A nationwide rent deposit protection scheme is to be introduced by the Scottish Government, providing assurance to the thousands of students renting in the private sector each year.
Protection and clarity will be offered to tenants, with the scheme aiming to cut the number of wrongly withheld deposits, speed up deposit returns, and ensure the availability of funds at the end of the tenancy.
In instances of dispute, it is hoped that the scheme will ensure that decisions regarding the amount returned to tenants will be determined in a fair way.
Cabinet Minister for Housing and Communities, Alex Neil announced the decision, which will allow the Scottish Government to provide the same measures already in place in England and Wales.
He said: “When deposits are unfairly withheld, it can cause hardship and misery for the tenant.
“We know that in many cases it is students and vulnerable tenants who are affected, and this is an absolute tragedy — these are the very people who can least afford to be treated in this way.
“On the recent evidence on the scale and nature of this, we believe it is time to take strong action.”
Students’ Representative Council President, Laura Laws, welcomed the Government’s announcement.
She said: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government has finally taken this step to protect those renting in the private sector.
“This will make a huge difference, not least to students — the changes will ensure that the millions of pounds in withheld deposits each year are returned to their rightful owners.”
Reports have been made of many Glasgow University students being left in a vulnerable position by their landlords when moving out.
Problems, including the late return of deposits and deductions for excessive cleaning charges are not unusual, with certain landlords and letting agents now notorious for taking advantage of students.
Former tenants of letting agent Grant Management told Guardian that they incurred deductions from their deposit on a four bedroom flat for the apparent cleaning of a non-existent fifth bedroom.
Third year student Alasdair Shaw explained the difficulties he has experienced with deposit returns after moving out of a flat rented from Grant Management.
He said: “It was almost two months after we moved out before our deposit was returned to us. When it was returned, large deductions were made from our deposit for the repair of a broken window.
“This was absolutely ridiculous and unjustified because the window had already been repaired and this repair work had been paid for by ourselves.”
Alasdair went on to explain why he thought the introduction of the deposit scheme would be beneficial to students in the future.
He said: “I found Grant Management’s attitude toward deposit return worryingly blasé.
“Our dispute will hopefully be settled, but only through our perseverance. I think landlords take advantage of student tenants who may not have the time or know-how to challenge unfair deductions in their deposits.
“There needs to be something to stop this arising in the first place and to ensure that tenants have their deposits returned to them fairly without having to fight tooth and nail for every penny.”