Crooked letting agents and landlords have so far this year been convicted of illegally pocketing over £900,000 of tenant’s cash – and there’s still almost six months to go.
Campaigning rental reformer Ajay Jagota says he’s convinced this means that last year’s total - £1,162,037 - will be smashed long before the end of 2018.
Jagota keeps a tally and says recent convictions have taken this year’s total of stolen deposits to £911,391, based on the first two quarters alone.
The latest landlords and letting agents to have been convicted of stealing £135,592 of deposits are Rachel Cefai of Rugby, jailed for two-and-a-half years for diverting more than £105,582 of tenant’s money into her own bank account, and with a judge saying that her “dishonesty seems to know no bounds”.
Meanwhile Rhian Falvey of Swansea was jailed for two years after paying more than £30,000 of tenant money into her own bank account and creating bogus invoices and credit notes on the firm’s electronic systems to cover her tracks.
Seven landlords and letting agents have now been convicted of stealing deposits in 2018, at an average theft of £13,199.
Jagota - who heads the #ditchthedeposithcampaign and runs deposit replacement insurance system Dlighted - wants traditional tenancy deposits replaced by deposit replacement insurance.
He says this would allow the £4.2 billion of renters’ cash currently held in deposits to be transformed into Help to Buy ISAs for first-time buyers, and would eliminate deposit theft into the bargain.
“Cases of deposit theft are clearly and demonstrably becoming more and more common and my worry is that the coming Tenant Fee ban will make things even worse.
“The government’s own impact assessment suggests that letting agents are going to be hundreds of millions of pounds out of pocket, forcing many firms out of business. With billions of pounds of renter’s money just sitting there, the temptation to use that money to bail our struggling businesses could become too great for many agents.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. Deposit replacement insurance 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.
“Deposit free renting makes renting cheaper for tenants, easier and more profitable for property professionals and cuts crime. The case for it is compelling.”