Three University of Edinburgh students have won a case in court and been awarded £1,853 in compensation after their landlady failed to lodge their rental deposit in an approved tenancy scheme.
It is common for student tenants to be unaware of their ability to collect their deposit after a tenancy has terminated. Third party groups such as SafeDeposits Scotland work to spread information to students and inexperienced tenants about how to safeguard their deposits.
The students, Phoebe Russel-Smith, Stephanie Dion-Jones and Alexis Herskowit, paid their landlady, Ijeoma Uchegbu, their £1550 deposit in May 2015, but Uchegbu alledgedly failed to lodge it with a third party until May 2016, once the court action had already been raised.
The court was told she had been repeatedly informed of the regulations but had delayed, giving little information to the tenants.
Her legal representative told Sheriff Welsh that this was not a case of wilful defiance but that she had been “dilatory in attending to her obligations” and that “she has learned her lesson.”
This legislation, introduced in 2012 by the Scottish Government, requires landladies, landlords and letting agents to hand over deposits to approved third parties, protecting tenants and preventing money from being held falsely.
As part of the ongoing reform of the private rental market in Scotland, the organisations can also offer impartial adjudication in cases where the landlady/lord feels that there is cause for some or all of the deposit not to be returned.
SafeDeposits Scotland CEO Jen Paice told The Student: “It is saddening that a landlord should act unlawfully by taking a deposit and failing to lodge it with a recognised body. Tenant deposit protection schemes are well named – they fully protect the deposits given by tenants.”
She added, “it is clear that these students understand the value of tenancy deposit schemes and, while it is unfortunate that this case had to go to court, it is heartening to see the law being upheld… Landlords who ignore the law are putting tenants and their money at risk”.
SafeDeposits Scotland is the largest of the three groups authorised to manage deposits by the Scottish government, holding around 60 per cent of private rental deposits.
It is run on a not-for-profit basis and does not charge landlord/ladies or tenants.
All running costs are met from the interest it makes from the money it holds and profit goes to their trust, set up to improve education and training in the private rental market.
Jenna Kelly, Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Vice President Services, also spoke to The Student about this issue. “We’re delighted these students have won their case,” she said.
“Sadly it’s still all too common for students in Edinburgh to fall victim to unscrupulous or ill-informed landlords, and we’re finding it common for landlords to fail to properly register deposits, but as more students and tenants become aware of their rights we’re hopeful this will change.”
She also advised, “our student advisory service provides information on safeguarding deposits in the course of delivering flat-hunting advice”.
“If any students at University of Edinburgh have any concerns about their deposits or their accommodation more generally, they can pop in to the Advice Place in Potterrow or King’s Buildings, get in touch by phone or check out their advice online.”
Image: Justin Black