Buy-to-let landlords in Scotland are being urged to ensure that they protect tenancy deposits and seek legal advice if they are not clear on the rules, after new figures revealed that more than 200 landlords have breached tenant deposit rules in 18 months.
A number of landlords risk fines of up to three times the deposit value, which the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) presides on, simply because they failed to register the tenant’s deposit with one of three government-approved schemes within 30 working days of the tenancy commencing.
SafeDeposits Scotland, one of the three government-approved schemes, accessed publicly-available documents on the Housing and Property Chamber First-tier Tribunal for Scotland website.
It looked specifically at decisions made by the Tribunal since it began hearing cases of non-compliance with deposit protection at the end of 2017 and found that around £186,657 had been paid out to tenants – the equivalent of more than £900 per case.
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.
Victoria Smith, chief operating officer at SafeDeposits Scotland, commented: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“If you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities – either as a tenant or landlord – you can contact our Glasgow-based support team or visit our website.”