Landlord's unfair deductions from tenant's deposit

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    Landlord's unfair deductions from tenant's deposit

    Please can anyone help and apologies in advance for the long thread! My son and his friend were renting a 2-bed house for the past 14 months through a Letting Agents. The landlords were travelling the world. This was on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy for the first six months, then monthly be agreement thereafter. They gave 2 months notice to Letting Agents which was accepted with no problem. During period of tenancy the Agents inspected property twice and all was fine. After they vacated the property at the end of January 2005 the Agents inspected a few days later and contacted my son and friend to say that the house was not cleaned to their satisfaction, and gave a verbal list of things to rectify (such as cleaning insides of cupboards, washing down paintwork etc) nothing too major. I personally spent a whole day with them cleaning the house, and it was in good order and everything the Agents wanted to be done was done. The Agents subsequently re-inspected and confirmed it was cleaned to their satisfaction, but that they had now 'discovered' a small carpet burn and would have to check with the landlords what they wanted to do about this, but probably it would be put down to wear and tear. My son had subsequently moved into an apartment with the same Letting Agents and was told his half of the deposit would be transferred over to his new property, and that was that. His friend however has still not had his half of the deposit returned, despite almost daily calls to Letting Agents. They were fobbing him off by saying they still hadn't heard back from Landlords ref the carpet burn, etc etc. Then the Agents contacted him to say the Landlords sister had inspected the property, and she was happy with it apart from (said) carpet burn - but still no return of deposit. TODAY nine weeks after vacating property my son has received a Letter from the Letting Agents to state the Landlords have now returned from travelling and were not happy with various 'dilapidations' in the property. They state they are deducting the following from their deposit (even though my son was told his half of deposit had been transferred over to his new apartment):
    £30 for a new iron (iron left in property was working)
    £21 for a new bin (they have no idea!)
    £160 being 40% of the cost of a WHOLE NEW LOUNGE CARPET
    £180 for 2 new sun loungers (2 very cheap sun loungers were under cover in the garden when they moved in and were never used by them - now they are claiming they were damaged by damp)
    £7 per hour for cleaning every room in the house (again??!!) for however many hours they claim it took!

    The piece de resistance in all of this is that they were NEVER GIVEN OR ASKED TO SIGN - AN INVENTORY of any kind. Where do they stand - any help gratefully received! I would point out I was Guarantor for my son's half of the rent, and they were never in rent arrears at any time during their tenancy.
    A very irate Mum!!

    #2
    You're on the wrong forum

    You really should have posted this on rental property questions as this forum is for letting agents to put questions about running an agency, and is likely to get ignored as a result. But........I've spotted it!

    To answer your questions. If there was no inventory signed by the tenants then there is NO basis for dilapidations (in other words the landlord's agent cannot prove anything was or wasn't there, or the state of cleanliness).

    They should therefore return the deposit in full as they failed in their duty of care to their client to ensure they ahd a proper inventory preapred and signed.

    On top of that the deductions are grossly in excess of what would normally be acceptable. The age of the carpet must be taken into acocunt and its quality too! A 40% deduction is extremely high. 9 weeks is also far too long.

    I suggest you put this to the agents in writing and threaten to take the landlord to court (not the agent) in order to have your deposit returned. There might be few red faces at the agents as it's their clients who will be suffering through their incomptence, and they won;t be able to prove anything. If the dpeosit was held as stakeholder nothing can be deducted form it without the tenant's express authority.

    If they are members of ARLA/NAEA/RICS and if your dispute cannot be resolved then you can make a formal complaint to one of the organisations to which they belong.

    I've answered many questions on deposits in the past and yours varies little from many of the others. Use the search faciltity in the rental property questions forum. You could also read my article on deposits and their status whihc you can access from the home page under "articles" believe it or not!
    The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

    Comment


      #3
      You're on the wrong forum

      You really should have posted this on rental property questions as this forum is for letting agents to put quesitons about running an agency. But........!

      To answer your questions. If there was no inventory signed by the tenants then there is NO basis for dilapidations (in other words the landlord or his agent cannot prove anything was or wasn't there, or the state of cleanliness).

      The agent should therefore return the deposit in full as they failed in their duty of care to their client to ensure they ahd a proper inventory preapred and signed.

