Scottish renters are continuing to be unfairly refused the return of their deposits from private landlords. The problem, which primarily affects those on low or fixed incomes, has increased by up to 30% since 2006.
Between 8,000 and 11,000 tenants in Scotland are having their deposits unfairly withheld, totalling between £2.2m and £3.6m per annum. Despite this the Scottish Government ‘Review of the Private Sector’ refuses to support a Protected Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
Student bodies throughout Scotland are urging the government to provide a scheme which prevents landlords from withholding deposits or reducing the sum payable without cause. Tenancy deposit protection schemes ensure that a third party kept each renter’s deposit and returned it when due.
Currently victims of landlords withholding their money can challenge this only through a claim through a Small Claims Court, yet many loopholes in the law often make success difficult. Landlords who change the name of the company, but keep the rental properties and premises of their business, avoid having to pay any debts they have accumulated, causing financially- and time-poor renters lose their deposits entirely.
Tenancy deposit schemes are in place throughout Europe, including in England and Wales. The current system in these countries is self-financing, and does not place any additional financial strain on government, landlord, or tenant.
Gavin Lee, Convenor of CHESS said:
“It’s absolutely essential that the government understands how important this issue is, especially since it affects vulnerable groups such as those on low-incomes, including students.”
“A tenancy deposit protection scheme is a practical way to ensure fairness and safety for tenants.The Scottish Government review states one of it’s aims is to ‘provide better safeguards for tenants’ – on that point alone, they have singularly failed.”
The Times, May 5th 2009
Open letter to Fiona Hyslop
CHESS Convener, Gavin Lee, speaks to Good Morning Scotland on 06/05/09 about changes to the Scottish Higher Education sector since devolution:
Scottish students have condemned current suggestions of how best to address the shortcomings of the current funding system of Higher Education.
A response from the Coalition of Higher Education Students in Scotland (CHESS) to the ‘Supporting a Smarter Scotland’ consultation comes after extensive discussion between CHESS, the National Union of Students Scotland, and various members of the Scottish Parliament. The response explains that all options presented in the consultation are insufficient to combat the failings of the current funding system.
CHESS, the Coalition of Higher Education Students in Scotland, urged the Scottish government to focus their resources on tackling student hardship rather than graduate debt. They also call for the establishment of a minimum income guarantee that would ensure that students from all socio-economic backgrounds have sufficient financial support to attend University.
CHESS highlighted the ‘vicious circle’ students get stuck in when forced into excessive part-time work and reliance upon commercial credit to afford the essentials such as rent, utilities and food. Not only can this deter students from entering Higher Education, it can also lead to students dropping out and not realising their full potential – both harmful to the Scottish economy.
Gavin Lee, CHESS Convenor said “Any increase in student funding is a positive step, but the consultation has not addressed any of the changes that are imperative to improving the current funding system.
"I don’t believe asking the Scottish Government to help students out of poverty is ‘politically ill-judged’ as Fiona Hyslop suggests. Higher Education can be the bedrock of a strong, successful Scotland – but only if the Scottish Government wise up.
"Hyslop has shown contempt for the Higher Education sector, and has poured scorn on requests for students to be properly supported. I’d like to see Fiona Hyslop survive on the £4,510 students are expected to live on each year.”
Click below to download the CHESS response in full.
| Full CHESS response to the Smarter Scotland consultation|
|File Size: ||142 kb|
|File Type: || pdf|
CHESS members are beginning work on a response to 'Smarter Scotland: a consultation on student support funding', a document from the Scottish Government on the options available to increase and improve methods of funding Scottish students in both further and higher educations. Initially released shortly before Christmas, the deadline for responses from stakeholder groups such as CHESS is late April 2009. Work on the response will continue over the coming weeks. Comments and questions welcome.
CHESS' response to the Joint Future Thinking Taskforce consultation submitted by September 9th; text is now available on the Scottish Government website here. CHESS comments on the lack of effective student input, the lack of clarity over funding sources, the importance of widening access, the meaning of the 'light touch' approach and other issues important to the students of Scotland.
CHESS has heavily criticised the government for the Local Income Tax proposals which will result in unfair taxation of students. We are calling upon the Government to give full-time students a full exemption from the policies.
It is estimated that 55,000 of Scotland’s poorest students will be affected by the proposed changes. The changes would force poorer students to work longer hours to recoup the money lost through tax, thus giving them significantly less time to prepare for their studies. There is also concern that the income needed to continue to study will increase significantly due to students being charged up to £700 for water: a cost they never previously had to absorb.
Currently, students on average earn £8,000 per annum: an amount significantly over the threshold for taxation. As such, CHESS believes that the government’s comment that ‘the vast majority of full-time Scottish students will pay absolutely nothing’ is incorrect.
Gavin Lee, Convenor of CHESS and President of the Glasgow University SRC, commented: “CHESS are extremely disappointed that the Government are disregarding their vote grabbing pledge to ‘dump the debt’ by increasing the financial pressure students are faced with. A fairer tax. I think not!”
CHESS will continue to work towards ensuring that these proposals are not made into policy. We have made the Scottish Parliament and media aware of our concern and will continue to update students of progress to this campaign.
The Local Income Tax briefing is available here.
New CHESS website lauched. Additional content will be added shortly.