The Vicar of Spalding has spoken out about landlords exploiting tenants who try to reclaim deposits paid on rented homes.
The Rev John Bennett says: “There is a severe housing crisis in Spalding which results in high rents, poor maintenance by landlords and, on occasion, a flouting of the law.”
He says he’s helping a family who were asked to pay more than £1,000 when they moved out of a property for items that were either not their responsibility or for defects already listed on the inventory when they moved in.
Mr Bennett says: “When I have spoken with several people about the difficulty of recovering the deposit they have said things like ‘that’s perfectly normal, it’s just a racket’. Sadly, I fear that many people will have stories to tell of what they have suffered because some landlords seem only to be concerned with how much money they can make for themselves.
“Eastern Europeans are more vulnerable to exploitation if they do not speak English well enough to understand and insist on their rights.”
For the last seven months, Mr Bennett and church members have been helping a Polish family who were evicted from a room in a shared house and left “homeless and desperate”.
Within days, both parents found work – which meant they could rent again – and a church member acted as guarantor.
Mr Bennett says the couple paid more than £2,000 up front for the deposit, rent and various fees for a small house which “smelled of damp and was poorly maintained”.
The family complained about damp and mould coming through recently painted walls and were eventually told their tenancy would not be renewed after six months.
He says after they moved and asked for their deposit, they were handed charges totalling more than £1,000, including sums to repair items listed as damaged in the inventory before they moved in.
Mr Bennett said: “As things stand we have been told this will now go for adjudication through the deposit protection scheme where the money is held and this will take another six to ten weeks.”
• Citizens Advice has published comprehensive guidance on tenancies on www.citizensadvice.org.uk
In brief, CA say your landlord or letting agent must use a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme to safeguard your money if the tenancy is an assured shorthold.
If you find damaged or worn items when you start your tenancy, CA advise you to: take pictures of them, write a short description of each item in the inventory, and agree in writing with your landlord that your pictures and descriptions fairly represent the property’s condition.
At the end of the tenancy, you should get your deposit back within ten days if you and your landlord agree the amount.
If your deposit is in a custodial TDP scheme, you might need to complete a form provided by your landlord’s scheme. The form lets the scheme know that you and your landlord agree how much you should get back where there are issues relating to the full return of the deposit.
If your deposit is in an insurance-based TDP, your landlord must return your money directly to you.
When you and your landlord disagree on the amount, the landlord must give the whole sum or the disputed amount to the TDP to decide who gets what.
For more advice please click on www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/tenancy-deposit-schemes-overview/
The site includes a link to a Government website for other tenancy types.