Tenants still unaware of rights, says Shelter
The majority of UK tenants remain unaware of schemes that protect any deposit they have paid to their landlord, a charity has warned.
Shelter said that disputes over deposits - such as money being returned in full at the end of a tenancy - have risen sharply in recent years.
Calls on the issue to its helpline have risen from 1,764 in 2009-10 to 3,288 in 2011-12, a rise of 86%.
Landlords must keep deposits separate from day-to-day finances.
Under current rules, any deposit paid to a landlord by a new tenant must be put into a deposit protection scheme within 30 days of the start of the tenancy.
This would mean that, were a landlord to enter insolvency, then tenants' deposits would not be lost. It also allows some independent policing of disputes over the return of deposits when tenants move out.New rules
Shelter said that the average deposit demanded of a tenant when moving into a privately rented home was now £979.
Since 2007, regulations have demanded that this money remained safe in a protection scheme. These rules were strengthened earlier this year.
Any landlord who fails to do so can be challenged in court, with the penalty - paid to the tenant - ranging from the same value as the deposit to three times that amount.
However, Shelter said that research had concluded that the majority of tenants were still unaware of the schemes.
The charity has set up a deposit protection scheme checker, which allows people to check if their deposit is safe.
"While we know that most landlords do the right thing, some cause absolute misery for their tenants, accusing them of owing thousands of pounds for damage that does not exist or falsely claiming to have protected their deposit and then never returning it," said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.
"Without protection, renters are putting themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords and risk losing their hard-earned money that they paid in good faith."