Adams Law

Deposits - Ask Sharon


 

Deposits


  ASK SHARON



 

Scroll down to find the advice you are looking for. Most recent questions and answers are listed first.


Does a landlord have to take a deposit?

I have a house to let out – do I have to demand a deposit?  The person I am letting to has 3 children and left her husband.   If I demand a deposit I know it will cause hardship as she has managed to drag the 1st month’s rent together but can’t do more at the moment. I know it is good practice in normal circumstances but this is my daughter and the let is only for 6months until she gets back on her feet

It is personal choice whether you ask for a deposit, as it is to ask for rent in advance.  I believe it is good practice to have some safeguard for your property, but as she is your daughter, you will presumably always be in touch with her and, if there is any damage done, may be able to recover it from her over time.


Responsibility when property is sold

We moved into a flat in July 2008. In October the mortgage lender on the flat appointed a fixed charge Receiver under the Law of Property Act 1925. The fixed charge Receivers became our landlords.

The flat was up for sale as an investment and the Receivers said our current tenancy arrangements should not be affected by the sale. It was sold in November 2008 and the new landlords have been following our original tenancy agreement although we have not signed a new agreement

The new landlord asked us to request the deposit of £1,650 back from our old landlord – the deposit was protected by mydeposits.co.uk. We did this but did not hear from him so contacted mydeposits.co.uk. They confirmed over the phone that we could enter the dispute resolution process with them to regain our deposit.

This we did and according to mydeposits.co.uk the process should have been completed by 5 June 2009. This did not happen and mydeposits.co.uk said the delay was due to a backlog. On 7 August 2009 we received a letter from mydeposits.co.uk stating that our old landlord was no longer a member of the scheme and the deposit would cease to be protected by the scheme 90 days from the cancellation date, 24 July 2009.

We contacted mydeposits.co.uk about the letter regarding the cancellation of the deposit protection and the delay with the dispute resolution process. They said the delay was because it was a highly unusual case and we were in a ‘legal grey area because we were still residents of the flat’. They are not sure who is responsible for paying back our deposit and that it may be the responsibility of our new landlord. However, they have not made a final decision on the dispute resolution process yet and recommended that we seek legal advice.

We contacted the Citizens Advice Bureau who said that this was too specialist as issue for them and that we should see a housing solicitor. In such cases as ours where the flat is sold on with the original tenancy agreement still in place, who is responsible for paying back the deposit? We are unsure as to who we should be claiming our deposit back from and are obviously very concerned about losing so much money. After looking at the Housing Act 2004 and the tenancy deposit scheme overview published by the Communities and Local Government, it would appear that our new landlord is responsible for the deposit and this should have been included in the agreement when they bought the property. Is this correct? Any advice you can give would be very welcome.

I have been waiting for a case like this to rear its head. The Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes have all looked at this far too simplistically. CAB, with Shelter, campaigned for a long time to get Tenancy Deposit Protection enacted and for their response now that this case was too specialized is laughable.

Looking at it step-by-step:

* My deposits is an Insurance scheme, hence the deposit was taken by the first landlord; he will have paid a premium to have the deposit protected.

* Write to the Dispute Resolution Service asking them to confirm (or otherwise) that the landlord lodged the deposit with them when you asked for the deposit to be returned. I must admit, my bet is that the landlord did no such thing.

* Ask the new landlords to confirm in writing that the deposit was not transferred to them when they bought the property. Again, my bet is that the first landlord, having had to go into Receivership, probably had few resources available to him and has kept the deposit. I do hope I am wrong.

If your investigations appear to show that this is what has happened, I think Mydeposits has some responsibility to you, in that a premium was paid to protect the deposit and the deposit now appears to have disappeared into the ether.

It is ludicrous to say that you are still in residence and this means you cannot receive the deposit. Your tenancy with the original landlord ended; a new tenancy commenced as soon as you started paying the new landlord.

Write a very clear letter, once you have asked the questions I have suggested, making the point about the premium, new tenancy, protection that the Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes were supposed to provide. State that you expect your deposit be returned in order that your new landlord can protect it with whichever scheme he or she feels is appropriate and that failure to return will result in your taking legal action. See what response you get, but if your are not satisfied, then I am afraid you will have see a solicitor and take action. Any court case that is necessary should allow the costs to you, but I hope that someone will see sense in this and realise that the landlord who took your deposit was one of the very few who proved the case that legislation was needed but against whom it appears nobody is prepared to provide the protection you thought you had.


Finding former landlord’s address

We have been renting a place since April 2004, on June 2009 we decided to leave the place. During our stay with property we had two landlords because on February 2008 the property was sold to new landlord. On leaving the property we were told by the new landlord that our one month advance rent and the deposit has not been given to him from the first landlord.

My first landlord has been using an estate agent where we pay our rent. I have been asking them personally for my first landlord’s address so I can sue him on the small claims court but they won’t give it to me (no mention of the landlord address on the tenancy c/o to agent address only). Please note that the property is now no longer managed by the agent.

Do I still have the right to know my first landlord's last known address from the estate agent even if at the moment, technically he would be my ‘former landlord’?

I think the agent is probably quite concerned that he should not be seen to be breaching data protection legislation; you only have the right to details whilst you are still the tenant. I think your current landlord was very foolish not to take the deposit from the last landlord, as he would have had no protection, had you left rent arrears or damage. However, had they given him the deposit, he would have been obliged to protect it under the Tenancy Deposit Protection legislation that came into effect in April 2007.

I think the agent has some responsibility in this, as I would have expected the firm to hold the deposit, not the owner. The agent should certainly have advised the new landlord of what was taken and that he should collect it and protect it.

Write the agent a stiff letter, outlining why you feel that you are entitled to recompense, you can include what I have said above about the new landlord having no protection in case of a problem at the end of the tenancy. State plainly that you intend to take the matter further, if the agent is not prepared to give you some satisfaction.

I don’t know that coming on heavily to them will make them cough up money or the address, but it is worth a try. If you are not satisfied, put it in the hands of their governing body, if there is one, or the ombudsman if the firm subscribes to the ombudsman scheme. The agent certainly does not seem to have acted fairly to either yourselves or the new landlords. You could also put it in the hands of a debt recovery agency, though whether it would be worth it for the sum you are seeking to recover is questionable. The rent in advance I would presume is not an issue, as in view of the very questionable circumstances, you probably did what most tenants do in your circumstances and refused to pay the last month.


Left owing rent

Since November last year my neighbour has tenants had tenants in her house. They have a 12 month shorthold tenancy but have not paid rent since mid June - so owe rent for half of June, all of July while the August payment is due this week. The normal payment cycle is monthly.

Today the tenants have moved out and given the keys back.

Can the deposit held retained to cover the outstanding rent. Also, does notice have to be served to formally end the agreement, or does the action of the tenant by giving the keys back bring the agreement to an end?

As I am sure you know, since April 2007 it has been a requirement that any deposit taken by a landlord must be protected via one of three Government approved schemes.

The used to protect the deposit in this instance should be consulted for advice. If necessary the issue will go to its dispute resolution service.

The deposit would usually cover any outstanding rent, plus a notice period. Civil law says that a landlord has a right to one month’s notice, although if the tenant challenged this in court you would have to provide evidence of related costs and show that you had made every effort to get a new tenant to minimise the loss. As rent was owing anyway, and the maximum deposit is only two months, I would think that the deposit will not cover the full debt so should be safe to retain.

BUT: if the tenant disputes this, it would have to go to the Dispute Resolution Service to decide and they would require full details of deposit, what steps you took to notify the tenant of arrears, what letters you wrote, response from tenant etc.

Strictly speaking, notice should always be in writing, but as the tenant cannot live in the property without the keys, in this case there seems little point in arguing about it. When the keys were handed back, the tenant should have been asked to sign paperwork which said he had voluntarily relinquished the tenancy. This covers the landlady against accusations of force or pressure been put on the tenant.

It is another story if the deposit has not been protected – in which case you would be on very weak ground since the law says tenants are able to claim repayment of three times the deposit paid.


Landlord dispute

I am a tenant who has moved out of a property but is having problems receiving my deposit back.

We signed through an agency and were assured that our money was being held by a protection service. We have moved out of the property now and while our landlord originally passed the entire property as well looked after and not damaged, he has now decided to claim £1,000 for a treadmill that was in a shed. This treadmill was in bits and was stacked along with broken tables and mirrors. There were a lot of things left by previous tenants in the house which we removed and as none of these things were on the inventory we felt no wrong in doing so.

After we had twice tried but failed to come to an agreement with our landlord about price or course of action, I suggested mediation from the scheme we were listed with. He has now emailed to say that he forgot to lodge our bond money with any agency but that I am just as liable for this mistake as it was my duty to remind him. I was under the assumption that this would have all been dealt with by the agency,

Can you please advise me as to what my rights are and how I can go about this?

What a very foolish agent. The responsibility for lodging the deposit and advising you with whom it is lodged is the landlord’s (or his agent), not you. Advise the landlord that you are not happy with his response and give him three days to come up with a reasonable sum for you to discuss. If he does not do this, contact CAB or Housing Aid, whatever you have in your vicinity.

I am afraid it may take some time, but you should be the winner in this situation. Also, this agent is heading for big trouble if he is not careful. He clearly does not know what the law says – he can in fact lodge the deposit now and allow the dispute resolution service to look at it. So far, 90 per cent of adjudications have found in favour of the tenant, and without a clear inventory, noting the broken items, they stand little chance of winning this one against you.

You can find out more about your rights on the Government website http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TenancyDeposit/DG_066373. You will find that it was the landlord’s responsibility to inform you of which scheme he used to protect the deposit within 14 days of the tenancy agreement.

If the landlord does not protect your deposit you can apply to your local county court for an order that the landlord or agent either repay the deposit to you or protect it in a scheme (bnot now applicable in your case).  If your landlord or agent has not protected your deposit, they will be ordered to repay three times the amount of the deposit to you.

I suggest you point this out to your landlord who may then decide to repay your deposit in full with no further argument.


Caught in dispute between landlord and agent

I rented a property on a 12 month assured tenancy agreement through an estate agent. Although the rent was paid to the estate agent each month, once I moved into the property any problems were dealt with directly with the landlord.

The landlord approached me towards the end of the tenancy agreement and asked if I would like to remain in the property on a tenancy agreement directly with him. I agreed to this as he also reduced the rent by £100 per month. I duly received a ‘notice requiring possession’ from the estate agent stating that the tenancy would end on 13 July 2009 at the end of the tenancy agreement.

The landlord came to see me and told me he had informed the estate agent that he was happy with the condition of the property etc.

According to my agreement with the estate agent, my deposit should have been refunded within 14 days of the landlord’s confirmation that he was happy with the state of the property.

For the past two weeks I have been trying to contact the relevant person at the estate agents to enquire as to when I will receive my deposit back and he finally contacted me today and told me that I will not be getting my deposit back as the landlord and myself are being devious and that he is taking the landlord to court for loss of commission on future rental of the property. I feel that any dispute the estate agent has with the landlord has nothing to do with me and would like to know if he has the right to withhold my deposit.

The landlord only requires one month's rental as a deposit (i.e. £1,100) and the estate agent is holding (in the Tenancy Deposit Scheme) £1,800. Does he have the right to withhold my deposit because he is in dispute with the landlord?

Not as far as I am aware, he isn’t. The whole point of tenancy deposit is to protect a tenant’s deposit in case of damage or rent arrears. Check your tenancy agreement, which should say which tenancy deposit protection scheme is protecting your deposit – you should contact them and ask them to intervene. You could put something like this into a letter to the agent, making it clear you will not let the matter drop and will take matters further.


Responsibility for fire protection

I am a landlord but this question is about my step son who has rented a furnished flat for six months. The wall-mounted heaters in the flat were not working. During an inspection visit the landlord’s agent advised him to use a portable convector heater supplied with the flat.

Last week he left the portable convector heater turned on while out. On his return some hours later he found the heater had caught fire and the carpet was burning. He put out the fire himself but there is now damage to the carpet and extensive smoke damage to the walls and furnishings.

The agent says the fire and the resulting repairs are the responsibility of my step son. The firm says common sense dictates he should not have left the heater on when away from the flat.

