The cash value of tenancy deposits crooked landlords and letting agents have been convicted of pocketing in 2018 has already passed £750,000 – in 2017, it took until October for that level to be reached.
Deposit-free renting firm Dlighted, which operates a ‘totaliser’ of stolen money by analysing reports of offences, last week said deposit thefts rose 14 per cent in 2017, with £1,162,037 of tenant’s cash proved to have been taken over the course of the year.
This week’s conviction of Clifford Wheatcroft, formerly of letting agents Real Est8 Property Solutions of Bournemouth, takes 2018’s total to £776,699 – before the end of February.
Wheatcroft was spared jail after admitting to using £357,260 of tenant’s money to fund a “lavish lifestyle” and to prop up his business instead of placing it in a deposit protection scheme.
He was given a suspended prison sentence and 250 hours or community service.
Dlighted’s founder, the renting reform campaigner Ajay Jagota, is now heading the #ditchthedeposit campaign, which seeks government backing for landlords and letting agents replacing traditional tenancy deposits with deposit replacement insurance.
"Cases of deposit theft are becoming increasingly common and in my opinion will increase even more dramatically once the tenant fee ban is in place” he says.
“A lot of the attention in this case has about how the stolen deposits were used to fund shopping trips and holidays, but for me a much more telling factor is the convicted agent’s admission that he started using deposits to keep up other payments when his business ran into difficulties.
"As we have seen in many case after case the temptation is too great for agents to utilise tenants deposits to prop up failing businesses. It’s common knowledge that the fee ban could cost agents between 20 to 30 per cent of their revenue, evaporating their profit margin and increasing the temptation to misuse cash deposits.”