Dispute with Landlord re: Cleaning costs after leaving. Threatening Court action

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    Dispute with Landlord re: Cleaning costs after leaving. Threatening Court action

    Hello everyone. I'm seeking some advice regarding an ongoing dispute between me/my partner and our landlord and letting agency.

    We signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement and moved into a privately rented property in September 2015. We were making payment on the rent every month as agreed, but around March last year, I found myself out of work for about 8 weeks and we fell behind with the rent. For another 6 months or so, we were making small monthly payments to attempt to catch up with the arrears. In September 2017, we received a 2 month notice that they would be evicting us from the property.

    Around about the same time that we left the property, I spoke to the letting agency regarding our outstanding rental payments and I was told that the £1000 they had in deposit could be used against the amount in arrears that we had left on the account. With that in mind, I paid an additional £500 on top of the deposit money and I was told that the rent was fully paid and cleared.

    A few days after we moved out, we started to get letters and emails saying that we now owe them an additional £400+ for cleaning and repair costs - but with each and every email and letter since, they insist on calling this "Rental Arrears".

    I spoke to them when we started receiving the letters and asked them not to contact my partner directly as she had recently been diagnosed with a severe form of post-natal depression and she was struggling even more when she received their correspondence. But she continues to get phone email and letters. They even call her mobile constantly, even though they dont ring me! They are outright harassing her.

    We are now receiving letters and email saying that if we dont comply and pay the outstanding amounts by tomorrow (31st January) they will proceed with legal action and take us to court over unpaid costs.

    It's now been a couple of months since we left and i have been disputing their charges for the cleaning and repair costs. They are for silly things like "Fingerprints on the kitchen cupboards (needs cleaning)" and "cobwebs" and "4x child safety latches on kitchen cupboards". They are even claiming for things like "heavy stains on entrance carpets". These types of things (heavy stains on carpets) were already like it when we moved in!

    Normally, I wouldn't have disputed all of their claims, but when we originally moved into the property after a previous tenant moved out, it took SEVEN of us a full day to get that flat clean and to a livable standard". We scrubbed the oven clean, we washed the walls and carpets, we cleaned all their junk out of the cupboards....all in our own time and at my expense. Now they are trying to charge ME for general wear and tear / minor cleaning.

    I even re-decorated the entire flat in my own time and at my own cost

    It's all just so frustrating

    And now, I have less than 24 hours to respond to their letters before they (apparently) start legal proceedings against us

    Any advice would be welcomed. I just dont know what to do. Im not in a position to pay it right now and I certainly don't want to go to court....but I guess that's something I may have to do if I'm disputing all of this.....

    Thanks in advance
    Dannydog85

    #2
    You might want to try having a word with the deposit protection scheme. The landlord may try to argue that you consented to the use of the deposit, but it seems like that was no false premises. Did you actually sign any paperwork for the protection scheme to release the deposit?

    It seems normal for landlords to demand lots for cleaning, and quite common to find excessive damage, but your normal first defence would be to get the protection scheme to mediate, and they tend to err on the tenant's side.

    The landlord is probably going after it as rent, as the deposit is, officially, against cleaning and repairs, not against shortfall of rent, so he has allocated it to cleaning and repairs first. However, you didn't agree to its release for that.

    Probably best to talk to Shelter as to whether you can still go back to the protection scheme.

    Otherwise, if the landlord is taking you to court, he needs to provide you with how he calculated the payment. That is generally based on the cost when actually purchased, but reduced, eventually to zero, over hte expected life of the item, so he cannot charge you new for old, and the courts will not let him do that.

    Your financial position may make it difficult to avoid costs. Ideally you would pay him the fair cost, up front, and if the court came to the same, or a smaller figure, they would probably not award costs against you.

    Comment


      #3
      Understand you left around the same time you got 2 month notice.

      Just leaving does not end a tenancy: Did you (or any other tenant) give any notice to quit to end the tenancy? If so, when given, was it accepted?
      I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

      Comment


        #4
        leaseholder64 - thank you for your reply. We didn't sign any forms or paperwork for the release of the deposit. Like I said in my OP, I had spoken with the Lettings Agency and they told me the funds would be allocated towards the shortfall in rent - hence the reason I paid the extra £500-odd from the outstanding balance. If I had known they would allocate it to cleaning or repairs first, I would have waited for the costs and disputed it through TDS. Guess I was given bad advice from the LA?

