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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Stolen: £1.3m of tenants’ cash pilfered by rogue agents and landlords

A rental campaigner claims the amount of money stolen this year by crooked lettings agents and landlords has topped the £1.3m mark. 

Renting reform campaigner Ajay Jagota of zero deposit firm Dlighted keeps a stolen deposit totaliser, highlighting how much money is taken from renters every year.

Recent convictions took 2018’s running total of stolen deposits to £1,334,718 as the year comes to a close - a rise of 14.8 per cent on the £1,162,037 recorded in 2017.

The most recent case saw three men who ran agencies in and around Islington under the name Crestons, leave at least 19 victims £105,000 out of pocket.

Other recent cases include Heather Crabb, who admitted pocketing £260,000 from renters in Plymouth; Victoria Steele, arrested in Swaffham after an estimated £60,000 of landlord and tenant cash was reported as missing; and Karen Blakely, convicted of pocketing £34,000 in Scunthorpe.

Some 12 landlords and letting agents have now been convicted or charged with theft of deposits in 2018, at an average theft of £111,227.

Ajay Jagota, head of the #ditchthedeposithcampaign, wants government backing for landlords and agents replacing traditional tenancy deposits with deposit replacement insurance.

He says this will allow £4.5 billion of renters’ cash held in deposits to be transformed into Help to Buy ISAs for first-time buyers; as a bonus, it would eliminate deposit theft.

“For the third successive year over £1m of the deposits which supposedly keep landlords and tenants safe have themselves been stolen and as our figures show the problem is just getting worse.

“It’s impossible to see things improving in 2019 either – especially as the introduction of the Tenants Fees ban is going to put considerable financial pressure on lettings agents, making the temptation to misappropriate renter’s cash irresistible to agents who find themselves trouble.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the private rented sector’s dirty little secret that supposedly ring-fenced deposits are routinely used as a convenient source of cash. As long as businesses don’t get into trouble, they can always cover this up. But when they go under, which could well happen to an increasingly number of businesses next year, it becomes frighteningly obvious quite how much cash is missing.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. 2018 was the year that deposit free renting went mainstream, and for good reason. Deposit replacement insurance like Dlighted’s gives landlords and letting agents significantly superior protection against rent arrears, property damage and legal costs while allowing them to let properties longer and faster.”

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    A rental campaigner? Some people need to get a life!

    Does he also keep a total of how much tenants steal from landlords by not paying their rent for months on end and damage to property?

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    His company obviously need the business and I think less of a campaigner, more a profiteer.

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    I am classed as a small agent. This year we have had over £20,000 of unpaid rents where we have had to use S8 court proceedings. This does not include the Court costs involved or damages following eviction either. So how much rent have tenants ripped off landlords this year? Could Mr Jagota hazard a guess then suggest how this can be curbed? I would suggest 20 million has been in effect stolen by tenants. I am max that you can fill up with fuel. No written agreement then drive off without paying. This is criminal. But actually sign to say you will pay for something then don’t is a civil matter!

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    On thier website (Dlighted) the only company they seem to have engaged with is Northwoods, my experience with Zero deposit schemes is a waste of time for the PRS, agencies used to charge the tenants for the scheme to help the tenants out, but of course with the coming of the TFB, you cannot do that so the landlords would have to pay for the service, which would have to be insurance backed to ensure that this company does not go belly up also. So simple solution embrace the 5 week cap in regards to the deposit embrace the TFB "after all that is not going to change" and make sure that insurance backed schemes are banned and all deposits have to be kept in a custodial account such as DPS or any other, and ban agents and Landlords from being able to hold the monies in their own accounts with a supposed insurance policy. That is the only way to ensure companies and landlords don't use it for cash flow "ITS NOT THIER MONEY" OMG I could go sorry having a bad lol

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    My English teacher would have shot us, metaphorically back in the 1960s if we had written a commentary like David's.

    I think I can understand the points made but I really am not sure.

    Jonathan Ash's comment above is a very much more realistic statement of the current private letting situation. I have just been swindled quite deliberately by a very skilled tenant. So much so that he ran rings around my letting agent and thus added to the costs. We did get to keep his deposit but we only had that because he would not have gained a lease without it.

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    Crooks operate in all walks of life. It's hard but not impossible to eliminate it. There must be an inherent weakness in the custodial schemes if people can circumvent the system and not get pulled up. Tenants need educating. If they haven't received their tenancy certificate within 4 weeks they should be jumping up and down.

    If any letting agency is struggling financially let me know, I'm in the market to buy. Has to be better than raiding their tenants deposits!

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