More than 200 landlords breach deposit law in Scotland

More than 200 Scottish landlords have been found in breach of deposit protection laws in 18 months, according to new research.

SafeDeposits Scotland, which advises tenants and landlords on their rights and responsibilities, also found that £186,657 was repaid to tenants after they took landlords to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland.

Since 2012, landlords in Scotland that take a deposit from their tenant have been required, by law, to lodge the deposit with one of three Government-approved schemes within 30 working days of the tenancy commencing. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to three times the deposit value, which the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) presides on.

Accessing papers publicly available on the tribunal website, SafeDeposits Scotland studied decisions made by the tribunal since it began hearing cases of non-compliance with deposit protection at the end of 2017.

It found that £186,657 had been paid out to tenants, the equivalent of more than £900 per case. Although landlords can be fined up to three times the deposit value, the average award for the cases studied is 1.31 times the deposit value.

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

Rented properties in Glasgow accounted for the greatest number of cases heard by the tribunal, closely followed by Edinburgh, with 38 and 37 cases respectively.

‘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,’ said Victoria Smith, chief operating officer at SafeDeposits Scotland.

‘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,’ she pointed out.

“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.

She explained that landlords must protect a tenant’s deposit within 30 working days of receiving it with a government-approved scheme like SafeDeposits Scotland. Tenants should also receive confirmation from landlords about which scheme their deposit is with.