Thousands of private sector tenants in Scotland have failed to collect their deposit when they moved out of their home, it has been discovered.
Staff at tenancy deposit scheme SafeDeposits Scotland have calculated that money due to tenants amounts to more than £500,000.
Tenancy deposit schemes were introduced in July 2012 and since then more than 156,000 deposits have been repaid by SafeDeposits Scotland. While millions of pounds have been returned to tenants at the end of their leases, a small proportion of people don’t claim back the money that is due to them. It is those people who SafeDeposits Scotland are trying to track down.
A large proportion of missing tenants are students, according to the firm. With the start of the academic year, September is the busiest time for deposits being paid both in and out. The busiest day sees almost 90% more deposits being paid in than the average day through the year.
Just over 2,000 tenants have ended their leases without claiming back the money due them, totalling more than £500,000. The clock is ticking and if deposits aren’t claimed back within six years, unclaimed funds go to the Crown, a process which will start in 2018.
SafeDeposits Scotland’s finance team do everything they can to reunite former tenants with their money including sending letters to forwarding addresses, emailing, calling and texting. While successful in the majority of cases, some people are more elusive. Money cannot be paid directly back into accounts as this isn’t information that tenancy deposit schemes have been given.
The Scottish Government introduced the tenancy deposit scheme in 2012 to make deposits safe for tenants. When landlords and agents take a deposit from a tenant they’re required by law to lodge the money with one of three approved schemes who ring fence the money until the end of the lease.
SafeDeposits Scotland is the largest of these three approved schemes in the UK, holds an estimated 60% of all private rental deposits and the only scheme to be based in Scotland.
‘It’s extremely surprising that people can leave their rented property and forget to ask for their deposit back. The vast majority of tenants remember to claim their money but there’s a small minority who don’t,’ said Jennifer Paice, chief executive of SafeDeposits Scotland.
‘Our finance team do a great job in tracking most of them down but there are a significant number they can’t get hold of. We don’t think it’s right that people lose out on what’s due to them so we do everything we can to try and get people the money they are owed,’ she added.