Too many tenants are getting into disputes with their landlords because of not reading their tenancy agreements carefully enough or knowing their rights.
A recent survey by LV found that almost half (48 per cent) of tenants had never heard of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme, which was brought in by the government in April 2007 to protect renters in the event of a deposit dispute.
The figures also revealed that almost one-third (29 per cent) of people who had rented a property in the last 12 months were not part of a TDP scheme, despite it being a legal requirement.
This means that up to £4 billion of renters' deposit money is at risk of being lost should they enter a dispute with their landlord.
The TDP scheme was designed to call landlords to account - and court if necessary - should they withhold deposits, but it appears that many tenants are unaware of this legal protection.
So why are so many tenants uninformed about their rights?
John O'Rourke, managing director of LV home insurance, said that his company's research shows that the government needs to raise awareness about TDP legislation, as well enforcing it more strictly.
"Although the majority of private landlords are undoubtedly honest, our research shows that many tenants have experienced problems getting their deposit money back in the past, and are worried it could happen again," he added.
Tenants can help to protect themselves by follow several simple rules, according to TDP provider mydeposits.co.uk.
It recommends that renters stick to timeless advice like making sure a property is clean and tidy at the end of the tenancy.
The website claims that 38 per cent of all tenancy disputes revolve around cleaning bills, so keeping a home clean and solving minor repairs yourself can save a tenant hundreds in the long term.
It also reminds renters that their tenancy agreements are legally binding documents once signed and are enforceable in court. If the contract states a tenant must give 30 days notice before ending the tenancy, then any less and a deposit may be withheld.
David Salusbury, mydeposits.co.uk chairman, said: "Most tenancies end amicably but it is a two-way relationship. If tenants act according to the rules laid out in their agreements, a landlord has no right to withhold their deposit."
However, with the growing credit crunch, more and more tenants are finding themselves being made redundant and facing difficulty over how to pay their rent.
Recent statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show that 37,609 landlords took their tenants to court on possession orders in the second quarter of 2008, a growth of two per cent on the same period in 2007.
A Daily Telegraph article warns landlords whose tenants have become unemployed to remain calm and try to help the situation.
Unemployed tenants may be eligible for Local Housing Allowance aid, which replaced Housing Benefit in April. Landlords who help their tenants make a claim may find that they are able to remain in the property until the end of the tenancy agreement, according to the article.
Whatever the case, the worsening economic situation means that every penny becomes precious, and more and more tenants and landlords may find themselves in dispute.
Published on: October 1, 2008