According to new research, one in five rental tenants expect never to see their deposit again after handing it over. Why is this?
Shockingly, this research carried out on behalf of law firm Slater and Gordon, also found that four in ten tenants said they hadn’t received any of their deposit back when they vacated a property. And although the traditional deposit has – until now – been four week’s rent, landlords are increasingly asking for a figure closer to six weeks.
Hearing that so many renters aren’t getting their cash back has come as a surprise to me – maybe they’re just not fighting hard enough?
Deposits – sometimes you have to fight
I’ve rented six different places since I left the parental home five years ago, and despite always looking after and taking pride in where I live I’ve had to fight several unfair deductions.
Twice I’ve had letting agents try to deduct cash from my deposit to replace furniture which we’d already been complaining about throughout the tenancy as being worn out and in dire need of replacement.
I’ve even had to sit in a letting agent’s office for almost two and a half painstaking hours comparing the photos and inventory from when I checked in to those when I checked out. Eventually they agreed that I’d left the property in better condition than I found it.
They still docked £50 off my deposit as the windowsills and skirting boards needed ‘professional’ cleaning… I’m still a little bitter about that.
Why is this happening?
But why are tenants having so much trouble getting their deposits back at all? Since 2007 any deposit given should be paid into a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme, which can act as a mediator if any dispute arises.
According to housing charity Shelter, one in five private renters in England don’t know if their deposit is protected.
And it’s a confusing picture from the other side of the fence too. The Slater and Gordon survey of more than 1,000 tenants and 500 landlords also found that some 79% of landlords wished they’d asked for bigger deposits from their tenants for the damage to their property.
But are tenants really that reckless? Or do some landlords unfairly keep tenants’ deposits to keep tired rental properties at an acceptable living standard?
In 2011 – when I was making my first foray into the rental market – a Labour policy review found that a full 35% of all privately rented homes (around 1.4 million properties) were rated as ‘non-decent’. That means they were potentially dangerous or seriously sub-standard. And I’ve seen little in the subsequent five years to convince me things have improved to any great extent since.
If this is the case, is it that too many bad landlords are undermining responsible landlords and preying on vulnerable tenants?