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Are you serious? - onelandlord hits back at 'Deposit Blackhole' research

Martin O'Hearne -
|
1st February 2018

According to a report published on the 30th, new research carried out among more than 2,000 UK adults by SPCE has revealed the challenges faced by Generation Rent when attempting to claim back their deposit.

The report found that 16% of UK renters claim their landlord or lettings agent has unfairly taken money from their tenancy deposit, with the figure rising to 25% for millennials (18-34) and 30% among university students  – to read the full report, click HERE

Basically, SPCE, who by the way are a mobile app designed to allow students to search and pay for university specific, student rental properties, without the use of a letting agent, have come up with some bizarre research into Landlords withholding tenancy deposits.

"16% of UK renters claim their landlord or lettings agent have unfairly taken money from their tenancy deposit, with the figure rising to 25% for millennials (18-34) and 30% among university students."

If this was true, those Landlords and Letting Agents would be committing a criminal offence. If there is one thing which a Landlord or Letting Agent cannot do, it is to deduct even a single penny from a protected deposit without full disclosure and the approval of the Tenant.  Where money is deducted, you have to assume that the Landlord or Letting Agent has won their case against the tenant.  Any Landlord or Letting Agent knows, as should SPCE for that matter, that it is impossible to retain any part of a Tenancy Deposit without the full agreement of the Tenant, so exactly how have all these people managed to have money taken from them unfairly? And it’s highly likely that had SPCE asked this particular collective if they thought that paying rent was unfair, the answer would have been a resounding “yes”!.

"When delving into the reasons why, the research found a significant proportion of Generation Rent were losing out on some, if not all, of their deposits due to circumstances beyond their control. One in eight (13%) tenants admitted losing money through a tenancy deposit due to damage that was done to the property by one of their fellow housemates, while 14% reported losing their deposit due to problems with the property that existed before they had moved into the house or flat."

For those tenants who feel so badly done to because they “lost money” through no fault of their own, due in the fist instance to damage caused by their housemates, I suggest that they take a look at their tenancy agreement. Like most contracts where there is a shared responsibility, it will be written as “jointly and severally liable”. This is written to protect the Landlord, not the tenant. Could you imagine a situation where the Landlord was not protected with such a contractual clause?  “it wasn’t me, it was him, no, it wasn’t me, it was her, I saw her do it, no it wasn’t, yes it was….”  You get my point, what protection does the Landlord have without every signature to the tenancy being equally responsible for the terms of that tenancy? exactly none!  And then we have the situation with deposit money being taken because of problems that existed before the tenants had moved in. If that was the case, why didn’t the tenants report the damage to the Landlord when they found it, and  why would anybody (let alone intelligent people) agree to release their all important and much needed deposit funds if they didn’t cause the problem in the first place? I re-state my earlier point, a Landlord or Agent cannot take any money from a deposit without the approval and agreement of the tenant or tenants – that is the law.

"SPCE’s survey revealed that one in five (19%) UK renters have lost money from a tenancy deposit due to damages being incurred to the property during their time living in it, with this figure rising to 28% for millennials, and doubling to two in five (40%) for UK students."

I find it ironic for it to be reported that UK renters have “lost money from a tenancy deposit”.  These renters have not lost money, they have paid for the damage (or rent arrears or other) to the Landlord, that is their responsibility and the legal thing to do under the terms of the tenancy. If they had not paid for this damage, then the Landlord would have “lost money”!   And as a Landlord with years and years of experience in the rental market, there is absolutely no surprise in the statistics quoted here, if anything, I’m shocked that the figure is so low for students, which leads me to believe that this survey may not be that accurate after all!

The survey also states that there isn’t sufficient information out there for those wishing to challenge their Landlord or Agent over the deposits – really!

"More should be done to increase awareness of the frameworks in place for those seeking to challenge unfair attempts to take money from a tenancy deposit."

What more can be done? When the deposit is taken, the tenant must be provided with the details of the scheme, the account reference number, contact information and a document which is known as the “Prescribed Information” which details what the tenant needs to know about how the scheme works and what the tenant needs to do if they dispute a claim on their deposit. And then there’s the huge amount of information out there on the internet on just how to deal with a claim against a deposit. Are SPCE saying that 40% of students and 28% of millennials do not have the gumption to do a quick Google search to find out how to challenge a claim against their deposit?

What this survey is actually saying is that Landlords and Letting Agents are lying, ripping off renters and stealing their deposits!  Despite that there is no evidence that money has been taken without consent and despite the fact that taking money from deposits without the tenants consent is impossible to do, as anyone who has dealt with any of the deposit schemes will know, and even if it was possible, doing it would be a criminal offence.  And if you think about it, if what is said in this ‘survey” is true, it also brings the Tenancy Deposit Schemes into disrepute, why would anybody trust them if they simply hand out money to landlords “unfairly”?

We’re seriously considering running a OneLandlord Survey to find out the size of the losses and the financial right-offs which landlords have to make because deposit schemes work in favour of the tenant and not in favour of the landlord.

Martin O'Hearne - onelandlord

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