98% of Brits do not know their rights when it comes to tenancy deposits  

Dec 17th 2018

A new survey of over 1,000 Britons involved in the UK private rental sector has found a worrying lack of knowledge when it comes to deposit laws and tenants’ rights. As part of the Housing Act 2004, landlords in England and Wales are legally required to protect Assured Shorthold Tenancy deposits in a Government-approved scheme and, if they don’t, they could be liable to pay the tenant up to three times the amount of the original deposit plus the deposit amount.

When asked: “If the landlord has not complied with tenancy deposit law, how much of the original deposit do you think the tenant can claim for when they leave the property?” Just 2% of respondents could correctly identify ‘Three times the amount, plus the deposit’. This means 98% do not know the correct rights of the tenant. Perhaps even more worryingly, of those aged 55+, 70% said the maximum amount available to a renter was the full amount plus deposit. If landlords are also unaware of the law, they could face large fines and hefty pay-outs to tenants.

Government-approved scheme

The research asked respondents to identify where a tenant’s deposit should be kept during the duration of the tenancy. Two-thirds (66%) could not identify the correct answer – with a Government-approved deposit scheme, such as the one in operation at Harper Finn. Amongst those aged 18-24, the number of correct responses fell to 16%. This should ring alarm bells, as 65% of those aged between 16-24 live in rented accommodation and may miss out on money to which they are legally entitled. Eight per cent thought the deposit was held in the landlord’s personal bank account and almost a quarter (24%) believed it was held by the letting agent.

Off the back of the PPI scandal of recent years, the survey looked at tenants’ attitudes to consumer rights. Thirty-seven per cent said the scandal had not changed their attitude towards their consumer rights and just under three-quarters (74%) of those asked said it hadn’t changed their awareness when it came to reading the terms and conditions of a signed agreement.

There are approximately five million rented households in the UK. Rose Jinks, Just Landlords: “It’s shocking that so few people understand their rights when it comes to tenancy deposits, especially as more people than ever rent from a private landlord. We believe that the companies currently seeking PPI compensation for consumers may turn to unclaimed tenancy deposits when the PPI deadline comes into force in August 2019.”