My argument is that it was an accident. The convector heater was supplied by the landlord. No operating instructions were supplied and the tenancy agreement has a clause stating that: ‘the landlord covers accidental fire risk'. Surely this was an accidental fire.

Further my son relied on this clause when deciding not to take out contents insurance.

Who is responsible? Please advise.

As a result of this we realised we did not have adequate insurance cover on our own properties so have now taken out landlords’ contents insurance including accidental fire risk. We are now in the process of demanding that our tenants take out contents insurance.

Please remember that my work is with landlords. If a tenant approached me and said ‘it was an accident’, I would feel I had to say that that was unfortunate, but it is still your responsibility. The clause in the agreement is interesting – but I wonder whether the landlord’s interpretation would be that he or she covers unavoidable fire damage which was not caused by the tenant’s own actions.

I am afraid I think your son was responsible – he should not have left the heater on.

Not to take out contents insurance on the basis of the clause seems a trifle short-sighted – a flood could have caused the same level of damage, he could have been burgled. I do not think it is appropriate to try and apportion blame because of a lack of insurance on the clause.

I think the steps you have taken with your own properties would indicate that you know that your son left himself at risk. I think I would try and negotiate with the agent along the lines that the wall heaters should have been working. Perhaps an agreement to pay half each would be the best you could manage.


Partial continuation

We issued a shorthold tenancy agreement to a couple who have now split up. The fixed term of 12 months has expired and we have been continuing on the basis of a periodic tenancy.

One half of the couple wishes to stay and we are happy with that. Can we just issue a new contract in his name only to supersede the original, or do we need to give notice to bring that one to an end?

Provided there is agreement on both sides that one leaves, I cannot see that you need to give notice as the one who has left should have given you notice anyway. I would always advise that you confirm anything in writing, provided you have a forwarding address. However, if there seems some disagreement between them, serve them both a notice. Whatever the circumstances, issue a new tenancy agreement in one name. It may not apply, but be aware that if your tenant now or at some time in the future needs to apply for local housing allowance/housing benefit, he will be limited to the single person rate, so ensure he can afford the rent on his own.


Deduction for leaving early

On September 8, my tenant gave me a month's notice, even though the six month tenancy agreement does not end until not November 25th. I am living abroad in Australia, and have no UK lettings agent (though I use an estate agent when finding a new tenant) and so would want to avoid the hassle of the courts. Can I deduct rent owing from the deposit (equal to six week's rent) which is in with the Deposit Scheme? Likewise, a deduction for any damages (I am using an Inventory agency for check-out)? I need an uncomplicated solution.

Although technically speaking you can hold your tenants to the full tenancy term, it is very unusual in my experience for landlords to do this, as it can become complicated. If your tenant felt you had acted unreasonably, he could go to the small claims court. Whilst they would have to hold that there was a valid tenancy, they would want to see evidence of why you felt it necessary to hold him to that, so would want to know the steps taken to re-let promptly. You could deduct advertising costs, which seems fair, and of course, any damages. You do not want a complicated solution, but if your tenant disputes the deductions, this could become quite messy as the tenancy deposit protection scheme you use would refer it to the Disputes Resolution Service.


Soft option?

My currant tenants have been in the property since 1 November 2006 and have always paid rent on time and looked after the property. They gave me notice three weeks ago that they would be moving out on 1 October as the husband had been made redundant. The current AST runs until 31 October. They have paid the costs of re advertising the property for me and I have found suitable tenants who want to have the property from 1 November. I am therefore going to be one months rent down. I feel very mean in taking the deposit to cover the one months rent but what do you think? Am I being too soft?

I think your first sentence really explains why you are considering being ‘soft’ – they have been good tenants, paid rent on time and now, when they have hit financial difficulties, they have behaved with consideration, given you notice, paid for advertising and are moving out. I need not remind you that their other option may have been to stay put and fall into rent arrears. What about rather than soft, you behave with equal consideration? Either let them off the whole month, or split it between you. You must be a good landlord/lady to get such good tenants.


Deposit protection query

I am letting property through a letting agent but found the service to be very poor. The regular inspections are quite pointless as they do not reflect the true state of the property and the inspections are generally late. The letting agent is always late in making the payments. I am considering doing the management myself but I don't know much about the deposit scheme. What deposit schemes are there for small landlords? How do they operate? How much does it cost?

There are three schemes, one custodial, where you lodge the deposit you take. That is free. The other two are insurance schemes, where you retain the deposit but pay an insurance premium. The cost on those schemes was in the region of £30 when it started in April 2007. If you Google ‘Tenancy Deposit Protection’ I am sure that you will get the information you require.



Missing tenant


If a landlord cannot get hold of a tenant to return a deposit within a period of 14 days of the end of a tenancy agreement, can a tenant then claim three times the amount in court? This seems open to abuse from tenants who would deliberately put off collecting their deposit in order to claim more money in court! Have you heard of this happening? A lot of people are still making agreements in good faith and could easily get caught out.

It depends when you took the deposit. The three times the amount is the penalty imposed under the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme, which became law in April 2007. If it was before that date, you are not bound by the penalty. If you took a deposit after April 2007, you should have discussed with the Dispute Resolution Service what you could do, given that the tenant has apparently disappeared. Contact next of kin or anyone else you know who may have connection to your ex-tenant.



Not taking deposit

I have just started renting out my property to my 17 year old daughter and her 18 year old friend. A tenancy agreement will be signed today but I have not taken an advance payment of rent or a security bond/deposit from either of them. In not doing this, what are the implications and where/how do we stand if something goes wrong? Can either of them sue me for damage/injury if something happens? What can I do if there is a problem and where do I stand?

Firstly, your 17 year old daughter cannot be held to a tenancy agreement as she is below the age of maturity.

In your shoes, I would probably not expect my daughter to pay a deposit either – I know my daughter and have had no qualms about standing as a guarantor for her twice. I am sure your daughter is the same. However, you cannot be sure about her friend. You need to ensure that you have sufficient insurance to cover you against personal injury claims and also public liability insurance, in case they have friends who come in and are injured. As you have already signed the tenancy agreement, I think it is too late now to ask for a deposit from the girl, or ask whether her parents would stand as guarantor – this might have been a question that it was worthwhile sending to the Express Service. It may be worth speaking to Environmental Health and ask would they inspect, so they can point out any safety issues they think there might me.

The deposit is meant to provide you with some protection in case there is damage or rent arrears. The other implication is that if your daughter loses her job and has to apply for housing benefit, it will not be considered a commercial tenancy as you are her mother.



Leaving without notice

Please advise me on the following:-
I had a tenant who moved in on 14 May 2006 and signed an AST for one year. We signed a new AST on 14 May 2007, keeping the same amount of deposit which was £1,350.00 as before. As the Tenancy Deposit Scheme had just come into force and I had only 14 days to register I forgot to register it. However, the tenancy was coming to an end on 13 May 2008 and due to credit crunch I decided to sell the flat and told the tenant of my decision two months before the tenancy ran out. I also told him that I would put it on the market only for two months and if I didn’t sell it he could continue with the rental as he was very interested in staying in my flat. He decided to stay and allow the potential buyers to view the flat. (No one viewed it).

On a couple of occasions he hinted about moving out and did not give me any definite information whether he would move out or not. I mentioned that he had to abide by the contract and give me one month's notice, when he started becoming a bit angry.

Finally, on the 20 April 2008 we signed another 12 month agreement and he made me put in the contract that if I sold the flat I would give him two months' notice and if he found somewhere else he would give me two week’s notice. I did not agree with the two weeks and we changed it to three week’s notice to which he agreed.

On 24 April he phoned me out of the blue and said he would move out as he would feel insecure as I intended to sell the flat. (He had already consulted with me on this issue and signed the contract with that knowledge). He moved out on the 13 May but without giving me the three weeks' notice.

When I went to the flat it was extremely dirty and we had to take out lots of rubbish and found some damage. He started calling me asking for his deposit. I mentioned that according to the new contract he should have give me the required notice and that if I had found a cash buyer who would want the flat immediately I would not have been able to ask him to move out without giving him two months' notice. When I said that I would have to deduct three weeks rent, he got angry and started threatening me. Then I said even if I ignore the latest contract and follow the older contract he would still lose 11 days as his text was dated 24 April. I mentioned that I had to deduct the number of days which was missing from the notice and some for cleaning. (I was told by two estate agents who tried to sell the flat that they were unable to take photos to advertise due to messiness and clutter and lots of staff and rubbish on the walls.

Could you please advise what would happen if he takes it further and would not agree with the deductions. As we have a new contract and he left on the day the contract should have started, is it still important that the deposit was not registered before.

As far as I am aware, you are not bound by the Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes as it only applies to new tenancies, commenced after 7 April 2007. Yours was a continuing tenancy, so you did not have to lodge the deposit.

You should have given your tenant two months notice in writing, irrespective of what the tenancy agreement said, as was his right in law – which you may have done, but your question sounds as though it was verbal. Had he wished to remain in the tenancy and you found a cash buyer, the fact he had signed a new agreement would mean he had the legal right to stay there to the end of the tenancy, and you would have been required to give him two months notice to end when the tenancy did.

He told you on 24 April he was moving out and actually went on 13 May – surely 19 days notice? You feel he should have given you the three weeks agreed, but I think I would try and resolve this amicably, by stating you wish to deduct the outstanding two2 days from the deposit, rather than the three weeks. You are obviously entitled to deduct a reasonable charge for the cleaning.

Prepare a clear account of what you wish to deduct and be ready to give him the balance. His option then would be the Small Claims Court. If they can see you are being reasonable, they are unlikely to find in his favour, other than that they will understand arguments he will make about feeling unsettled etc. so are unlikely to censure him for moving out, even though he had signed a new agreement.

It is unfortunate that he signed a new tenancy agreement, but better he has gone now than abandon without any notice at all.



Retained by agent


I have let my house through a letting agent on a full management basis. However, the agent has never given me the deposit. Do I need to contact the agent and get him to send me the deposit? Or is the agent permitted to hold the deposit until the end of the tenancy agreement.

I would expect that the deposit was protected by one of the tenancy deposit schemes and it would therefore be held by a central body or protected by an insurance premium paid by the agent. It would not be appropriate to let you have it. At the end of the tenancy, if all was well, the deposit would be returned to the tenant. If not, if the tenant felt he should get the deposit back and the agent didn’t, it would go to the Dispute Resolution Service for a decision to be made.


No protection scheme

Now we are nearing the end of our short term tenancy agreement, our landlord has admitted that she has kept our deposit it in a personal account (not a tenancy deposit scheme) as per in our contract. Can you please confirm if what she has done is still against the law?

It is. See your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Housing Aid Service who will help you take action which could result in some compensation for you.


Damage to flat

I have a two bed flat with garden that I have let out since April 2006. The tenancy was via an agency. However after the first year, the tenant rented directly from me. She has now given notice and will be moving out next month.

Approximately three months ago I received a call from the tenant's brother claiming there was a puddle of water on the kitchen floor. When I visited the property I was unable to gain access using my front door key. I managed to gain access using the patio door to the rear of the property. I discovered the boiler had been leaking by spraying a fine mist of water. It's a new boiler so all that was needed was a nut tightened up. However, it looked as if the boiler had been leaking for some time.

I went to the flat last week with a letting agent and was told that, because of the water damage to the kitchen, the firm would be unable to let it until an entire new worktop put in, new drawers and two new cupboards and new floor tiles.

There will also need to be new carpet, new bathroom units and the whole place painted throughout.

The damage to the kitchen is quite substantial, I received a quote from a handyman who stated he would do the work in the kitchen for £600 excl materials.

I don't want to give the deposit back, because I feel that the tenant should have reported the water leak to me. However, she is already asking me when I will be returning the deposit to her. I don't even think the £800 will cover the amount of work the kitchen needs doing.

Where do I stand with this?

Politely but firmly advise that the damage that was caused by her negligence will have to be covered by the deposit. Confirm in writing listing the costs. Presumably you have a good, clear inventory, perhaps photos? Be prepared for an argument and for her to threaten you with the small claims court, but I would say you seem to be within your rights on this.

 



Interest entitlement


I had a rental property for which a deposit was paid to the letting agent in 2003. Having had to finally evict the tenant a court order was awarded against the tenant for damages. The agent has agreed to release the deposit to me. Am I entitled to interest on this amount?

