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Hundreds of Scottish landlords ‘breaking the law’ on deposits

More than 200 landlords from across Scotland have breached a law designed to protect the deposits of tenants in the last 18 months, according to research.

Legislation introduced in 2012 requires landlords who take a deposit from a tenant to lodge the deposit with one of three government-approved schemes within 30 working days of the tenancy starting.

Once the deposit is registered, landlords also have to give written information to their tenant, such as the deposit amount and date received, the date the deposit was paid into the tenancy deposit scheme and the address of the property.

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If landlords fail to use a tenancy deposit scheme renters can take the case to a tribunal – which can order landlords to pay up to three times the value of the deposit to the tenant.

SafeDeposits Scotland, which is one of the three government-approved schemes, accessed publicly available documents on the Housing and Property Chamber First-tier Tribunal for Scotland website.

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It studied decisions made by the Tribunal since it began hearing cases of non-compliance with deposit protection at the end of 2017 and found that around £186,657 had been paid out to tenants – the equivalent of more than £900 per case.

The largest award was made to tenants renting a property in Edinburgh, where one landlord was ordered to pay out £3,937.50, whilst the lowest was £50 for a property in Hamilton.

Rented properties in Glasgow accounted for the greatest number of cases heard by the Tribunal with 38, while there were 37 cases in Edinburgh.
Victoria Smith, of SafeDeposits Scotland, said: “Deposit protection legislation is designed to protect all parties involved in the private rented sector and costs landlords nothing to comply with.

“The schemes also offer free and impartial adjudication services to ensure that any deductions from deposits are fair and can be scrutinised.

“We believe that the overwhelming majority of landlords operate within the rules, but the findings from our research into the first 18 months of the First-tier Tribunal demonstrates that there are some out there who don’t.

“In most of the cases we’ve looked at, the landlord has not acted out of malice, but was either simply unaware of the legislation or forgot, however, that does not reassure tenants or save landlords from fines.”

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Ms Smith added that any tenants or landlords who are unsure of their rights and responsibilities should contact SafeDeposit Scotland’s Glasgow-based support team or visit their website.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “The tenancy deposit schemes were introduced to protect tenants from having their deposits unfairly withheld, we therefore welcome that illegal tenancy deposit practices are being challenged.

“Over 219,000 deposits were being protected at the end of March 2019. While the majority of landlords are operating within the rules, we fully expect all landlords to protect tenancy deposits and seek legal advice if they are not clear on the rules.”

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