More than a third (36.4 per cent) of private tenants do not know how to claim their deposit back, a new survey has revealed.
Research by SafeDeposits Scotland also found more than half (55.8 per cent) of renters are unaware they can use a free service to challenge any deductions landlords make from their deposit.
About 280,000 households rent their property from a private landlord, according to the latest Scottish Household Survey. Regulations brought in in 2012 mean landlords must lodge deposit payments – which amount to an average of £723 – in a tenancy deposit scheme to ensure they can be returned at the end of the rental contract.
But SafeDeposits Scotland, the largest tenancy deposit scheme north of the border, said it had found a quarter (26.8 per cent) of renters are unaware of the requirement.
More than 4,500 tenants across the country took part in the research, with SafeDeposits Scotland now making a “concerted effort” to make sure more renters are aware of their rights.
Victoria Smith, chief operating officer at the not-for-profit organisation, said: “Scottish law on tenancy deposits is particularly robust and makes it a legal requirement for landlords to protect their tenants’ deposits. It’s also in the legislation that, if things don’t run smoothly, there’s a process to resolve disputes.
“Our survey is the biggest one of its kind ever done in Scotland since tenancy deposit legislation was implemented in 2012 and the figures show that a considerable number of tenants don’t know what’s in place to make sure that not only is their money protected, but there’s recourse if there are any problems.
“That’s why we’re making a concerted effort to educate tenants – as well as landlords and letting agents – across the country about their rights and responsibilities in terms of tenancy deposit protection.
“Tenants who don’t know what’s in place to make sure their deposit money is protected could be left out of pocket by landlords or agents who don’t comply with the legislation, or who make unsubstantiated claims. The majority of landlords abide by the law but there is a small group who disregard their legal responsibilities.
“If a landlord or agent fails to protect a tenant’s deposit within 30 days of the lease starting, they could be liable for up to three times the deposit value in compensation.
“The recently-introduced First-tier Tribunal, which makes decisions on such cases, has already adjudicated on 40 cases and reprimanded landlords.”