Discuss with the agent. They may do so as a matter of course, or be prepared to divide it between you.



Deposit scheme not used

In August I let my property after my tenant begged for me to let her have it before seeing anyone else. I used an agent and the checks they did seemed to be okay.

She told me she wanted to view this as a long term agreement, however, just to make sure, the agent set up a six month assured shorthold tenancy agreement. A month ago, I received a 'text' from my tenant, who at the time was four weeks late on her rent, to say she was giving me a month’s notice and moving out - her reason being her child had not settled (after one month?).

She had told other people that she was moving back to her old flat because her landlord wanted her back and it was bigger than my two bed house.

I phoned her to discuss the termination, as I was concerned there were other issues and I even offered to reduce the rent for her if she was finding it difficult. She refused, and moved out on 1 November 2007. When I went over to my house to check on it I couldn't get in with my keys. Knowing where she had moved back to...I went round to collect the keys from her, and she gave me totally different set of keys, so it seems she has changed the locks.

The problem I now have is that, having checked over my house, I have found a small amount of damage while she is demanding I return the bond to her - she is claiming she is entitled to £500.

Also, I was not advised by the agent of any government bond scheme and I hold the bond which is actually only £250 and stated so on the contract agreement. The amount she owes me now is £140 on top of damage to property.

Please advise, as it is turning really awful and I am stressing as I have had my house up for rent now for a month but have had no other tenants even view it.

There are some other issues:

* I told the agent I did not want a tenant who smoked or had any pets and she said she didn't - but on a visit after two weeks, I was invited in by my 'smoking tenant' (stench in house!) and a 'dog' jumping all over my furniture and scratching at my wood flooring! I let it go as at the time I just thought she's in now and nothing I could do.

* House was furnished and most of the damage is to my furniture and oven, fridge, etc. - can I keep the bond against such things?

* Other damage: stolen shrubs out of garden, she's drilled holes in my pvc porch to move her washing machine to a different place, and stuck Sellotape over the pipes and other holes!! There is damage to the wood flooring and bathroom suite - not to mention 'dirt' on the walls. She also had a child and stuck stair gates up, but they obviously didn't fit and so she also nailed big planks of wood to my walls!! All this without my permission.

* She couldn't afford to pay the required £800 (£400 bond plus one month’s rent of £400) - so I allowed her to move in paying £500 to me - £250 of which was to cover the bond and £250 to cover the first month’s rent. I received the bulk of the rent from the housing office after about six weeks and she only had to pay me £80 per month, but I only received one payment from her.

She is now sending me constant text messages about how 'unfair' I am treating her and how she will take me to court. I have only ever tried to help her every which way. This is my first and last time to let my property - I have decided to sell.

I really, really hate questions like this – you have had a dreadful tenant, who has no respect for you or the property. But then your agent has not advised you of what you really needed to know – the tenancy deposit protection scheme.

How clever do you think this young woman is? Because if she takes you to court for the deposit, you could find yourself hit with a fine of three times the deposit paid simply because it was not protected. The only way I think you can do this is by writing a very clear statement of what you believe she owes you, with quotes for repairing any damages she has done. If it is clear, she may accept that she will not get the deposit back. But that depends on what she knows.
I am really sorry you have been hit with two situations here, and it may be as well to contact ARLA re this appalling agent – it may be possible to get some compensation for the bad advice he has given, if the firm is a member of course (which seems unlikely)

There are tenants who would look after a property and love it like their own, and I am sorry about this tenant who spoils it for the rest.

 



When to take

I have tenants moving in within the next two weeks but have no 'formal agreement' in place yet. At what stage should I take the deposit from them? Should I ask for this before I sign the agreement, to make sure it clears before they move in, or should I have them sign and bring me a cheque for the deposit at the same time? What is standard practice of these things?

Look at the steps that lead to a tenancy:
Interview, where you advise your requirements (which would include the deposit), your management standards and practices and during which you decide whether the tenant is suitable.

You then need a meeting when you go through the tenancy agreement, sign it and hand the keys over. If you take a cheque for the deposit at this stage there is always the possibility that it could bounce. If that happens, it is difficult to evict on that basis and if rent is paid on time you would probably have to wait until the end of the six month tenancy to gain possession. I think you should ask for the cheque before the commencement of the tenancy to give it time to clear, or ask for cash to be handed over at sign-up. Do not hand the keys over until you have received the full deposit you want.

I hope you are aware that from 6 April this year landlords who wish to take cash deposits must protect them using one of the three tenancy deposit protection schemes.

Details of the custodial scheme, which will hold the deposit for you, can be found at www.depositprotection.com. Tenancy Deposit Solutions is an insurance based scheme; landlords can hold deposits themselves but have to pay a premium ( www.mydeposits.co.uk). The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (www.tds.gb.com) works in the same way. Tenants have to be informed of how their deposits are being protected.

If you don’t want to get involved in deposits and deposit protection, the Iguarantee scheme (www.iguarantee.co.uk) provides an alternative that gives landlords better protection than a deposit.


Statutory periodic tenancy.

I am a landlady and my current tenants have been in the property for nearly two years on assured shorthold tenancy agreements lasting six months. The end of the current AST is 24 October 2007.

The letting agent holds the deposit.

Now that we have the deposit protection scheme the letting agents are suggesting that they do all the paperwork and agreements under TDS and charge both the tenant and myself various extra costs. I would like to use the DPS as it will cost neither the tenant nor me any further money (I do my own extension to agreement letters). But I will have to get the deposit paid back by the letting agent.

I wondered if an alternative to this would be to lapse into a statutory periodic tenancy, only I'm unsure as to the implications of this for myself and for the tenant. (The tenancy commenced well before 6 April 2007 so the deposit could then stay where it is)

At present there is a two month notice period for ending the AST on both sides. Would this continue with a periodic?

Would it give my tenant any security of tenure? Are there any other issues I should be aware of?

It would reduce your tenant’s security, in that provided the tenant gives no reason for the contract to be terminated, an assured shorthold tenancy will last six months. A statutory periodic tenancy can be terminated at any time by giving two month’s notice.

However, I think your main problem will be the agents – I am sure this agent is doing a good job, but is unlikely to want to relinquish any tasks which earn the firm income. If the agent remains as manager and issues a new tenancy agreement, he would have to lodge the deposit or take out the insurance scheme to protect the deposit. Many agents are increasing the administration charge they make to tenants to cover the costs of the TDS, but this would not apply to an existing tenant. The agent could allow the tenancy to run on as a statutory periodic tenancy, but this may be against its policy. I think you need to discuss this with the agent and take it from there.

(Also – tenants only have a duty under civil law to give one month’s notice).



Damp walls



After owning our apartment, bought brand new, for some months, signs of damp are appearing in some walls due to the faulty construction of the building. The signs appeared during the time that a tenant was living there.

The problem is that she (the tenant) did not report the damp to the agency right away. And now after three months she has moved out.

Tenant claims that she has reported it to the agency but the agency denies it.

Anyhow, the walls affected need painting. The agency tells me that it will deduct the charges from the tenant's deposit, but I am not really sure that this is fair considering that the damage was related to the fault in the construction of the building. Could you please let me know if it is lawful if we deduct the repair cost from tenant's deposit?

I would have thought that if the apartment is only months old there should be some recompense from the builders. Snagging lists for faults are usually done some time after completion of a building – did this reveal nothing? Most new builds are covered for 10 years by warranty – I would pursue them.

The agency is right to believe the tenant may have slightly exacerbated the situation by not reporting it, but if she was only there three months and the property was fine when she moved in, reporting it a few weeks earlier would not have helped as a damp mark is a damp mark is a damp mark. I don’t think re-painting costs should be deducted from the deposit, if you are sure it is a construction fault. The problem needs rectifying and the re-painting, hopefully, being covered by the builder. I do not think a deposit protection scheme would view this favourably.



Charged for administration

I have a huge problem. Me and my partner have rented a property (with a 12 month contract). In this contract there is no break clause. Is that legal?

Also, we agreed with the agency that we can leave the property (after six months) as soon as they find someone for us. Now, yesterday we moved out, and today someone is moving in.

They have however charged us a fee of £660 for administration and the costs they have to cover. Is that normal? They now will give us only £300 of our deposit back.

This seems a very high charge, but if this was paid at the start of the tenancy, it is up to the tenant to either pay it, or decide it is unreasonable and walk away.

I would always ask for a breakdown of what this was to cover; I cannot imagine that usual costs - credit checks, drawing up the agreement, getting references and the like - could amount to £660. But sadly it is too late to take action on this now.

As the agent has somebody else moving in so soon I can only think advertising costs have been deducted from the deposit. Ask the agent for a full breakdown of costs incurred by your leaving early.

A 12 month contract is quite legal and is often preferred by tenants; a break clause is often included but does not have to be.

Although issue could be taken with the size of the admin charge, the agent does not appear to have behaved unreasonably – the firm allowed you to leave, accepted the notice you emailed, which I would say it should not have, as an email cannot be held to be legally binding. If it does appear the deductions from the deposit cannot be justified you can go to the small claims court to recover the unfair deductions. As your tenancy commenced prior to 6 April 2007, your deposit was not subject to the deposit protected rules which include dispute resolution procedures.


Reasonable level of cleaning

I recently moved out of my property having lived there for seven months (we had a six month fixed term contract) . We cleaned the flat top to bottom before the landlord came round to do the check out inventory.

The landlord has decided to charge (from the deposit) for professional cleaning of the flat. The landlord’s wife came round and wasn’t happy with the outside of the windows or the level of cleaning we'd done with the oven (event though I had done this to a reasonalble level).

The landlord’s wife even ran her finger across the top of the door frames to check for dust (which there was). As far as reasonaly cleaning somewhere did we not clean enough if I take it to court?

They have stated they have 28 days to return the deposit but I cant see why they are delaying on returning this as i've confirmed all the bills are paid up. We had broadband with BT but had to transfer this to my new address and the landlord thinks this may cause his new tenants not to get access to broadband because of 'tags' that BT can leave on the line after broadband is moved away.

Can the Landlord expect to take money from my deposit for this too? Especially as he has new tenants already in and as far as we were concerned the flat was in excellent condition when we left which he agreed – although his wife did not.

People do have different standards of cleanliness – it would not occur to me to check door frames, though I have friends who see it as a point of honour that door frames and skirting boards are wiped/dusted very regularly. However, I am not your landlord. If the landlord inspected the property as you were leaving and felt it was adequately cleaned, then I feel he should return the deposit, or tell you why he is not happy to return it in total. If he did not do that, then I think a court would not look favourably on his actions.

I think you also have to think what the property was like when you moved in. I am not sure about the oven being cleaned to a ‘reasonable standard’. If it was spotless when you moved in, that is the standard it should be at when you move out. But 28 days to return your deposit is far too long – the new legislation on tenancy deposit protection works on a 14 or 10 day timescale and I think that is too long!

Consider what I have said about the standards and what it was like when you moved in. If, of further reflextion, you still feel the landlord is being unreasonable, write a short, sharp letter stating you will go to the small claims court for return of the deposit if it is not received within the next three days, say.

It may be that this is one of those very few landlords who really object to returning deposits – which is why the legislation has been brought in.

I am not aware of a landlord ever taking money from a deposit for the circumstances around the BT line. I would say it is for the landlord to sort that out, it should not cost him anything if your bill is fully cleared, so he can have no justification for keeping money back.



Who is responsible?

Our tenants just moved out, after renting a house from us for 1 1/2 years. After doing a walk through and seeing the amount of damage they have done to the house we do not want to return their deposit until we have repaired everything. The damage includes, carpet torn, cut out in areas and urine saturated, some type of fire in the master bathroom (damaged the counter top), broken screen door, back yard full of dog poop, the house was not cleaned either. Our question is: are we allowed to repair/replace/clean these items and then deduct the costs from their security deposit?

The idea of a deposit is so that it can be used in case of any damage left at the end of the tenancy. I would recommend you log all the damage and compare with an inventory that was given at the start of the tenancy. If possible, left your tenants know of what damage you wish to repair and see if they can offer any explanation to the amount of damage. Let them know of the price to repair the damage and see if they dispute it. If you cannot make contact or there is no dispute to the amount of damage then you can use the deposit to repair the property. A quick note here, from 6 April 2007, if you take a deposit you must ‘protect’ this by participation in a tenancy deposit protection scheme – either the ‘custodial’ scheme or one of the two ‘insured’ schemes. If you do not take a deposit you do not need to belong to one of these schemes – so you might like to consider the Tenant Guarantee Scheme launched by Residential Landlord as an alternative.

