Around this time of year many students are leaving, or have just left, their private rented accommodation. Aside from the frantic cleaning and figuring out how on earth they are going to move the junk collected through three years of university back home; one topic bothers pretty much all of them. How to get their deposits back.
A deposit for a student house is often a lot of money and it is not uncommon for students never to see a penny of it. Many others lose large chunks; £50 to mow the lawn, £150 to professionally clean the carpets, £75 to repaint that wall with all posters sellotaped to. It mounts up.
The frustrating thing about this is that landlords are very often seriously in breach of the law in making these claims. The Housing Act 2004, in force since 6th April 2007, requires the landlord to pay the deposit into one of three tenancy deposit schemes (Deposit Protection Scheme, Tenancy Deposit Scheme or mydeposits). They are then required to notify the tenants of which scheme is being used. If you are currently in a dispute with your landlord over deposits, get in touch with the three schemes listed above. If none of them have your deposit, your landlord is in big trouble.
Under s.214 of the Housing Act 2004, failure to pay the money into a scheme within the required period (14 days after recieving it) can result in a court order requiring the landlord to pay the tenants a fine equal to three times the amount of the deposit. Suddenly the boot is on the other foot.
Even though court cases are expensive and complicated (the landlord may appeal, you may be required to hire bailiffs to enforce the claim), it’s still worth knowing your rights. All landlords will know about the provisions of the Housing Act 2004, they just try and dodge them because they think students are too naive to know any better. Once you mention s.214, I would be willing to bet the long battles over the deposit evaporate. The landlord will be anxious to keep you happy and keep you out of court. And that means getting the carpets professionally cleaned at your expense quickly becomes much less important. The most likely result is that they’ll give you your money back and hope to never have to see you again.
And if your money is in a scheme, rely on their alternative dispute resolution system. This is cheaper and easier than going to court, and often results in a satisfactory ruling for the tenant. Again, you may find the threat of it encourages your landlord to give the money back much more promptly.
For those moving into a new property, now would be a good time to contact the landlord and ask them about the scheme they paid your deposit into. It could save a lot of hassle later on. It’s also a good idea to photograph the property when you move in, so you have evidence of the state it was in. If it looked a tip when you moved in, its less likely you’ll be held to account for the state of it when you move out.
All in all, remember your rights and don’t let your landlord take you for a ride. If we can prove we aren’t as naive as we sometimes appear, we may have a much easier time dealing with landlords in the future.
These are all general points, specific cases may require specific advice, and you should contact a solicitor before taking further action.