Edinburgh University students win rent deposit case

Edinburgh Sheriff Court
Edinburgh Sheriff Court

Three students from the University of Edinburgh have been awarded £1,853 after their landlady failed to lodge their rental deposit in the approved tenancy scheme, the BBC has reported.

Regulations introduced in May 2013 require landlords and letting agents to hand over deposits to an approved third party for safekeeping to prevent landlords from holding on to tenants’ money on false grounds.

The deposit was only lodged after three students raised their court action.

Phoebe Russel-Smith, Stephanie Dion-Jones and Alexis Herskowit and Marc Fitchett paid Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu a deposit of £1,550 on 16 May 2015. Mr Fitchett was not involved in the court action.

Prof Uchegbu only lodged the deposit on 28 May 2016.

At a hearing in Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Sheriff Thomas Welsh, heard the deposit had now been returned to the students, but for eight months there had been no protection for the tenants and no information given to them of their rights.

Sheriff Welsh awarded the students £1,253 for the time the deposit was unprotected and £600 to reflect the fact the landlady had been repeatedly informed of her obligations and had still failed to comply.

The biology professor, who lives in St Albans, was described as “an experienced landlady who received strong advice that the deposit had to be lodged in the approved scheme from the tenants and the regulatory authority”.

A legal representative for Uchegbu described his client as “an amateur landlady” and admitted she had been in breach of the regulations.

“She has learned her lesson” he told Sheriff Welsh.

In his judgment, Sheriff Welsh accepted the landlady admitted her non-compliance, had not wasted court time and the deposit money had been returned to the students.

However, he added, the regulations were there to be complied with for the protection of tenants.

He said: “The breach in this case is aggravated by the fact the landlady must have known of and ignored or at least procrastinated in implementing her obligation to lodge the deposit and inform the tenants”.

He added that he accepted this had not been wilful defiance, but Uchegbu had been “dilatory in attending to her obligations”.

The students had been seeking the maximum sum of £4,650.

Photo credit: Kim Traynor (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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