More information can be found on:
www.iguarantee.co.uk; www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1152035; www.depositprotection.com; www.tds.gb.com; and www.mydeposits.co.uk.



Deposit protection 

Do existing deposits - in held for many years – have to be protected under the new tenant deposit protection legislation?

If you do not issue a new AST and the tenancy continues as a statutory periodic tenancy, then the deposit does not have to be registered. If you issue a new AST then the tenancy has to be registered with one of the new schemes.


Utility bills

My tenants have moved to New Zealand and are asking for their deposit back. I have enquired with the utility companies and they have not yet paid their bills for the time they were in my property. Am I liable for their outstanding balances with the utility companies? In their shorthold tenancy agreement I have not stated that I will hold the deposit until they can prove that they have paid the bills, therefore do I have a right to hold it until I am satisfied they have been paid? I am worried as we have had debt collection agencies asking for them.

Debts with utility companies follow the tenant rather than the property, therefore you would not be liable. I would ask for proof of bills being paid before returning the deposit therefore putting the onus on the tenants to pay. If the tenant challenges this, you can state it is general practice. But as you have nothing in the tenancy agreement about this, should the tenants take the matter to court they could well win.



Illegal subletting

I let my two bedroom house to two male tenants under a 6 month short hold tenancy agreement.
Prior to them signing the agreement they asked if they could let it for only four months as they were likely to lose their jobs and only needed to live in the area for this amount of time. I agreed to this but later found they signed for six months which I was pleased about. However at month three they handed in four week’s notice to vacate. Even though I believe I could have held them liable for the six months I decided to let them leave when they wanted as I have agreed verbally to four months at the outset.

Upon entering the property to get the keys I discovered that three keys had been cut and I also found a letter dated the day they moved in from my tenant asking a third party for his share of the rent, deposit and agency fee. I also found a letter breaking down the electricity bill between three people, one of which (the same name as on the other letter) was not named on our contract.

In addition it took me three hours to clean the house and the dressing table was damaged and carpets need to be cleaned, in my opinion, as they look soiled after being in the property for only 16 weeks. Given this short amount of time I would not deem this to be wear and tear as the carpets are quite new and were perfect before they moved in.

Am I entitled to keep their deposit for breech of contract in relation to them subletting the property? The contract states this is illegal and they never asked my permission for a third person to stay.

I feel rather bitter about the experience as I was kind enough to let them 'escape' before the six months was up. My agent seems to think that I am unable to keep the bond as this is only for damage incurred but I have asked another agent for a second opinion and he is saying that I am entitled to do so.

You should check your tenancy agreement and see what it says about deposits and what they may be used for. It may well be that you are only entitled to retain money from the deposit for damages – which would cover professional cleaning of carpets and repairing/replacing the dressing-table. You may feel entitled to more money, on the basis that they sublet, but you would have to go through legal channels to get it. You could put it to them that you believe you are entitled to a sum because of what you have discovered, which you are happy to deduct from the deposit, if they so wish, but you should not just keep the money unless the tenants come clean and agree you have behaved very reasonably and they want this to happen.


Threat of future claim

I have let a flat for five years to a tenant. The checkout inventory completed by the agent found that the toilet had been damaged and needs replacing. As a result part of the deposit is being withheld to cover 50 per cent of the costs. The former tenant is disputing this and says she will bring a small claim when she returns to the UK in two years time. In the meantime, the agent has refused to release the deposit to me saying that it cannot be released until the dispute is resolved. Furthermore, the agent says that the tenant has six years to bring a claim and that if she does not file a claim, the deposit will be returned to the tenant? Where do I stand?

So the agent expects to hold the deposit for two years, gaining interest? This is not in your or the tenant’s best interests. I don’t think there is a great deal you can do, other than take her to the small claims court for the damages, but how likely you are to get a judgement if she is not there to defend herself, or even with a judgement, to get the money if she is abroad for two years, I don’t know. I would be livid, but I think for your own mental health you may be as well to bite the bullet and forget it.


Unfair deduction

After renting a property for one year via a letting agency, I agreed a leaving date with the firm and paid everything due there then over the phone. I have never had rent arrears or problems of any kind.

The agency returned my deposit minus a charge £26 because they have me on their system as moving out the following day. They charged me for this without discussion.

I spoke to the agent on a number of l occasions prior to receiving this letter when nothing of this was mention. The firm even confirmed my leaving date (over the phone).

Since then I have called them several times but have hit a brick wall. The agent will not give me a breakdown or explanation as to how it has arrived at the amount of the deduction, nor will it discuss refunding the amount. All the agent will say is that this is a daily rate which, no matter which way I work it out I still come up with a figure at least £10.00 less. Please tell me who or where I can complain to? I feel there actions are unfair.

Contact the agent’s governing body, most likely ARLA. I am afraid this sort of action is the reason that so many people complain about agents and why the Government has introduced the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme from April this year. If they have come up with a daily rate, this should be easily calculable – have you tried monthly rent times 12 divided by 365? Write to them, tell them you are unhappy and asking for a clear breakdown of how they have come up with £26, stating you will take further action if a satisfactory explanation is not received.


Disputed damage

I own a two bedroom flat and rented out the spare room to a girl. She caused extensive damage to the property.

I have since realised she was a 'lodger' rather than a 'tenant', although we both signed a shorthold tenancy agreement.

I have worked out the costs of repairing the damage she caused to both her room and the rest of the flat and it totals more than her deposit. I have taken photos of the damage caused and have offered to show them to her. She is not taking any responsibility for the damage and claims she left everything in acceptable condition. She wants her full deposit back and has told me to expect a letter from her lawyer to obtain it.

In your opinion, does the agreement change her rights from a lodger to a tenant as I've read that lodgers have fewer rights in comparison to tenants. Also, I stupidly didn't do enough ground work and failed to provide an inventory - will this count against me? Also, she has asked for a copy of our agreement which I hope means that she does not have enough documentation to pursue this through the courts - would you agree?

If the worse happens and I receive a letter from her lawyer, what happens next?

Inventories are to protect both landlord and tenant and should really be done; issuing an invalid agreement does not change her status, she was a lodger. A tenancy is conferred by factors that do not apply when sharing your home. I think she has been watching too much American TV – don’t we have solicitors in this country? If you get a letter, reply courteously that you are happy to provide copies of the photos, which will show how she left the room. However, if it comes down to it, it is your word against hers.


Reclaiming from former tenants

Several months ago I moved into a flat share. I paid £800 deposit to the girl who was moving out (she would provide me with a written statement if needed) and I was supposed to sign a new contract with the others. But two of the tenants (a couple) decided to move out. As they where moving to their new flat before they found someone to replace their bond, to avoid paying two rents, they let a guy, who was desperate for accommodation, to move in without waiting for the letting agency to carry out a credit check. The credit check came out negative and, in the following months, I have complained to the old tenants (who still had their name and their bonds in the contract) and told the letting agency that I had to leave if he was going to stay in the flat due to the state of dirt and untidiness he caused. The old tenants moved to another town and they couldn't take care of the viewings so I tried to find someone suitable.

I though the people I found were nice and I did worry that they were risking having to take on the arrears/damages caused by the guy who didn't have any contract. They were grateful to me and told me that they had managed to get a deposit from him. Shortly afterwards the agency decided to put the house on the market and gave us two month’s notice. In that period I paid the annual water bill and an electricity bill (no receipts) and I told my former flatmates the amount of their share (£157.20 in total). They told me they were going to credit the money in my account but they never did.

Shortly afterwards they stopped answering my calls and emails. Then the agency sent us a statement with all the payments made towards the flat, and because the couple didn't pay their share after they'd moved out, the arrears were being deducted from the deposit and just £304 was were left. Very cheekily, the couple sent an email to the agency asking them to split what was left between us but the agency decided to give me the money.

Do you think I have any chance of getting any compensation from my former flatmates for the deposit and bills I've paid? I wouldn't mind having to pay a solicitor as the frustration at the way they took advantage of me is such that I would be satisfied just to break even – or would the small claim court be a better idea?

Is it a problem if I don't have my former flatmates current address? I know they have moved at least twice since we were living together, I just know the work address of one of them. Would that be enough?

Personally, I think this couple seem hard faced and I think it is unlikely that they would want to give you any money, unless forced to. Serving them court papers at work is very dodgy – it could be said to violate their privacy and put them in a bad light at work. So going to the small claims court may not be possible. I would discuss this with a solicitor – he will know what you can and cannot do. I hope you get something.


Eaten carpets

I was renting a room out in my house, where I also live. When the lodger moved out all the rent was paid up and the keys handed back. The problem is she liked to oil paint in the room and managed to get oil on the walls and cabinets. Worse, the lodger had a gerbil which has eaten away at the carpet in two of the corners of the room - the damage is around the size of a large mobile phone and is down to the underlay.

Would it be un-reasonable for me to withhold all the deposit and charge for a new carpet?

Provided the carpet is of the value of the deposit, I cannot see any reason why you should not take it from the deposit.


Vacating early

I have recently moved into a one bedroom flat after signing a six month tenancy agreement and paying a deposit of £400. I live there alone and have been there for six weeks. Due to a family member becoming very ill have to move back home. I have discussed the matter with the landlord and I have been told that the agreement is legally binding and that I have to stay for the six month period. But I cannot afford to commute back and forth four times a day.

I get on with the landlord pretty well but need some advice. Can you tell me whether the bond purely for damage purposes and what can I do about vacating?

What the bond is for will depend on what the agreement and receipt say it is for. Some deposits will cover rent arrears, damage, lack of notice, lock change if keys not returned, even theft.

Although the landlord is entitled to expect you to remain in the property for the length of the agreement, he will find it difficult to hold you to it and his main recourse would be the small claims court, but he would there have to prove that he had tried to re-let the property without success and give some evidence of this. Negotiation would be the best course, if at all possible, allowing viewings during the period of notice you are giving.


Attendance at inspections

Back in March I served a Section 21 possession order on a tenant who had become difficult with regard to rent payment. In turn, the tenant issued one month's notice (presumably in breach of contract?) and moved out in mid April, handing in the keys to my letting agent.

An outgoing inspection was carried out a few days later. The former tenant was not present but numerous dilapidations were discovered. An independent inspection by a property maintenance company was then arranged and the dilapidations were costed (£875 plus VAT).

The tenant's security deposit was equal to one month's rent (£595). In view of this, I was advised by my letting agent that I was entitled to withhold the full amount of the deposit and the tenant was so advised.

The house has subsequently be repaired and renovated at a cost of approximately £6,000, obviously not all of which is attributable to the tenant.

Since that time, there has been much correspondence between my letting agent, the tenant and myself, with allegations of fraud, conspiracy and subterfuge on the part of myself and my letting agents.

Basically, my tenant is denying any damage occurred during the tenancy, other than fair wear and tear, and that I should repay the security deposit in full or legal proceedings (presumably the small claims court?) will commence.

My questions are as follows:

My letting agent assures me that the tenant simply gave notice and posted the keys through their letterbox and made no reference to attending the outgoing inspection. The tenant on the other hand is now insisting that he made attempts to contact my agent to arrange an inspection without success. Does the law require that the tenant must be present at an outgoing inspection and does he have to be issued with a copy of any outgoing inspection report?

Should my letting agent have ensured that the tenant attended the inspection so as to avoid any doubt with regard to damage?

My letting agent has advised me that the form used simply makes written notes of any dilapidations found, and that these are then independently costed - and it is this report that is forwarded to the tenant. Is this acceptable under current housing law?

Based on the above, how do you think I would stand if the case were to go to small claims court? Have I been misled or poorly advised by my letting agents?

No, it is not a legal requirement that tenants attend inspections, although it is good practice. He does not have to be issued with an inspection report, but why not let him see it anyway? It can only support your case. It seems strange to me that someone would post keys through the letterbox, rather than go at a time when keys could be handed back and an inspection arranged.

