This summer, over a dozen G4Lets tenants successfully withheld their final month’s rent payment to claim back their tenancy deposit. G4Lets are notorious deposit thieves, usually taking most or all of a deposit for dubious and inflated charges that take months to challenge through their chosen deposit protection scheme, MyDeposits.

This year, since the spring, a number of G4Lets tenants have been organising with us to avoid this scenario themselves. G4Lets rent exclusively to students and most of their tenancies finish around the same time, in the summer months. Over the past two years, we have organised with tenants who have had thousands of pounds stolen from their deposits by G4Lets. These tenants were only able to reclaim part of this money via MyDeposits’ dispute resolution service. Dispute resolution with MyDeposits takes three to four months, involves a lot of paperwork, and is at points incredibly vague, such as about the definition of the notoriously broad category of ‘fair wear and tear’. Further, their insurance-based protection scheme allows landlords to keep hold of, and thus earn interest on, the deposit for the entirety of the tenancy. It’s no wonder they are the go-to protection scheme for gutter agencies like G4Lets.

Based on these previous experiences, this year we suggested to G4Lets’ tenants that the quickest way to get their deposit back would be to not pay their final month’s rent. This way, the agency keeps the deposit to pay the rent but can’t make any dodgy deductions, and the tenant walks away with their deposit without the hassle of having to engage with the deposit protection scheme. This is a tactic for resisting landlord and letting agency exploitation that many engage in on their own on a regular basis. We suggested to the G4Lets tenants that they do this collectively, giving them the protection and solidarity of mass action. Over a dozen tenants decided to do this, coming along to drop-ins to talk through the details, discussing the issue with housemates and encouraging them to participate, and staying in regular contact with us and other tenants during the strike itself. In response to these tenants withholding their final month’s rent, G4Lets took this money from their deposits. This meant that the tenants walked away with their deposits with minimal hassle, and that G4Lets weren’t able to make any dodgy deductions, since the entirety of the deposit was spent on paying the final month’s rent.

This has been a really encouraging action; firstly because it was a simple but effective way of dealing with the problem of deposit theft, and secondly because it was undertaken collectively, protecting the tenants from repercussions and showing what can be achieved when we act together.

There are also a few useful lessons that can be learned. These include that if you are going to reclaim your deposit this way, it’s important to withhold the amount of rent that matches the cost of your deposit. This might be six weeks rent rather than four. You’re still safe from eviction if you do this, as you can see in our guide to withholding rent to get your deposit back here. If you don’t do this, the agency will almost certainly keep the missing rent from your deposit and whatever money is left over, as a couple of tenants experienced. It’s also important to remember that if you have withheld your final month’s rent, you shouldn’t provide your current landlord or letting agency as a reference, as they will probably have something to say about this. If you are in this situation, there are alternative ways that you can provide a ‘previous landlord’ reference - get in touch with us for some advice on that.

We’re pleased that these tenants were spared the hardship of being out of pocket and the hassle of going through dispute resolution. Practical, collective action remains our strongest, most useful defence against the attacks on our lives by landlords and letting agencies.

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This article was published on 1 October 2019 by the SolFed group in Brighton. Other recent articles:

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