IS IT a sad and tragic testament to the human character that where money can be taken, it will be, no matter how immoral? Are the actions of these individuals — vile and beneath contempt — a mere commentary on human kind?
No, not the bankers this time, not the politicians or journalists, it’s time to take issue with the Landlords.
A raggedy, backpacking, part time bartender will feel the effects of losing a month’s rent, far more deeply than a multi-property owning businessman and five years ago in Sydney I had my first experience of unscrupulous landlords. I was young, naive and new to the place so I had no idea how deposits and rent worked, I assumed the best in people and for my troubles had to leave with only a fraction of my hard earned money.
Five years later and I am learning my lesson again. My last place in Putney came with the bonus feature of a Landlady from hell. I had to move in at short notice and the landlady clearly saw this as an opportunity to fleece me as much as possible. Before I knew it, she was asking for contract fees and cleaning fees not previously mentioned, which, of course, I refused to pay. Meanwhile I overheard heated arguments with the landlady and the previous tenants – screaming that if they wanted to ‘test her’ they should speak to other tenants who had lost their deposits. By this point alarm bells were ringing — the Landlady was out on a vendetta (and one against tenants).
Sometimes it feels as if the renting business is an ongoing battle. Sinister feudal masters against the meek and vulnerable that just don’t stand a chance. This is not the Middle Ages though and tenants have as many rights as Landlords. The thing is a lot of people, in particular foreigners, don’t know this.
So after doing some research, my first step was to inform the Landlady that by law, she was required to put our deposit into a protection scheme run by the government, such as the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS). This gave me piece of mind, as I knew that the deposit was with a third party, and if things were done by the book, I would be guaranteed my money back.
So, good advice is to use the DPS. If your Landlord is threatening you, just the mention that you’ve been in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau will put them on the back foot. Also remember that the Landlord has to give you at least 24 hours notice before they can enter the property and harassing or threatening behaviour is completely illegal.
It is vital that you sort out your inventory, take loads of photos and know your contract from the beginning to ensure there can be no nasty surprises down the line. Opportunistic, money-grabbing landlords will always exaggerate the cost for replacements so remember to try and get quotes or fix things yourself before you check out. Be especially careful when renting through gumtree.com – estate agents are safer and often hold the deposit for you, although you may want to consider the cost of agency fees.
It’s a fact of life these base and depraved characters are an element that make up our race but optimism is essential to progress and besides, there are Landlords out there who do do their job honestly. Indeed, at times it is the tenants who have no scruples. Conscientious Landlords often find that tenants damage the property to such an extent that their deposit will not cover it.
It comes down to a game of trust; learning how to become a good judge of character is important but so is knowing your rights and covering yourself. I am hopeful to recover my deposit through the DPS but it has taken three months now and is proving a royal headache. No one wants that and in an ideal world, ignoble practices wouldn’t exist but at least there are contingency plans you can put in place. And, if you’ve overestimated the human capacity for honesty, learn from your lessons and tell yourself that karma really does exist!