      On top of that the deductions are grossly in excess of what would normally be acceptable. The age of the carpet must be taken into account and its quality too! A 40% deduction is extremely high. 9 weeks is also far too long.

      I suggest you put this to the agents in writing and threaten to take the landlord to court (not the agent) in order to have your deposit returned. There might be few red faces at the agents as it's their clients who will be suffering through their incompetence, and they won't be able to prove anything. If the dpeosit was held as stakeholder nothing can be deducted from it without the tenant's express authority, only if held as landlord's agent.

      If they are members of ARLA/NAEA/RICS and if your dispute cannot be resolved then you can make a formal complaint to one of the organisations to which they belong.

      I've answered many questions on deposits in the past and yours varies little from many of the others. Use the search faciltity in the rental property questions forum. You could also read my article on deposits and their status which you can access from the home page under "articles" believe it or not!
      The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

      Comment


        #4
        Many thanks for your comprehensive reply Paul, I think they are armed with enough ammunition now! Also apologies for putting in wrong forum - my first time on here!

        Comment


          #5
          Crazy Deductions!

          Hi - no wonder you're irate!

          The Letting Agents have taken far too long in sorting this out and returning your deposit. Consequently, because there was no inventory (if they say they have one, ask to see it!) you cannot prove that it wasn't your son that did the damage, by the same token, they can't prove either that the cigarette burn was in the carpet before your son moved in. This is going to be a long process and I'm not sure if it will ever be resolved.

          As they already have the money, they can make whatever deductions they want - the Letting Agent (assuming he was acting as Landlords' Agent and not as stakeholder) should have sorted this out using his inventory that he should have taken and signed at the same time as the check in! You need to establish whether an inventory was taken at the same time as your son moved in, this should give a very detailed schedule of condition of every single item of fixtures, fittings and furniture so that no-one is left in any doubt what the state of condition was at the start of the tenancy and at the end of the tenancy.

          In any event, you have to prove it wasn't damaged and they have to prove it was you that damaged it - if they haven't got an inventory or a schedule of condition, how are they going to prove it was you that did the damage? If they are members of ARLA, you could try writing to them to report this - its daylight robbery!

          One thing you could be sure of - that it won't happen again. Never move into a property without thoroughly checking the inventory and have it signed by both parties (tenant/agent and landlord if they are around). It is a good idea to take a video camera around the property with you - that would undoubtedly hold up in court if you could prove the damage was there when you moved in.

          Anyway, best of luck - but it usually ends up with being wiser after the event! I'm really sorry for you and your son - this seems so unjust!

          Good luck!
          Originally posted by Lyndy Lou
          Please can anyone help and apologies in advance for the long thread! My son and his friend were renting a 2-bed house for the past 14 months through a Letting Agents. The landlords were travelling the world. This was on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy for the first six months, then monthly be agreement thereafter. They gave 2 months notice to Letting Agents which was accepted with no problem. During period of tenancy the Agents inspected property twice and all was fine. After they vacated the property at the end of January 2005 the Agents inspected a few days later and contacted my son and friend to say that the house was not cleaned to their satisfaction, and gave a verbal list of things to rectify (such as cleaning insides of cupboards, washing down paintwork etc) nothing too major. I personally spent a whole day with them cleaning the house, and it was in good order and everything the Agents wanted to be done was done. The Agents subsequently re-inspected and confirmed it was cleaned to their satisfaction, but that they had now 'discovered' a small carpet burn and would have to check with the landlords what they wanted to do about this, but probably it would be put down to wear and tear. My son had subsequently moved into an apartment with the same Letting Agents and was told his half of the deposit would be transferred over to his new property, and that was that. His friend however has still not had his half of the deposit returned, despite almost daily calls to Letting Agents. They were fobbing him off by saying they still hadn't heard back from Landlords ref the carpet burn, etc etc. Then the Agents contacted him to say the Landlords sister had inspected the property, and she was happy with it apart from (said) carpet burn - but still no return of deposit. TODAY nine weeks after vacating property my son has received a Letter from the Letting Agents to state the Landlords have now returned from travelling and were not happy with various 'dilapidations' in the property. They state they are deducting the following from their deposit (even though my son was told his half of deposit had been transferred over to his new apartment):
          £30 for a new iron (iron left in property was working)
          £21 for a new bin (they have no idea!)
          £160 being 40% of the cost of a WHOLE NEW LOUNGE CARPET
          £180 for 2 new sun loungers (2 very cheap sun loungers were under cover in the garden when they moved in and were never used by them - now they are claiming they were damaged by damp)
          £7 per hour for cleaning every room in the house (again??!!) for however many hours they claim it took!

