Landlords have been warned to be wary of firms pretending to be authorised to operate the Government's tenant deposit scheme, introduced in 2007.
Under the scheme, just three companies can hold tenants' deposits during their tenure. It was set up in response to complaints that many landlords were unfairly holding on to the deposits when their tenants moved out. Often tenants would have to take their landlords to small claims court or give up their deposits.
However, it now seems that landlords could be at risk of losing out. Mydeposits.co.uk, one of the three authorised firms, has said that it has noticed bogus websites being set up encouraging landlords to deposit cash. "There are only three schemes where landlords and letting agents can legally protect their tenants' deposits: ourselves, the disputeservice.co.uk and depositprotection.com," said Ellie Irwin, a spokeswoman for mydeposits.co.uk.
The bogus websites are believed to closely resemble the three authorised ones, even down to copying key site information. "Any letting agent or landlord using one of these bogus sites should be aware that their deposits will not be protected," Ms Irwin said. Mydeposits.co.uk has reported at least one bogus website to Trading Standards.