When Scotland introduced tenancy deposit protection over five years ago, it offered a much needed level of security to landlords and means that should the tenant breach the terms of the tenancy agreement, such as causing damage or not paying rent, the landlord can then make appropriate deductions from the deposit.
But although it has been mandatory to hold a tenancy deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme north of the border since 2012 with anyone of three appointed scheme administrators, Letting Protection Service Scotland, Safedeposits Scotland and MyDeposits Scotland, some landlords continue to run the risk of a heavy fine for not placing money into a government authorised scheme, but many tenants would be none the wiser, according to new research.
A new tenant survey undertaken by SafeDeposits Scotland has found that just over a quarter - 26% - of tenants are still unaware that their deposits have to be protected, suggesting that more needs to be done to educate Scottish renters on their rights and responsibilities.
Using figures published by the Scottish government last week in the Scottish Household survey, which revealed that there are now just over 370,000 Scots currently residing in private rented accommodation, this equates to over 96,000 people across the country unaware of the law set up to protect them.
The SafeDeposits Scotland survey also found that 39% of those asked do not know how to claim back their deposits when they move out, while 53% of the tenants surveyed did not know that free adjudication services are available if they dispute any deposit deductions when a lease ends.
In response to the findings, SafeDeposits Scotland is in the process of setting up a tenant forum, the first of its kind in Scotland.
Victoria Nixon, operations manager at SafeDeposits Scotland, said: “There are more people renting than ever before and it’s imperative that every one of them knows that the law is there to help them.
“Our research has found that 26% of tenants don’t know their deposits have to be protected. While it’s heartening to hear that 74% of those renting in Scotland know what is in place to safeguard their money, everyone should be aware of what should be happening with their deposits.
“When we ran similar research five years ago we found 76% of respondents didn’t know that private tenancy deposits had to be protected in Scotland so while the figures have almost exactly reversed, there is some way to go.
“According to the latest Scottish government statistics, private renters tend to change addresses more often than homeowners. 83% of renters have been at their current property for less than five years, compared to 24% of owner-occupied homes. If tenants aren’t aware of their rights and the process of reclaiming their deposits, they could be left significantly out of pocket unnecessarily.”