          The piece de resistance in all of this is that they were NEVER GIVEN OR ASKED TO SIGN - AN INVENTORY of any kind. Where do they stand - any help gratefully received! I would point out I was Guarantor for my son's half of the rent, and they were never in rent arrears at any time during their tenancy.
          A very irate Mum!!

          Comment


            #6
            Hi Sheila - Thanks for your reply! There was definitely never any Inventory for the property, so as you say there is no case for dilapidations. My son and his housemate are going to check their Tenancy Agreement as they think the deposit was held as stakeholder in which case they shouldn't have touched any of the money without their prior agreement and consent, as I understand it.

            They have now written to the Letting Agents threatening to take the landlords to Court unless their full deposit is returned - no reply received yet!

            The bit that gets me the most (although all of their wild claims are unjust) is charging them for 10 hours cleaning at £7 an hour - when I spent a whole day with them cleaning the house, and I am very particular too!! That house was in a clean and tidy state when they left and as stated, the only damage was a small carpet burn. Daylight robbery indeed!

            Comment


              #7
              Lyndy Lou. I don't know if you know this but I'm an Assistant Business Practices Officer for the NAEA and take errant member agents to tribunal when necessary. In one of my most recent cases the agent had already been taken to court by the tenant's mother (who was guarantor), for cleaning a property and changing the locks and totalled over £230, together with her initial costs, and won! The judge said there was no basis for charging the tenants to have the property "professionally" cleaned and ordered the agent to repay about £337.

              Guess what? There was no iventory signed by the tenants on entry - the agent had posted a copy a few days after they moved in and - this is what the agent actually said at the tribunal, - "It's the tenant's responsibility to ensure that the inventory is correct and to return it to us". Oh yeah? Says who?

              Stick your leg out and they eventually fall over it! Easy peasy! Fined over £1,000!
              The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

              Comment


                #8
                Many thanks for this info Paul - very interesting - I really think my son and friend have their Letting Agents over a barrel! They have now received a reply from the Letting Agents - a rather garbled letter going off on a tangent about completely different things such as some bags of rubbish in the front garden that the Council did not collect, and a sleeping bag left in a cupboard etc etc(strange). They said that 'an Inventory would have been given to you when you moved into the property' - well it wasn't! In fact the property my son is now in, a small studio, through the same Agents - has no Inventory either!! It rather sounds like they are clutching at straws so my son is going to reply that everything they are saying is irrelevant - the facts of the matter are that there was never any Inventory and therefore no case for dilapidations. Then he will give them 14 days to return the deposit - then Small Claims court - just to clarify - they will need to take the Landlords rather than the Agents to Court?

                Comment


                  #9
                  Yes Lindy as I am sure Paul F will confirm, you son must take his landlord to court, not the agent. This is because the agent represents the landlord with whom he has a contract. Your son takes the landlord to court and it is then up to the landlord to take action against the agent if appropriate.
                  P.P.
                  Any information given in this post is based on my personal experience as a landlord, what I have learned from this and other boards and elsewhere. It is not to be relied on. Definitive advice is only available from a Solicitor or other appropriately qualified person.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Crazy Deductions - the saga goes on..!

                    Can someone please clarify - the Agents state in a letter to my son 'we confirm that your half of the deposit was indeed transferred to your current property on the proviso that should there be a problem with any dilapidations at your previous property, this would be adjusted and you would have to make up the difference on your current deposit'. So they have stated in writing that his half of the deposit was transferred over.

                    His current Tenancy Agreement states that his deposit is held by the Agent as STAKEHOLDER. From what I can gather reading these boards, that means the Agent cannot deduct any monies from his deposit without prior agreement with the tenant? But he has in order to cover disputed 'dilapidations' at his previous property!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      The status of a stakeholder deposit is very clear, if you feel anything has been taken without your son's permission, get a solicitor and proceed to court to recover it and the costs.

                      Comment

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