Scotland business

Millions of pounds unclaimed in tenancy deposits

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Millions of pounds worth of deposits remain unclaimed by tenants who have left rented properties in Scotland, it has emerged.

Scottish government figures showed that 8,408 deposits worth £2.4m had not been claimed as of the end of September.

The cash is being held in three government-approved deposit schemes set up in 2012 to protect tenants.

Landlords are legally required to lodge deposits with one of the schemes, which hold the money until a lease has ended.

The initiative was launched to prevent agents and landlords from holding on to money on false grounds.

Tenant appeal

The largest scheme administrator - SafeDeposits Scotland - has appealed for tenants to come forward and reclaim their deposits.

The Glasgow-based not-for-profit organisation has paid back more than 156,000 Scottish tenants since it began holding deposits four years ago.

It is currently holding more than 107,000 deposits totalling £74m.

However, more than 3,000 tenants have ended their leases without claiming back their money. A total of £833,000 remains unclaimed.

Image copyright SafeDeposits Scotland
Image caption SafeDeposits Scotland chief executive Jen Paice said the organisation was working to reunite former tenants with their money

SafeDeposits Scotland chief executive Jen Paice said: "We reckon that a large proportion of the missing tenants are students.

"Perhaps they were new to the rental market and didn't appreciate that they would get their deposits back.

"Maybe they were from abroad and didn't fully understand how the scheme works in Scotland. Or it could be that in a multiple-occupancy let they lost track of who owed what.

"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 cash they are owed."

'Elusive tenants'

She added: "Our finance team work tirelessly to reunite former tenants with their money, sending letters to forwarding addresses, emailing, calling and texting.

"While successful in the majority of cases, some people are more elusive."

Another of the schemes, Hertfordshire-based MyDeposits Scotland, said it was holding 4,477 of unclaimed tenancy deposits totalling just under £1.25m. Overall, it holds 48,000 deposits totalling £26m.

A spokesman said: "When a tenant does not make a claim for their deposit, we will repeatedly contact them to make them aware of what they need to do to claim back their deposit.

"Throughout the tenancy, right up until when the repayment is requested, the deposits are held in a secure UK bank account and will only be released when the tenant has contacted us and we have successfully verified their ID."

Clarification sought

Both SafeDeposits Scotland and MyDeposits Scotland are seeking clarification from the Scottish government about what should happen to deposits that are not reclaimed in the long term.

Ms Paice said: "It's not something that was ever written in to the legislation as no-one at the time thought it would happen.

"We understand that if deposits aren't claimed back within six years, unclaimed funds go to the Crown, a process which will start in 2018."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Scheme administrators must hold a tenant's deposit in a designated account until it falls to be repaid at the end of the tenancy.

"If it is unclaimed they must hold it indefinitely in case it is claimed at a later date. Nothing in the scheme rules provides for unclaimed money to be paid to anyone."

New guidelines

In a separate development, Scottish landlords are to announce their support for new action by the Scottish government aimed at forcing rogue and illegal players out of the private rented sector (PRS).

At a major industry event in Edinburgh, the Scottish Association of Landlords (Sal) will back new guidelines being issued to local authorities on enforcing landlord registration.

Sal said there was increasing concern that some landlords were not applying to join a public register maintained by councils, despite being required to do so.

Its chief executive John Blackwood said: "We fully support stronger guidance for local authorities on landlord registration and, indeed, any other measures which will increase enforcement and make existing laws and regulations more effective."

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