What happens to the deposit when a landlord dies?

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    What happens to the deposit when a landlord dies?

    Hi everyone, I’m wondering if you could help me, as I’m very unsure of where I stand legally in respect of a housing situation I exited recently.

    I was a Monday to Friday lodger until a few months ago, when I needed to vacate the room and move to a different property. I signed a contract with my landlady which, among other things, set out that the deposit I paid would be returned subject to deductions from damages; I still have this contract now. I fulfilled every aspect of this contract to the letter, and did not cause any damage to the room in which I stayed. In my final few days in the property, I moved everything out by the Friday, and chose to hand back the keys on the following Monday, consistent with my notice period as set out in the original contract. I arrived at the property ready to begin discussions about my deposit and, if necessary, hear about any deductions that my landlady may wish to make. I was informed that she had died and that everything in the property needed to go through probate. Hearing this, my immediate response was to respect the difficult situation the family was in, and offer to begin discussions when her spouse was ready, and presumably had been or was going through the probate process.

    It has now been several months and I haven’t heard anything back. I haven’t yet sought legal advice, but I need to be firm in my position before I make any contact with them, and I am quite concerned that I may have waited too long and they simply haven’t mentioned my deposit in probate. As far as I understand it, this is a debt to me, based on contract, which legally the executor needs to declare during the probate process. And that, because it is a contract, my only recourse if the money isn’t paid back to me is through a small claims court, making proving the fact that I did not cause any damages tremendously difficult, especially if the executor/beneficiary isn’t someone who lived in the house at the time.

    Does anyone know the legal position on this, and where I stand? If they refuse to give me back the money, can I realistically contest this in a small claims court? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


    #2
    Probate can take six or more months. You need to make sure the at the executor is aware of your claim on the estate. Professional executors will advertise for creditors in local papers or the London Gazette. The latter can be searched online.

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      #3
      You need to put things in writing, with proof you paid, but sensitively, calm & polite.
      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...

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        #4
        Originally posted by Tencretax2 View Post
        making proving the fact that I did not cause any damages tremendously difficult, especially if the executor/beneficiary isn’t someone who lived in the house at the time.
        It wouldn't be for you to prove that you didn't do any damage, but for the other side to prove that you did.
        I am not a lawyer, nor am I licensed to provide any regulated advice. None of my posts should be treated as legal or financial advice.

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          #5
          Do we assume she lived in the same property ?? (Changes the law on deposits a bit... )
          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...

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            #6
            Originally posted by theartfullodger View Post
            Do we assume she lived in the same property ?? (Changes the law on deposits a bit... )
            She did. What impact does this have?

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              #7
              The deposit is the tenant's money and isn't part of the deceased's estate or subject to probate.
              After an appropriate period to allow the family to grieve, I'd write and ask for the deposit to be returned, explaining the amount and the agreement.

              Hopefully, they'll simply send a cheque.
              When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
              Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

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                #8
                Although it might not be part of the estate, it is almost certainly mixed into a, frozen, bank account and the bank would have to be convinced to release part of that money before probate is granted. individuals aren't required to maintain client money accounts, and, as this was a licence, not an AST, the money won't be held by a third party protection scheme.

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
                  Although it might not be part of the estate, it is almost certainly mixed into a, frozen, bank account and the bank would have to be convinced to release part of that money before probate is granted. individuals aren't required to maintain client money accounts, and, as this was a licence, not an AST, the money won't be held by a third party protection scheme.
                  Quite. The problem is that money is fungible. You cannot identify where the deposit is.

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                    #10
                    Whatever the practical obstacles, whoever is responsible for the estate needs to sort it out.
                    If the lodger sues the estate for the deposit, a court would award costs against them as well as ordering the return of the money.

                    Unless the lodger at least makes asserts their claim, the money is likely to be considered part of the estate and passed on.
                    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

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                      #11
                      You may need to seek prof Probate advice if you can prove amount of deposit paid & when, First contact the Executor.

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                        #12
                        Have you been sending reminder letters with the details of your claim? Its possible that with so much on their minds they've just forgotten about you.

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by DPT57 View Post
                          Have you been sending reminder letters with the details of your claim? Its possible that with so much on their minds they've just forgotten about you.
                          I haven’t done this because I said, on exit, that I would give the spouse however long was needed, in light of their difficult situation. I do though have evidence that I have paid the money, that it was received, and that the spouse - who is highly likely to be the executor - knows that this is owed to me. What would be most helpful for me to find out is, if for whatever reason I am not paid during probate - deliberately or through forgetfulness, as you say - then what recourse I have to obtaining the money. I assume I can always go through a small claims court and obtain the money but I did hope to clarify this.

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                            #14
                            Once the estate is distributed, it will cause a lot more stress trying to claw the money back from those who have received it.

                            Part of the probate process is trying to establish who has claims on the estate, and that is done quite early. If a bank is an executor, and also for some solicitors, a notice will be placed in the London Gazette, even for more straightforward cases than your landlady's. The remaining solicitors will advertise in the local paper. Only someone trying to do it for themselves is likely not to advertise for creditors.

                            Don't delay.

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