I think if I was the tenant, I would want to see the notes of the dilapidations, particularly as the client is arguing fair wear and tear. Costings to make good could be very easily, though accidentally, inflated. A small tear in the wallpaper may be repairable with a little glue, but could also be seen as a need for re-decoration, particularly if the person inspecting could be seen as generating profit.

You need to look at what kind of case your agent can make. I think they would need to provide very full and clear details of the full extent of the damage; what attempts were made to contact the client to allow him to attend the inspection etc. They are also presumably very experienced in this sort of thing, so will have their own idea of how likely success is. If in any doubt, perhaps you could try to negotiate. Final bit – I am not sure whether you have been misled or poorly advised by the agent. I think he should have handled the inspection differently, but for all I know, he may very well have tried to, with no success. If in doubt, ARLA.


Leaving after two days

In April of this year, I rented a property from a local agent. After looking round I signed the agreement and handed over one month’s rent of £400 plus £550 as a bond (more than one month’s rent because I had two dogs).

When I collected the keys and went into the empty property I noted a lot of issues with the state of the property which I did not initially see. After the weekend of living with increased problems and making myself physically sick, I rang the landlord to say I was leaving the property on the Monday morning. He said if that was what I wanted then just to take the keys back to the agent. He did want me to get in touch with people to look at the problems but I had worked myself into such a state that staying there was not an issue. I left and handed the keys back after three days.

I have been in correspondence with the landlord, to at least re-gain my bond, but have had no joy. Instead I have had lots of legal issues thrown back at me about the tenancy agreement being a legally binding document and the bond being in replacement of any lost revenue on the rent. He claims he was unable to find a new tenant quickly and is out of pocket.

My question is, is there a cooling off period at the beginning of a tenancy. A solicitor has advised that I take this to the small claims court. But the landlord has stated that he will counter-claim for loss of revenue.

I'm at a loss and have written it off in my head but not my pocket. I am unable to rent again because I cannot afford it being out of pocket. I just feel it is unfair that the bond should be used in this way and don't feel it is my fault he has been unable to re-rent straight away. He states that he is an ex solicitor and knows the law and I feel I am backed into a corner with no way out.

You may clarify all his points but a second opinion would be helpful.

I think the phrase is ‘caveat emptor’ – let the buyer beware, and this applies doubly to private rental issues. I am unaware of a cooling off period after a tenancy agreement has been signed. However, whilst I feel that retaining the first month’s rent, paid in advance, is appropriate, I cannot understand why the landlord was unable to rent it again within that month. Was he unable to do so because it was in such a bad state? If so, it was not lettable in the first place, hence your speedy vacation of it.

If you went to the small claims court, you would make your case about why you had to vacate as strongly as possible. The landlord would have to prove he did what he could to get a new tenant as quickly as possible. Don’t be intimidated by the ‘ex-solicitor’ line – whilst I have great respect for many highly qualified solicitors, if he is no longer a solicitor, he may not be up to speed on housing legislation. I think you stand a chance to get at least some of your money back.


End of lease inspection

I am currently leasing a two bedroom flat (second property) through a property management company, that is unfortunately proving to be very unprofessional. The flat is officially leased to two girls but it now turns out (three months into the lease) that there are five people living there in total. We have instructed the agent not to renew the contract.

In the meantime I am concerned about the state of the flat and would like advice on how to inspect the property once it is vacated. We fear that the damage to the property may exceed the deposit. If so, what actions should we take?

I think if you have concerns, you should be discussing these with the agent – the firm’s tenancy agreement should have a clause regarding inspection of the property for repair issues. I think I would be asking the agent to make an inspection, which will either reassure you that the property is ok or perhaps give a ground for eviction. If they see evidence of more people living in the property than was agreed, then they should be mentioning this to the tenants and ask for the others to leave.

The inspection should be done with the inventory, the tenants being present for the inspection and damage pointed out at the time. If damages exceed the deposit, then you would go to the small claims court. Remember, the agent has to serve a legal notice – it is not sufficient just not to renew the contract. You may be worrying unnecessarily – I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the property is not too bad.


Amicable but costly

I am renting a flat under an assured shorthold tenancy which runs the duration of this calendar year. At the beginning of the year, the landlord and I verbally agreed that either party could end the tenancy with one month's notice. In May, the landlord said he wanted to move back into the property, and gave me two months notice; I agreed to move.

But subsequently, with less than a week to go before I moved into my new flat, the landlord told me:
(a) He no longer wants to move back in and could I stay until the end of the agreed tenancy (five more months)? - Of course, I cannot.
(b) He will not be returning my (£2k) deposit, citing essentially spurious dilapidations.

Can I recover the deposit? Worse, I now realise that all our dealings were verbal. It seems crazy now, but it was all so amicable at the time. The landlord never served me with written notice. Can he demand rent for the remaining five months of the tenancy agreement?

What an unpleasant situation you are in. ‘Spurious dilapidations’ – there should be an argument about these based on what the inventory says. If there are any damages, obviously a reasonable sum can be deducted. The only thing you can do, if you are not able to agree, is to go to the small claims court, but in the absence of paperwork, you may have a struggle. If it got to that situation, you would have to ask your new landlord to make a statement confirming that you had told him that was why you needed somewhere. I have a nasty feeling that your new landlord did not ask the old one for a reference, so you will get no support there. I am sorry, but this is one occasion when not getting the paperwork may have assisted this landlord to take advantage of you – I usually feel landlords need to get the paperwork right for their benefit.


Cashing holding deposit

My daughter viewed (in a hurry) a six bedroom flat in Sheffield. It looked ok and decided to take it. She signed one agreement with four other names also included – a sixth was in Germany and signed later after the agreement was sent to her. Subsequently one of the other girls dropped out and a new person was found.

Instead of sending a new contract to the girl in Germany they copied her signature onto the new contract. Then another girl decided not to take the flat, at this stage no one asked my daughter to sign another contract. The other people found a new tenant and still my daughter did not sign a contract with the actual signatures of the remaining tenants.

When we went to move her belongings we found the flat to be an utter disgrace - pure filth, I would not let my dog live there. She broke down in tears and I said we would find somewhere else. She called the landlord and told him about the state of the place and that she would not be moving him. He said that she was breaking the agreement, even though she had not signed a new agreement.

Where do we stand on this? The landlord only asked her for a holding deposit of £75 which she paid, the full bond was payable upon her moving in. He cashed the holding deposit within days, which I thought he could not do until her agreement date started. He is now refusing to refund the money. I was under the impression the landlord does not have a full and binding contract with the people.

Why would you not think it was legally binding? You state she had signed an agreement. On joint tenancies with multiple names, everyone could drop out, and she could be held liable for the full rent. However, clearly the property was not fit to let and this is the argument she would make for the return of her holding deposit. I am afraid in private letting, ’caveat emptor’ applies – let the buyer beware. The preferable course of action would be that she and the other tenants give the landlord the opportunity to clean the place up. Is she in touch with the other tenants? Have they moved in and have they got a replacement for your daughter? You can try and negotiate with him, but if you get no joy, discuss the situation with the accommodation officer at the university – he or she may be able to put some pressure on.


Changed reasons

Situation: shared accommodation (landlord also lived with us), verbal agreement (no contract).

I arranged to meet my landlord on the night I moved out but he sent a text asking me to leave my keys and address as he was unable to attend. I have since received a letter saying that I am not entitled to my deposit money. He claimed that I sublet my room on two occasions (friends had actually stayed over with the consent of the landlord and the other housemates). He also claimed that I broke 'house rules' because on one occasion I entertained guests in the communal living room. He has also requested £150 for the three guests who stayed the night (£50 per head).

I wrote back stating that I would begin legal proceedings because none of his claims could possibly justify retaining my deposit. I have since learned through my research that he has pulled a similar stunt on at least three other previous tenants. I have managed to track down one of them and he has agreed to provide a written statement.

The landlord’s second letter now makes different claims - 'damage to my room' and complaints from other housemates that I was noisy and unclean.

Thankfully all of he housemates have agreed to provide written statements to contradict his absurd allegations. However I am concerned about the accusation of damage to a wall in my room. Surely in a 'small claims court' his claim of damage should have been made in his initial letter and a judge will realise this? He obviously knows I am not backing down and has invented more lies.

I hope you can give me advice

Was there damage to a wall in your room? If not, then I can see nothing to fear from the small claims court. The fact that this was the second letter should stand in your favour; he is making excuses to retain your deposit. It sounds as though you have quite a strong case against him, and he would be silly to go to court about it – however, if he does not return your deposit, I’d go for it. By the way, allowing a friend to stay a night or two does not constitute sub-letting.


Tenancy deposit schemes

Do you have any information on the new tenancy deposit scheme? Also can you confirm that it will now be brought in next April (2007) not October 2006.

I’ll answer the second part first – it appears that there have been disagreements between the bodies which wish to manage the schemes and landlords and agents have raised issues about rent arrears and termination of tenancies. The Government has said it will address these issues and more of less said the tenancy deposit schemes will not be introduced in October as originally intended. April 2007 has been mooted as the most realistic start date, but this has not been officially confirmed, yet.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme has been devised to answer the research carried out by Shelter and Citizens Advice which suggested 50 per cent of tenants do not get their deposit back. Not surprisingly, given the client group surveyed, and no recognition was given to the fact that some of those tenants may not have deserved their deposits back anyway.

The reports were liberally sprinkled with ‘rogue landlord’ epithets.

There will be two types of scheme. In the ‘custodial’ version the full cash sum received by landlords will be deposited in a designated account for the scheme. There is no charge for this, as it is run on the interest received on the account. In the ‘insured’ version landlords will pay a premium to start with, but can hold the deposits themselves. At the end of the tenancy, if there is a dispute between landlord and tenant on the return of the deposit, then the deposit is deposited with the scheme whose dispute resolution procedures will make a decision about how much should be returned to the tenant.

I think there will be more bureaucracy and delays, but hope I’m wrong. Bond schemes should be unaffected, so if you don’t use a local bond scheme, investigate – it may be worth your while!


Rotating flatmates


I have an assured shorthold tenancy jointly with three other people. The house was originally let in September 2001 to a group of people who I don't know. There is an inventory check still in the house that was carried out in October 2001, but this has not been updated.

I moved in July 2003, at which time a new AST was signed by all the current tenants, including me. Since then there has been a succession of people through the house, at each ‘transfer’ a new AST was signed.
The landlord has advised us (verbally, through the agent) that he intends to sell at the end of this AST (September 2006). However, this isn't convenient for us, so we have decided to move at the end of July, a few months before the end of the AST. The AST states that we can do this provided we give 30 days written notice, which isn't a problem.

However, my flatmates have become paranoid that they will lose the deposit, especially considering one of them has only been there a few months. They want to not pay the final month's rent, and try and stay in the house as long as possible to recover the six week deposit. I disagree with this approach, and think we should try to recover the deposit through the proper channels.

So my questions are:
1) What is our liability if we don't pay our final month's rent? It seems like it would be a small amount compared to the cost of the landlord pursuing us through the small claims court.

2) If the original inventory was never updated after each tenant left, are we liable for damage? Five years is a long time for many small ‘fair wear and tear’ events to accumulate. What would our chances be in the small claims court if the landlord decides to withhold the deposit based on the five year old inventory?

I understand your friend’s paranoia, though to be fair, your landlord seems to have behaved properly in issuing new ASTs.

1) I would never suggest that tenants withhold the rent to recover the deposit, though I also know many, many tenants do this because of the fear you expressed. Remember, if it goes to a Small Claims Court the landlord could also recover the costs from you, as he would probably win.

2. I think this is something you may argue about but I don’t feel there is any reason for a claim to be made, unless it is something specific, by which I mean something you are aware of. If the five year old inventory said the carpet was in good condition, but you know someone had made a burn on it, I’d hope you would be honest about it.

I think you need to sit down with the landlord and discuss the situation, sooner rather than later, and make a decision then about withholding rent, though it is not fair to the landlord to do this. For future reference, if the landlord does not volunteer a new inventory, you at least should go through the old one with him and, if all is still in order, sign and date that you agree with it.


House repossessed

We signed a shorthold tenancy for six months, but halfway through the tenancy we received notice from the landlord’s mortgage company saying it was going to repossess the property (after court action) for mortgage default by the landlord. We were advised to find alternative accommodation, which we did.

