The recent conviction of letting agent Thirunga Damayantharan for illegally keeping £15,000 of tenancy deposits has taken the total value of deposits known to be stolen in the first quarter of 2017 to £310,000 – presenting the head of Keep It Simple Group with yet another opportunity to campaign against rental deposits in the private rented sector.
Damayantharan, a Croydon-based letting agent, was sentenced to 19 months in prison last month after being found guilty of keeping a number of client deposits over a six-year period.
Ajay Jagota, CEO and founder of Keep It Simple Group (KIS), has long been campaigning for an official government response to a series of crimes and misdemeanours in the tenancy deposit scheme which is officiated and run under their supervision, and so it is no surprise that he has now welcomed the news that the government’s consultation into the banning of letting agent fees will also consider reforming how tenancy deposits are paid.
Jagota ultimately believes that a more effective way to improve the private rented sector would be for monetary deposits to be scrapped.
His firm KIS were the first letting agents to abolish monetary deposits, replacing them with a one-of-a-kind insurance policy.
Jagota is also founder of dLighted, an insurance backed deposit-free renting solution offering up to £7,500 of cover for agents.
He said: “The government’s announcement that deposit reform will form part of the letting agent fees ban consultation led to the usual flurry of outrage from the usual suspects – but the industry needs to accept that change is coming.
“It’s absolutely true that deposits are a financial burden on renters in need of minimising and it’s in the letting industry’s interest as much as anybody else’s that they are not only minimised but eliminated altogether. We exist to help landlords find and keep good tenants!
“No one is saying that asset protection for landlords isn’t essential – we only look to research this week claiming that a third of tenants wouldn’t own up to damaging their rented property - but there are better ways of doing it, and replacing cash deposits with insurance policies is one.
“I can already see a path to a place where its costs agents money whenever they take a cash deposit. The chair of one of the tenancy deposit schemes seemed to be hinting in a recent interview that as ongoing low interest rates are making it harder to operate he wants to start charging for his services, You might think that will never happen, but a lot of people thought that a letting agent fee ban would never happen.
“Whether by legislation or technology, the sector is going to change. It is time to recognise the sectors associations who represent it have a poor track record of lobbying government and it is now time to embrace any opportunities from the forthcoming changes.”