roger Guest, Burton On Trent
As a landlord with a small number of rented properties, to date I have only needed to refund one deposit and the tenant agreed to deductions from the deposit due to a small amount of damage incurred during her tenancy. However a number of previous tenants whose deposits were prior to the introduction of the legislation have left properties in extremely poor condition. Tenants have left without paying a month or two months' rental. Tenants have left without returning keys and without forwarding addresses. It is rarely worthwhile attempting to chase defaulters through the courts. I fully agree that there are some irresponsible landlords, I do feel however that there are a far higher percentage of irresponsible tenants. Over the last two years deposits abandoned by tenants have amounted to a few thousand pounds, lost unpaid rents and repairs to property have amounted to almost 14,000. Perhaps the government should also consider legislation to further make it easier for landlords to evict poor tenants and to obtain compensation through the courts without the apparent impression that tenants are predominantly the victims. A fine of a multiple of three could perhaps be applied against tenants' unpaid rents and bills, to be deducted from salaries or benefits as a matter of course.
Roger Guest, Burton On Trent

The scheme is terrible for both tenants and landlords
Simon Lock, Bristol
As far as I can see, the tenancy deposit scheme is of little use to tenants as they end up trapped in properties: after all to get another property they need a deposit, traditionally returned by the previous landlord in cash at the end of the tenancy. Now they need to find a new deposit, in addition to the one already lodged by their landlords with the tenancy deposit scheme, if they want to move house. My last tenant who was excellent in every respect had to wait two months for the tenancy deposit scheme to return his full deposit even thought I asked for it to be returned in full the day he moved out. The scheme is terrible for both tenants and landlords and another example of the government's desire to find a way of removing money from its citizens under the guise of "improving" their lives.
Simon Lock, Bristol

There's no point "protecting" the deposit because the commercial landlords I've dealt with have invariably claimed the whole deposit for "cleaning costs", despite (on one occasion) my having brought in a professional cleaning firm.
Andrew Herring, Cambridge

It is ok until the renting agency goes into liquidation. Both we and our old landlord are having a real fight with the deposit protector to get our deposit back. They have told us that we will need to go through a solicitor or a magistrate. Our money is being held to ransom. We are in full agreement with our old landlord and have both sent them letters to this effect and involved the agent who took over the old letting agency.
Anon, Bridgwater

The problem is, how do you clamp down on it?
David Young, Reading
My experience in Reading is that as soon as you mention the deposit protection scheme the landlord then decides he/she doesn't want to rent to you. The problem is, how do you clamp down on it, as the landlords just have say to the council, "I didn't like the look of him" as their justification?
David Young, Reading

My younger daughter rented a property in Newcastle for which we paid the deposit. It was not placed in a scheme but a local solicitor basically said write it off you won't get it back. So far we haven't.
Jo Wharrier, Newcastle


The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.



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SEE ALSO
Review of private rental market
23 Jan 08 |  Business
External links and helplines
09 May 08 |  Moneybox


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