Landlords are issuing bogus cleaning invoices in bid to keep deposits
Some landlords are issuing tenants with bogus cleaning invoices in a bid to deduct money from deposits, the Irish Independent can reveal.
National housing charity Threshold has said that the illegal retention of deposits continues to be an issue for tenants in the private rented sector, and warned that it can even be "the first step towards homelessness".
According to the Residential Tenancies Board's (RTB) recent report, 1,234 dispute resolution cases related to deposit retention.
One young tenant told the Irish Independent how she recently had €180 taken out of her deposit to cover cleaning costs, despite thoroughly cleaning the property before moving out.
Pictures furnished proved the house was in a good, clean condition when she left and there was no damage done to any part of the property.
The tenant repeatedly asked the estate agent handling the rental to furnish an invoice in respect of the cleaning service. She was eventually sent a copy of the invoice by email three weeks later.
It was handwritten and from a company based in Dublin 22.
However, no such company is registered with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) and when the Irish Independent called to the address listed, it was a vacant building.
The invoice was also dated October 19, even though the money was deducted from the tenant's deposit at the end of September after the property was purportedly professionally cleaned two weeks earlier.
This same tenant had €320 deducted from her deposit to cover painting and decorating inside the house and garden maintenance.
Garden maintenance wasn't covered in the lease and the tenant argued she shouldn't have to foot the bill for this.
The invoice for the painting and garden work was from another Dublin-based company. The company is registered with the CRO and its director is also director of the estate agent that handled the young tenant's rental.
"The whole thing stank and the fact it took so long for them to send a copy of a handwritten invoice, which was dated later than the actual cleaning invoice, makes me really suspicious," she said.
The tenant, who wishes to remain anonymous, threatened to go to the Residential Tenancies Board and after three months of emails back and forth, the landlord agreed to return the full amount.
In 77pc of deposit retention cases brought before the RTB, tenants had their deposits fully refunded.
Threshold, the housing charity, says it is currently dealing with a number of clients who had their deposits unfairly withheld.
In one case, a client lost €1,100. This tenant received copies of numerous receipts which included an invoice from the landlord to cover his own time cleaning the property.
He also charged the tenant €70 for a van rental despite having no invoice; €17 for his lunch on the days he was cleaning the property; €200 for petrol to drive to the rental property; and €230 for plants, new rugs, new bathroom mats, a toilet brush, blackout curtains and new cushions.
A spokesperson for Threshold said the illegal retention of deposits continues to be an issue for tenants in the private rented sector.
"A deposit will often represent the full extent of an individual or family's savings, and the failure to return the deposit creates a significant obstacle to obtaining alternative accommodation and can be the first step towards homelessness," they told the Irish Independent.
"Threshold has been calling for a legal definition of a deposit to mean one month's rent. We are aware of instances in which people are required to provide two months' deposit, along with the first month's rent.
"The common practice regarding deposits is the equivalent of one month's rent. However, there is no law in relation to this. This needs to be addressed to protect tenants.
"Threshold calls for the immediate introduction of a deposit protection scheme, as set out in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015.
"This piece of legislation provided for a deposit protection scheme in Ireland, with the Residential Tenancies Board functioning as custodian of deposits and their dispute resolution service being used to settle disagreements between tenants and landlords.
"Despite legislation having been passed by the Oireachtas in December 2015, the deposit protection scheme has not yet been commenced by the minister."