We moved out of the property before the date the bailiff was scheduled to arrive. We later completed an inventory checkout with the agent who had placed us in the property and all was good. The landlord promised to refund us the deposit. We haven’t yet seen a penny.

The refund is now two and half months overdue. The first time we managed to get hold of the landlord she said she would check the numbers with her accountant and pay us. The next time we managed to get hold of her, she said her husband was overseas and she didn’t have signing authority on the account, so she could pay us. She said she was getting that changed and would send us the cheque. She is now not returning our calls at all nor responding to our emails. We believe she has no intention of refunding us our bond £480.

What are our options in getting our bond back? Is the small claims tribunal the only option? Can we claim court costs against her? And if we get a judgement against her, what can we do if she still doesn’t cough up the refund?

I think the Small Claims Court is the only option. Sadly, where there is a mortgage default, there is rarely available cash – they’ve defaulted because there is a problem. You would be able to claim court costs from her. The court may say she has to pay a small sum each week, so small you will probably not feel the benefit. If she does not pay at all, I think you would have to get a bailiff in – all in all, an unhappy situation which could cost you.


Broken agreement

I rent a three bed roomed shared house which is owned by my parents. Three of us decided to rent the house and we each signed our own individual six month assured shorthold tenancy agreements. After just two months of living there one of the tenants decided she wanted to move out due to a tiny spot of mould in the corner of her room. This is a fairly new house and never has had a problem with mould before. The small spot of mould was possibly due to it being winter and the tenant did not ever ventilate her room (which was a small single room) and spent a lot of time in it with the door closed. She never once mentioned the mould beforehand but brought it up in her letter saying she was moving out.

My parents decided not to pursue her for the remaining three month’s worth of rent due under her tenancy agreement, although they did retained her £200 deposit. After advertising (at a further cost of £60) we eventually found another tenant to replace her. The new tenant has been living there for almost eight weeks now (without one spot of mould appearing).

Now, out of the blue, the original tenant has written a letter asking for her deposit back. Is she entitled to it?

Your parents are entitled to deduct from the deposit the cost of advertising and for the weeks the room was vacant whilst another tenant was found. They should return any balance remaining – if any.


Tenants have split up

Could you tell me where I stand with giving back a deposit to a couple who have split up? They have a joint tenancy but she left after a couple of months. She did inform me and he was happy to continue paying the full rent. He did say he would move out after the six month contract was up and was happy for me to advertise the property.

I telephoned him to let him know I would be taking people around but when I did so I found the place was a mess. There has been a fair bit of damage done in a short time.

They initially put the deposit down together and now she has contacted me to say she wants her half of the deposit back. I did tell her that I believe there are some outstanding bills and also damage. She is saying that she is not responsible for this damage as it must have happened after she left. The agreement was not altered after she moved out.

I have invited them both to the property to talk through and look at the damage with me but she has refused saying she doesn't want to be near him. I don't want to get involved in their relationship. Is there something I could write into my agreement in future to cover me if the tenants separate? Also how do I stand with giving the deposit back (if any)? I don't think she will be happy if I keep the deposit for the damage as she will say she didn't cause it. I have detailed dated photographs of the condition of the house the day before they moved in.

As joint tenants, they were jointly and severally liable for the rent and any damage caused. Her relinquishment of the tenancy legally broke the tenancy. She should have signed a document stating relinquishing, an inspection should have been carried out at that time and, if you were satisfied, you could have returned her half of the deposit and issued him with a new agreement – you would, of course, have expected him to make up the deposit, which was possibly why she did not raise it then.

If, should similar circumstances arise again, you follow the above procedure your agreement will remain the same.

However, as you did not she will might take you to the small claims court if you do not return her share of the deposit on – on the grounds that the property was perfect when she left. However, without dated photos to support this claim I can’t see she has too much of a chance.

For the future I suggest you include a right to monthly inspections in your agreements. Such inspections would mean you can spot if the tenants are not behaving in a tenant-like manner.


Notice claim

We rented a property (for an employee) under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement for a period of six months. The agreement makes no reference to any notice period or any provision for the term extending beyond six months. During the last month of the tenancy, the landlord was verbally advised by the employee that he would be vacating the premises at the end of the tenancy.

The landlord was showing around other prospective tenants during this period and has acknowledged this is writing, but is refusing to return the bond (£750). He is stating that he is withholding the bond as he has suffered a financial shortfall in not re-advertising the property one month earlier and is stating that nobody from my company gave notice to end the tenancy, despite acknowledging in writing that the employee had advised he would be leaving.

My understanding is that provided the tenant vacated on the day the tenancy ended, he has kept to the terms of the agreement. In civil law, the landlord can expect four weeks notice, but as the tenancy made no reference to this, I think it would be difficult in law to justify holding the bond.

I do sympathise with landlords, but this one has done nothing to protect himself and does not appear to have made any attempt to negotiate with you. If he was aware in the last month of the tenancy that the tenant was vacating, he should have mentioned that a full month’s notice was required and that as in effect he had only had, say, two weeks notice, he would retain two weeks rent – but not keep the full amount.

I am afraid it is situations like this that have forced the introduction of new tenancy deposit protection regulations that will come into effect in October. The new rules will undoubtedly increase the bureaucracy involved in letting - for the good landlords who do return deposits on time, as well as bad.


Absconding agent

A letting agent I was using to let a furnished property has ‘done a runner’ with two months rent and the tenants’ deposit he was holding. I am told a large number of other landlords and tenants are affected. The police have not found him and believe he has gone abroad. My questions are:
• Is it the landlord’s legal responsibility to return the (stolen) deposit to the tenants when they leave the property? And
• In such circumstances do tenants have the right to sue their landlords should they not return their deposits?

There is no communication between all the wronged landlords each of whom has to make his or her own decision. Where do they stand? Informed advice on this would be much appreciated’.

Very unfortunate situation. I believe (though would need to see the written agreements to be sure), it is the agent’s responsibility. Try talking to ARLA, the association for letting agents (although it is quite possible this agent is not a member) to see if it can offer any advice. Speak to your local landlords’ organisation – again, it may be able to help and may have some insurance that covers circumstances like this. Sorry I can’t be more help.


Reluctant return

About a year ago I rented a property with an initial contract of six months. No extensions were applied to that contract and so it lapsed into a statutory periodic tenancy. I then found a property that I have since bought. When the opportunity suddenly arose for an early completion I informed the landlord of my intended termination at the earliest opportunity, effectively in two weeks which was both the completion date and by coincide the rent due date.

On the completion date I handed over the keys and asked about return of the bond (equivalent of one month’s rent). The landlord said that assuming everything was OK with the property and inventory he would return this.

When he had not responded after a week I again requested return of the bond and the landlord said that he was withholding return to cover damages, specifically to the cooker (supposed burned out element, which was OK when I left), washer door (faulty catch) and fire ignition not working (I had reported this to him six months previously and he had not had it repaired).

When I confronted him again he refused to refund the bond. I pointed out that the items he had referred to were due to fair wear and tear and not malicious damage and that he had no right to withhold the bond. He then said that he was going to examine the items and then refer to the letting agency.

I contacted the letting agency which backed up my claim for a refund, and the agency also advised the landlord that he was in the wrong and that the bond did not cover wear and tear, and that he should refund.

I have since had a cheque for half the value of the bond, with a covering letter stating that he is claiming unpaid rent due to only giving him two weeks notice.

He appears to have been using any excuse to wheedle out of paying. He did not complain of lack of notice when he accepted the keys from me, and he did not advise that he would be deducting the equivalent of half the rent for the shortened notice. He has since re-let the property in a very short timescale.

Where do I stand?

He does seem to have been trying not to return the deposit. That said, however, the landlord is entitled to retain part of the bond to cover the balance of the notice he was entitled to. If you know of anyone who would be prepared to write a statement to the small claims court stating that the property was re-let within the final two week notice period, it would be worth raising this with the landlord, making it clear you have sufficient grounds to go to court. Perhaps he will refund some more of the bond.

I always stress to both landlords and tenants that nothing should be assumed; everything should be stated and put in writing. The landlord should have told you that he was entitled to four weeks notice and would deduct from your bond – though he may have felt that this went without saying. You should have asked the landlord whether he was prepared to accept only two weeks’ notice without penalty.


Moving on

We have six months of a 12 month assured shorthold tenancy agreement left. Our landlords have not carried out any repair requests since our tenancy began and on the occasion they did come around they arrived unannounced and entered the house whilst only our children were at home, intimidating and humiliating them, telling them that nothing was amiss.

We have found substantial areas of damp in the house and since our letting agent was not interested we called the environmental health inspector who carried out a detailed report and started proceedings for statutory repairs to be made. We are finding it hard to keep up with the heating bills which remained high all through the summer because the house is so damp.

Our landlords have not been to see us or attempted to carry out the repairs. We have found a new property and have offered the landlords three month’s rent, but they are demanding to keep our deposit to cover dilapidations. This is unfair since we have looked after the house and garden to a very high standard. There was no inventory carried out when we arrived. The property is unfurnished. The letting agent is not helpful at all. What should we do?

You make a very good case why you should be released from the tenancy, though obviously the owners are sticking to what they feel they are entitled to. Did you take any photos showing the state of the property when you moved in? If not, in the absence of an inventory, it does mean you are going to have a difficult situation to handle.

I would:
• Ask the letting agents where they stand on this. They should be assisting you and pointing out to the owners that they really need to be more flexible. If they still remain unforthcoming, you should be making a complaint to their governing body – usually ARLA. I would have expected a letting agent to have provided an inventory.

A hard thing to do, but I would take the owners to the small claims court for any sums not returned. You would need to make your case as strong as you can, but the paperwork form Environmental Services, copies of letters you have sent regarding the repairs and the like should support you. I would have thought the owners would struggle to prove ‘dilapidations’ in an unfurnished tenancy when Environmental Services have served notices. You should also be able to add costs to your claim.

If you discuss it calmly with the owners, making it quite clear you will take action, they may cave in.


Damage to our property

We have recently let our house out using an agency. The tenants paid a deposit which the agency has retained. Recently, the tenants managed to set fire to the fireplace surround causing some damage.

I now have to pay for repairs. I asked the agency whether this would come out of the deposit and they informed me that it would not. Is this correct? I feel that if the damage has been caused by the tenants then surely it should. What is your advice on this matter?

I think the agency is probably acting correctly in keeping the deposit at this time. The deposit, after all, is to cover damages/rent arrears at the end of the tenancy, not in the middle (though check the receipt to see if it says what it covers).

If the damage was caused by carelessness, it would not be unreasonable for the agents to ask the tenants how they intend to make good the damage, rather than asking you at this stage to get the fireplace surround repaired. If is not a health and safety risk, perhaps you could discuss it with the agents along the lines of ‘I will leave it until they leave’.

If the tenants refuse to make good the damage, I would expect them to get a letter from the agents, stating that their deposit is therefore at risk. When they leave, you should receive the deposit to rectify damage. The main thing is that you fully understand what the deposit covers and under what circumstances you will receive it.

Whilst I think many agents do a really good job and take a lot of stress off owners’ shoulders, it is important that their paperwork leaves no doubts for either the landlord or tenant what exactly their position is.


Disputed damage

I have recently moved, leaving three outstanding disputes with my landlord.

First, there is a small piece of laminate flooring missing from the kitchen floor although we had not done anything to cause this and suspect it was caused by the weather. The landlord does not accept this.

Secondly, at the top of the stairs there is a crack which grows when pressure is applied to the top step – it is basically a case of the staircase pulling away from the wall. When the landlord asked us we said we guessed it might have arisen when we moved in when we carried items up the stairs. He took this to be an admission of guilt. At the time the landlord applied sealant, asked us to paint over it and said it would ‘be all right’. The wall continued to crack and we believe this is due to structural problem.

Thirdly a crack formed in the bath within the first week of us moving in. The landlord fibreglassed the bottom of the bath and used sealant to make a repair. The bath has since been in use without further problems.

The landlord left us with his quick repairs for six months without making any effort to obtain professional help. It was only when we moved out that they suddenly became problems. Can we be held responsible for this damage?

Laminate floor ‘missing’: Do you mean when you moved in, there was a gap, or has this happened since you moved in? Did you not have an inventory done, which would state there was a gap? From your description of the problem, it sounds as though a piece has come out of the floor, though cannot see that this could be put down to the weather.

