The recent conviction of former letting agent Heather Crabb for illegally pocketing £260,000 from renters in Plymouth has contributed significantly to the £1.3bn worth of tenancy deposits known to have been stolen so far this year.
Crabb, who owned Drake Homes from 2005 until it closed in September 2016, was convicted at Plymouth Crown Court in late October after pleading guilty to charges of fraud, false accounting and theft running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The guilty verdict has presented anti-deposit campaigner Ajay Jagota with yet another opportunity to campaign against rental deposits in the private rented sector.
Jagota, who keeps a running total of the cash value of deposits criminal letting agents have been convicted of stealing, reports that recent convictions took 2018’s running total of stolen deposits to £1.334,718 as the year comes to a close - a rise of 14.8% from the £1,162,037 recorded in 2017.
Jagota, the founder of dLighted, an insurance backed deposit-free renting solution offering cover for agents, ultimately believes that a more effective way to improve the private rented sector would be for monetary deposits to be scrapped.
He said: “For the third successive year more £1m of the deposits which supposedly keep landlords and tenantrs safe have themselves been stolen and as our figures show the problem is just getting worse.
“It’s impossible to see things improving in 2019 either – especially as the introduction of the Tenants Fees ban is going to but considerable financial pressure on lettings agents, making the temptation to misappropriate renter’s cash irresistible to agents who find themselves trouble.
“As I always say, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the private rented sector’s dirty little secret that supposedly ring-fenced deposits are routinely used as a convenient source of cash. As long as businesses don’t get into trouble, they can always cover this up. But when they go under, which could well happen to an increasingly number of businesses next year, it becomes frighteningly obvious quite how much cash is missing.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. 2018 was the year that deposit free renting went mainstream, and for good reason. Deposit replacement insurance like Dlighted’s gives landlords and letting agents significantly superior protection against rent arrears, property damage and legal costs while allowing them to let properties longer and faster.”