        I actually spoke to TDS last week and they told me they hadn't received any information from the landlord or lettings agency and as far as they were aware, I was still at the property and there wasn't any dispute raised over the release of the funds. But knowing what I know now, I'm wondering if I should raise a dispute and ask them to intervene and take a closer look at their costs (they told me I am still entitled to raise a dispute, even 2+ months later).

        I'm new to all this private renting business, so I'm still not sure what I should do next. I sought some advice earlier from a debt charity of all places, and they recommended that I tell the letting agency that I intend on disputing the costs and ask for extra time while I sort out the evidence my case. They then said if it goes to court, I should initially argue/appeal the case, but to attend court if they throw my appeal out. They said I could end up with a CCJ but as long as that gets paid within 1 month, it wouldn't go against me on my credit report. And if I win the case, I likely wont owe them a penny. I guess I should just speak to landlord and LA tomorrow to see if this can be resolved outside of court in the form of a low cost repayment plan that is within my limited budget?
        ----------
        theartfullodger - We actually received our 2 month notice period around September 2017. We initially agreed a move-out date of 4th December (day before next payment was due), but due to other circumstances, we mutually agreed to cut our tenancy short and end on the 24th November. I believe a full months payment was still taken. Looking back, I could have used that extra week or two to make better on some of the smaller cleaning issues they are charging me for! But we was in a rush to get out due to circumstances beyond our control so i never got the opportunity to do a full sweep of the flat after moving our furniture and goods out of there

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
          It seems normal for landlords to demand lots for cleaning.
          ...Source?...

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
            The landlord is probably going after it as rent, as the deposit is, officially, against cleaning and repairs, not against shortfall of rent, so he has allocated it to cleaning and repairs first.
            ...Source?...

            In fact, forget it. Have a butchers yourself;

            http://www.depositprotection.com/doc...nd-damages.pdf

            The courts find similar.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
              Otherwise, if the landlord is taking you to court, he needs to provide you with how he calculated the payment. That is generally based on the cost when actually purchased, but reduced, eventually to zero, over hte expected life of the item.
              So if the windows of a property are beyond their expected life, a tenant can smash them in with impunity?

              Comment


                #8
                Re: cleaning.

                Originally posted by boletus View Post

                ...Source?...
                The source is observation of this forum. Lots of people say they cleaned it immaculately, but the landlord still charged them for cleaning.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by boletus View Post

                  ...Source?...

                  In fact, forget it. Have a butchers yourself;

                  http://www.depositprotection.com/doc...nd-damages.pdf

                  The courts find similar.
                  This was speculation about why the landlord decided to claim that a deposit, supposedly used up against rent, had not been used up against rent.

                  I have no idea to which paragraph you are referring in the largish document.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by boletus View Post

                    So if the windows of a property are beyond their expected life, a tenant can smash them in with impunity?
                    \we are not talking about criminal damage.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
                      Re: cleaning.

                      Lots of people say they cleaned it immaculately
                      If only I had a pound for everytime...

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post

                        I have no idea to which paragraph you are referring in the largish document.
                        Suggest you read it all.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post

                          \we are not talking about criminal damage.
                          No. We aren't.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Page 14 supports my point about useful life.

                            The bottom part of page 9 supports the point that cleaning charges are often seen as excessive, and particularly mentions tenants challenging that cleaning wasn't needed at all. In general it doesn't say whether or not most claims by tenants are justified, just the factors to be considered, although the final sentence does seem a bit of a hint to landlords that cases go against them..

                            I'll accept it does include rent as a breach of contract that could be remedied from the deposit, although stressing this would tend to encourage tenants to stop paying when they get notice, on the basis that it will come out of the deposit. It also means the landlord had no reason for going back on the original position that the deposit paid off the rent. If they had done treated it as paying off the rent, there would be no case for the ADR, as the tenant does not seem to dispute the rent was in arrears. They could then have gone after compensation for damage beyond wear and tear, and depreciation, in the county court without being challenged on the basis that they could have got that adjudicated by the ADR.

                            I'd expect the courts to apply the same rules as the ADR, in terms of what is fair compensation.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Definitely raise a dispute with the deposit scheme if you feel it warranted. At the very least it might buy you some time to find some more information out.
                              I wasn't aware the tenant could release a deposit for paying rent arrears off as it should be there to protect landlord against damage etc and must be agreed with both parties.
                              WRT cleaning, all my contracts have stipulated the property must be professionally cleaned prior to departure and I expect to see a receipt to prove that.

                              Comment

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