Crack at the top of the stairs: I cannot see how this could be held to you. The fact that the landlord undertook to repair it would indicate he felt it was his responsibility. This landlord must be a really competent builder, able to tell exactly what the problem was and undertake the necessary repair, which he took to be his responsibility. Or else he must be the most laid back landlord around, unfazed by something that would stop me (with some knowledge of building) from sleeping. At the very least, I would have thought he should get someone in to look at the problem.

Crack in the bath: Again, I cannot see how this is down to you. I answered a question last year about a bath where, at the end of the tenancy, and only then, the landlord was made aware that there was a split in the bath. Under those circumstances, it seemed to me that at the very least, the tenant did not behave in a tenant-like manner. You, on the other hand, reported it immediately and the landlord made a repair.

If the landlord thought this was your responsibility he really should have raised it at the time, and not decide privately that he would take the cost from a deposit (if that is what he is doing).

On the facts as presented I think this landlord appears to be one of the few who does not like returning the deposit if he can make any excuse not to do so.


What help is available?

I currently live with my parents In Bolton but I am expecting a baby and need a place of my own. I have been registered with the local council for 12 months and seem to be getting nowhere, so I have started to look at private rented property as a possibility. I know I should get help with the rent but how would I go about getting help with the deposit as it is a lot of money upfront which I just do not have?

I know Bolton very well and I am afraid there is very little help available currently to provide a deposit or bond for people in your position. I would strongly advise you go into the Housing Advice Services, who can look at what options there are for you, and ensure you are making expressions of interest in the right manner. They are generally very helpful and can be found at 1 Silverwell Lane – telephone 01024 335900.

Many landlords take a sympathetic view of people and would accept quite a small bond, if you provide the cash yourself. You need to ‘sell yourself’ to a landlord, with good references, evidence of family support and the like. You do not state your age, but remember, if you are under 25, the maximum housing benefit you will get is £51, until your baby is born. Good luck.


Shared house

I rented a student property last year from private landlords (the parents of one of my fellow tenants). I have now moved out.

The tenancy was an assured shorthold tenancy and we all signed separate contracts naming us as separate tenants.

The landlords are refusing to repay my deposit because there is an outstanding electricity bill at the house (I paid my share) and one of the other tenants has missed one payment of rent. Do the landlords have the right to hold back my deposit if I have paid all that I owe? Can I take action if they refuse to pay?

Do you have proof of what you paid for the outstanding debt? You would need to prove your case on this, because the action you can take is to go to the small claims court. The outstanding rent from the tenant who has not paid is not your problem – you are an individual and had your own tenancy. The landlords have the same option to take action against the tenant who has a month’s arrears – the small claims court.


Charging for checks

I let out a four bedroom house. I initially used an agent, but we renewed the lease with the same set of girls in the spring of this year and started managing the property ourselves. Since then three of the girls have moved out. The first two found replacement tenants and after credit checks and the like we allowed the replacement tenants to move in. The third girl to move out has found a replacement tenant who has checked out fine. However on this third occasion we have become annoyed that yet another of the tents who renewed the lease is moving out and wish to claim £100 for an inventory check (one was not done when the others moved out) and £80 towards our time and the credit check (we do not have a receipt for the credit check unfortunately).

The third tenant is disputing this saying that an inventory check was not done when the others moved out and that there is not anything specific in the contract allowing us to claim for our time and effort or the credit check. She is threatening us with the small claims court to get the remainder of her deposit repaid.

The clause in the contract covering new tenants states: ‘should the tenant wish to break their contract before the expiry date, they must take full responsibility for re-letting their room/flat/house including all advertising costs..... The landlord must approve the new tenant before the new tenant moves into the property’.

Where do we stand?

If you look at it from the view of the tenant taking you to the small claims court, I think you may find it difficult to justify what may be seen as standard business expenses, like inventory check and time. An agent would make charges to cover these things, but you are not an agent. The agreement does not specify anything but advertising costs. Approval of new tenant does not include a cost element. I would try and negotiate to see if you get any agreement between you, but if not, see a solicitor.



Cancelled cheque

Together with a group of friends, I decided to rent a flat in central London from a letting agent. To secure the flat, I gave the agent a cheque for £3,000 (equivalent to six week’s rent). A standard receipt of payment form issued by the letting agent stated the name of the letting agent, the address of the property to be let, the amount of deposit, the purpose for which it was intended (as holding deposit ), and the date of issue of the receipt. Both I and the letting agent signed the form. There were no terms and conditions attached.

Three days later a member of our group pulled out of the tenancy and we had to cancel. I called the bank and cancelled the cheque that was issued the letting agent.

The agent is now furious and threatens to take legal action if we do not pay up the three thousand pounds as deposit, even though we have no plans to rent the property.

I would like to know the legal value to the receipt that was signed and whether that document binds me to pay up the agreed three thousand pound deposit.

I think the only action the agent can take would be through the small claims court. He is understandably annoyed, but I think a court would decide he was being unreasonable in expecting to retain the £3,000 – though some recompense for re-advertising costs and the like may be seen as fair. Perhaps one week’s rent would be seen as reasonable, but of course, it will depend on the court and the reasons that the agent gives as to why he believes he has acted reasonably in demanding this money.


Unfair treatment

I have been renting a furnished house for two years, signing a succession of six month contracts. The house was fully furnished. We were checked in by the letting agency although at the time house still contained personal belongings which the agent said we should move into the garage – the agent helped us do this. I noted that several parts of the house were unclean but made no comment.

We have had the property inspected by the same agent every three to six months throughout the tenancy. Each time the agent said he was happy with the condition of the house and each time we received a letter to say the property was satisfactory.

Recently the landlord wanted his property back so that his daughter could live there and gave us eight week’s notice to find somewhere else. Having five children, and due to be sitting final exams for a degree during the week he wanted us out, I immediately found another property. The new landlord wanted us to put a holding deposit down, and for us to move in straight away.

Through a contact he had given us I contacted the landlord to say I would be moving out a month early, asking that he write a letter to the agent to agree so that I could get my deposit back. I was shocked when the agency phoned me and said the landlord was unhappy I had been phoning his friends, and that we were not allowed to move out of the property until our contract was up.

We didn't know what to do and so, without even living in the property, paid the last month’s rent along with the electricity to keep there fridges running. To make sure the house was nice I had re-varnished the thresholds and repainted the walls in their existing colour. I replaced some garden chairs which had been damaged and paid hundreds of pounds for the settee and carpets to be cleaned.

There was wear and tear on sideboards and drawers and table tops due to every day activities, I tried to repair scratches and dents and re-varnished furniture to make it look nice. I had no luck cleaning the shower tiles and door that had lime scale on when we moved in. It was left in its original condition and was not used during our let.

On the day of check out, the same agent that checked us in, also checked us out. He said he was pleasantly surprised at what good condition the property was in considering we had rented it for two years to a family with five young children. He checked everywhere and said he was happy with the condition.

When the landlord moved back into his property he phoned the agency and said he was unhappy with the cleanliness of the home. The agent that had checked us in and out didn't see any problems, but he said the landlord’s word goes. I was told to ask the carpet cleaner to redo the carpets. The cleaner agreed and told me to pass his telephone number on to the landlord.

I visited to pass on the information only to discover that the carpets were being re-cleaned by another cleaning company.

Now the landlord says he will keep our deposit to pay for necessary cleaning. This is unfair since we kept our side of the contract and even the agency said we had been good tenants. We are bewildered at how we are being treated. It is as if the landlord did not realise the state of his property when he moved out! He has been away for two years and seems to have forgotten all the blemishes his property had.

Another issue we had was that the boiler did not have ventilation, the gas people said it was a risk to us, also we moved into the property with old electricity sockets which were rewired while we were in the property, as well as earthing being done. My husband has picked up that they had an extension done with non-standard lintels, and a garage adjoining the house with only single brick width between. It is law to have a double wall so that fumes from car exhausts do not get through the walls. Do we bring all these things up as issues with the landlord?

What do we do?

You may just be unlucky, and have got the odd landlord that thinks he has been cheated if he has to return a deposit – hence the plans next year to bring in deposit protection rules. You can tell why this is being done when cases like this crop up.

Write a firm letter, outlining the issues just as you have done here. Make reference to the fact you have made no attempts to contact personal friends of the owner. State that failure to return what you feel you are entitled to (the full deposit) will result in your taking action against him. Keep a copy of the letter. If you do not get a satisfactory response, go to the Small Claims Court – costs should go against the landlord if the facts are as outlined.

I wonder whether it is worth speaking to the Association of Residential Letting Agents, or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which govern the practice of members who act as letting agents?

The agent put you in, he signed you out – what overtures is he making on your behalf? Some agents hold the deposit, others certainly get the rent – what are is this firm doing?


I think the other issues, about the lintels and walls should have been raised with Environmental Services whilst you were there. They may not feel able to do anything now you have vacated.


New landlord steps in

We rented a student house from July 2004 to June 2005, and we are having some trouble getting our deposits back.

We recently discovered that, unbeknown to us, the landlord with whom we signed a contract sold the house before the tenancy had ended and all monies went to the new landlord, who we had never met. When we spoke to the new landlord, we agreed that we would sort out the rest of the bills for the period we were in the house. However, the landlord claimed that we had caused a certain amount of damage to the house (although this was the first time this had been claimed and we had kept the property is what can only be described as a ‘pristine condition’.

When we left the property there was no exit inventory completed (nor had there been a check in inventory at the outset).

Seeing as the landlord sold the house while we were still living there, is the contract we signed with him void?

We did not sign any contract with the new landlord, who seems, nevertheless, to believe we do not want to pay outstanding bills. This is not the case as we have repeatedly told him. We just don't want to be taken for a ride when it comes to damage to the house – because there wasn’t any.

Because we have not lived in the house since June we cannot verify whether or not damage has occurred or who might have caused this. The landlord has claimed he has photographic evidence and an independent witness to prove the condition, but as no tenant was around to witness photographs being taken, and no exit inventory check was made, how can these claims be valid?

I think you need to make it clear to the new landlord that if he accepted your rent, you have a tenancy with him. Tell him that in view of the above points (no inventory check etc), you believe you have a strong enough case to go to the small claims court. By the time it gets to court, presumably all bills will have been cleared. Be prepared to make your case as clearly as possible, get witness statements to the fact the property was kept in a pristine fashion. For future reference, do not move out without an inventory check and take photos. I hope you get your deposits back. 



Agent not responding

When I moved out of the property I was renting in early July the inventory clerk checking me out did not raise any problems. Subsequently I received from the estate agent a copy of the inventory clerk's report together with a form which I was asked to sign and return to show my agreement with the report. This I have done.

Despite all this I am still awaiting return of my deposit. Each time I call the estate agent I get no response. Neither does the landlord pick up my calls. What action is open to me?

Send a polite but firm letter, outlining the above (inventory checked – no issues raised, signed and returned).. I have not yet received my deposit… I must therefore advise that if a cheque is not received by(give a week) I will have no alternative but to seek restitution through the small claims court… If required to do this, then the costs would be claimed against you. Sign and date it, keeping a copy, and if you get no response go to court. The agent is acting badly in not responding to your calls – so think about contacting ARLA or the RICS to one of which the agent hopefully belongs.


A question of notice

Earlier this year a friend of mine spoke to her landlady about possibly leaving her flat in October or November. However her plans changed and she now needs to leave sooner.

She called the landlady and also wrote to give her to give formal notice (of more than the one month required in the contract). But the landlady claimed that as the earlier call amounted to a verbal agreement to leave in October or November she would be entitled to keep her deposit.

My friend doesn't want to pay the last month’s rent as the landlady is adamant she will not pay her deposit back. But she is worried that the landlady will come into her home and change the locks or take goods or something similar.

How can my friend proceed? Can the landlord change locks or remove tenant’s goods? And if she doesn't pay rent, how long does it take for the landlord to evict her? If the landlady does change locks how does my friend get entry to the flat again?

I think the landlady is being a bit unreasonable here – your friend has given her sufficient notice to allow her to get a new tenant, which is what most landlord’s are concerned about. However, whilst I know most people think it is fair not to pay the last month’s rent where there is some doubt about the return of the deposit, it is not really fair to the landlady – it is not even giving her a chance to behave well. I would pay the rent but make it very clear that I would go straight to the small claims court to recover the deposit (though of course your friend may not wish to follow my advice!)

