Crooked letting agents and landlords have raided close to £1m from tenancy deposit accounts in 2017, new figures show.
Campaigning agent Ajay Jagota, who runs deposit-free renting firm Dlighted, keeps a running total of the cash value of deposits criminal letting agents have been convicted of stealing, which he publishes on a quarterly basis.
By the end of the final quarter of 2017 overall thefts totalled £926,037 – an average theft of £38,585 per conviction.
Some 25 landlords and letting agents have been convicted of stealing amounts ranging from £130,000 to £595 throughout the year – more than two every month.
A recent conviction saw 32-year-old James Bennett sentenced to six years in prison after duping at least 17 victims looking for a South London room to rent out of an estimated £10,000.
Jagota, who advocates a deposit-free renting alternative to traditional tenancy deposit schemes, says: “In 2016 crooked landlords and agents were convicted of stealing £1m of deposits. Twelve months on nothing has changed. At the end of 2018 we’ll probably be here again. It doesn’t have to be like this.
“As far as I am concerned the misuse of deposits is endemic in our industry, and all too often this misappropriation crosses over into outright illegality. Putting up with a system which allows this is simply crazy.
“Tenants want cheaper renting, and deposit free renting delivers it, while protecting landlords better against rent arrears, legal costs and property damage, and reducing void periods. For letting agents it cuts costs and admin and brings customers to their door. Everyone wins.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Zero deposit means zero risk. Zero risk of rent arrears thanks to our rent guarantee. Zero risk of deposits not covering the cost of property damage due to the £500,000 of cover our deposit replacement insurance offers. And zero risk of criminals making off with tenants’ cash”.