The landlady should not enter the property unless your friend invites her in or vacates the property. If she enters or changes the locks, this would be an illegal eviction/harassment, which is viewed very seriously and could lead to prosecution. A solicitor would have to be involved if this happened and he or she could regain possession of the property.



When the agent will not repay  

My flat was rented out through an agent. But when the tenant the agents found left I discovered considerable damage to the property. I returned the tenant's deposit to my agent. I am now being harassed by the father of the former tenant's boyfriend. Apparently he loaned the tenant her deposit and wants it back from me. Neither he nor I can get any response from the agent and he claims that the return of the deposit is ultimately my responsibility.

Where do I stand legally? I have paid the deposit (less minimal deductions) to my agent – my flat has been wrecked and furniture had to be thrown out due to a filthy tenant – and I was physically assaulted by this man's son (tenant’s boyfriend). I do not feel inclined to be browbeaten into paying again. I am 60 and selling the flat – no more tenants for me!

I think you should see a solicitor as you should not be harassed in this matter. However, if you would rather not do so at present, write a brief letter stating that the agent received the deposit, less whatever you have deducted and the reason why you made the deduction. Advise him that should he wish to take the matter further, he should take you to the small claims court.

Be prepared to make a good case – if possible with photos before and after, witness statements, receipts showing contents were not old or had been professionally cleaned, inventory showing condition. Let them try and get more money from you!

I think you may also have a case to make against the agents – usually registered with ARLA – I don’t understand why you are being hassled and not them – they will be experienced in this type of case.


Lost cheque

Tenants have just vacated my property and have left the place in a mess. I gave them a cheque back for the deposit in full before they vacated the premises, but they have lost/destroyed the cheque by accident. They have asked for another cheque, but I'm not happy about the state in which they left the property. They have also left some belongings in an outbuilding (locked). Where do I go from here?

I think you are on a sticky wicket if you gave them a cheque for the deposit in full but are now saying you want to deduct a sum for the cleaning of the property or repairs. The usual procedure would be to inspect the property at handover, noting damages or problems which need professional cleaning or are likely to cost you money. You would then discuss what sum, if any, should be deducted from the deposit.

I think a pleasant letter should be sent, saying you are happy to issue another cheque, but itemising what you wish to deduct and why. Be as clear as you can. In the same letter, you can ask about the goods left in the outbuilding. Either you or a new tenant may need to use the outbuilding. Give the previous tenants a time limit to remove the goods and say failure to do so will result in them being disposed of. Do you have a next of kin for the tenant? Could you take the items there?

Your former tenants may feel that you are not justified in deducting any money – if so, they can go to the small claims court. You would need to ensure you have a very clear inventory and, if possible, receipts to show carpets were new at the beginning, newly decorated, anything else that would help you make the case that you were justified in making a deduction from the deposit.


Changing letting agents

Because of dissatisfaction with the service being provided I have recently changed managing agents on my rental property. But the old agent is refusing to pass on the tenant’s deposit to my new agent. Both are registered firms, but the first agent says the request can only come from the tenant who paid the deposit. This effectively leaves me without a rent deposit. Is there anything I can do as landlord other than chivvy the tenant to ask for the money to be transferred?

The Agent is correct, in that the deposit is the tenant’s and transfers should really only be done on the tenant’s say so. Of course, if the deposit goes to the tenant and he refuses to lodge it with the new agents, you are the one who is stuck.

It is unlikely you would obtain possession on the basis of broken tenancy agreement term as that is a discretionary ground. I would ask the new agent to write a pleasant letter to your tenant, explaining what he needs to do and reminding him that payment of a deposit is a requirement of the tenancy agreement (presuming it is).

If your tenant is happy in the property, he may be quite prepared to get the deposit back and pay it to the new agents. If he is not, then obviously serve a notice to expire on the same day as the tenancy – I know that seems a long wait, but it may persuade your tenant of the seriousness with which you view this.



Canine deductions

The lease of the property we rent out states ‘no pets’. But when I visited recently, when the door was opened a little dog ran out. I told the tenants they were not suppose to have pets but the woman said her daughter was dog sitting for a friend for a couple of weeks. I told her that was against the lease and she couldn't.

My question is, now that the tenants will be leaving at the end of the month (before the end of the tenancy), can I deduct from an amount for breaking the lease from the deposit, and can I deduct an amount to cover the cost of cleaning the carpet of dog hair?

The deposit is held against possible damage and rent arrears – and I hope your tenancy agreement states this. A mention of cleaning costs would also be helpful.

But I don’t think it is reasonable to try and deduct something from the deposit just on the basis that the tenants have broken the terms of the lease. If it went to the small claims court, your tenants could make a case that they were ‘dog-sitting’, not keeping a pet themselves, and it is not reasonable to make a deduction. It would depend on the court, but you may get a magistrate who likes small dogs!

The second question is different – how much evidence will there be when your tenants leave that there has been a dog in the house? Does it smell? (Non-dog owners can usually detect the scent of dog in a way that seems magical to the besotted dog owner!) Is there a substantial amount of dog hair around? Any damage or scratched/chewed furniture? If so, you are within your rights to deduct something from the deposit, though preferably with the support of a suitable line or two in your tenancy agreement.

I would write a pleasant letter, stating you will be undertaking a property inspection on such and such a date prior to the tenants leaving and that evidence of a dog may mean that you will be required to make a deduction from the deposit for professional cleaning. It is then up to the tenants to make sure the property is in the same condition as when they took it over (aside from fair wear and tear).

Deductions from deposits almost always cause arguments – make sure you are reasonable and be prepared to fight your corner (if justified) if a dispute should go to court.


Gone but not forgotten

My tenants left at the end of their tenancy last month and returned to Australia. In the last week of their tenancy they shattered the ceramic glass lid of my gas hob. They emailed me about it but said they had no time to replace it. They are now disputing the cost of replacement and saying there should be plenty of second hand lids available for me to go and buy!

The fold down lid is integral to the safety of the appliance and to the looks of the whole kitchen but is now out of production. I will have to settle for a different type of hob and am certainly not accepting the very kind suggestion that I go around London looking for another lid that might fit.
I hold more than enough funds from them to replace it with something new. What should I do?

I agree with you. You have given your reasons why you have to replace the hob. I take it you have been in touch with the manufacturers and they have said they carry no spares for repair purposes? Refund whatever remains of the deposit with a very clearly written letter stating the steps you have taken. List these by saying, for example: contacted manufacturer – no lids available; spoke to repair firm – cannot fit another lid.

Be very clear that you will not risk buying a second hand lid, even if you could find one (which you haven’t been able to) because of the risk of a fault which may make it unsafe. Send a copy of the receipt for the new hob with the letter. Send a copy of the inventory, hopefully saying the hob when they moved in was in a good condition.


You are justified in your action – if they are unhappy, let them take further action!


No movement

I issued a notice requiring possession to my tenant just before Christmas and gave her until early March to find alternative accommodation. She has failed to leave the property and shows no sign of doing so. I have now decided to ask the courts to evict her. How does this process work and what steps do I need to take?

This sounds like you have issued a section 21 notice, accelerated possession procedure, giving two month’s notice. Go to court with a copy of the notice, and ask for a court date. This could take a few weeks, despite it being accelerated possession. If the tenant remains after the date ordered by court, you can go for a bailiff’s warrant and a bailiff would then remove her and her goods. Unfortunately, this will cost you, but you should be able to deduct the costs from the deposit. Try and discuss the situation with the tenant – can you negotiate her out by offering a good reference or perhaps a small sum to assist her in moving – it may work out cheaper in the long run.


A friend of a friend

As a favour I let my house to a friend at a rent that just covered the mortgage repayments. Shortly before the assured shorthold tenancy was due to expire I discovered that my tenant was subletting part of the house to another friend of his. As I did not have any objection to this I decided to increase the rent to a level which was more in line with the going rate for the area, although still marginally discounted.

For the past six months the rent has been late and about three months ago the tenant made an application for housing benefit, which I understand was granted to him (although he has still continued to be late with the rent).

About six weeks before the AST was due to expire, I decided I had had enough of this situation, and that I should sell the house. The tenant said he understood my point of view and happily agreed for an estate agent to come and value the property. I provided the tenant with a mobile phone so that the estate agent could contact him if he needed to arrange viewings. The estate agent then went back at a later date to take internal photos and put together the details and I understand that there have been at least four viewings.

The tenant informed me that he had requested a council house and so we agreed that I would give him a letter to help speed things up on his side. He asked me to give him one month's notice, from the end of the AST, which I did. At the time I had no intention of evicting him in a month's time, I planned to give him two months' notice from receiving an offer.

Two weeks before the AST was due to expire I had not received any offers on the house and rent was still being paid late. It appears that my tenant's friend had damaged the bedroom wall when removing several rows of shelves he had put up and not filling the holes before leaving.

As a result I then decided to ask the tenant to leave at the end of the month's notice period so that I could gain access to repair the damage. In the meantime, the housing office has written to me and basically said that as I have not given two months’ notice my only option is to seek a court order to evict the tenant. My understanding is that I should serve a ‘ground 11’ possession notice before seeking the court order.

Could you please let me know if this is the correct course of action? I really want to be able to get the tenant out so I can sell the property.

I really hate this kind of case, where the tenant appears to be taking advantage of the situation.
I am afraid you are bound by the law, which says you must issue a correct legal notice and gain a court order before the tenant has to vacate the property. The homeless legislation, amended in 2000, says an applicant can only be classed as homeless if he or she is totally without accommodation, have no rights to stay in existing accommodation, or is within 28 days of being made homeless (by virtue of a legal notice, if the applicant is in accommodation already).

I cannot make up my mind whether the advice to use ground 11 to evict was intended to help you or to delay matters further. Ground 11 (that the tenant has been persistently late in paying the rent) is a discretionary ground. A court would have to decide whether it was reasonable for you to want possession, and could through the case out if it did not agree. Only a two week notice period is involved but you would then have to get a court order, which could take some weeks.

Citing ground 11 can strengthen a case where other grounds are also applicable, but on its own it is no guarantee of the outcome you want.

You can issue two month’s notice using section 21 – provided you give a full two months, you can then try the accelerated possession procedure. I know this may seem long winded, but it is generally quicker in the long run.

Alternatively, if the tenant falls two months in arrears, you could use a ground 8 notice, available from a legal stationers. This involves giving two week’s notice and is a mandatory ground – if rent is still two months or more in arrears when the case comes to court.

There is no reason that you should not undertake the repair work before the tenant vacates. Will you be deducting costs from the deposit? If so, perhaps the tenant would prefer to do the work?


Housing Act 2004

I currently have one property rented out and I have read an article regarding the new Housing Act in The Daily Telegraph (published on Monday 31 January 2005). This mentioned a tenancy deposit scheme, the licensing of landlords, as well as health and safety issues and new energy certificates. Can you offer general information regarding this piece of legislation?

You are asking a lot for one question but I will do my best to clarify the situation.

From July 2006 any tenancy deposit paid to a landlord in connection with a shorthold tenancy must be dealt with in accordance with an ‘authorised scheme’. These schemes will effectively give tenants assurance that the money is held for the right purpose and will also include means of resolving disputes between tenants and landlords. A number of organisations such as the National Landlords Association are working on developing ‘authorised schemes’ for their members. When the time comes, if you are not a member of an association with such a scheme there are likely to be a number of other compliance options available.

Landlord licensing will come into force in October 2005 but is not universal. It will apply to landlords of larger houses in multiple occupation and in some designated areas, at local authority discretion, where housing is a particular problem. Where applicable, licensing will be mandatory rather than voluntary as in the case of the accreditation schemes now being introduced in most, if not all, local authorities. However, belonging to an accreditation scheme is likely to stand you in good stead should a licence become necessary. Your local accreditation scheme should be able to advise what is happening locally.

You could also take a look at the Leeds City council website which has added a section giving information on the new Housing Act and HMO licensing – go to www.leeds.gov.uk and then click onto ‘Housing’, then ‘Houses in multiple occupation’.

Your local environmental services should be able to give you advice on the health and safety aspects introduced by the Act and the new energy certificates. Basically there will be a new hazard rating for the former and need to have assessment of the energy efficiency of properties when sold.