Breach of AST/Deposit Help

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  • Breach of AST/Deposit Help

    Hi All, any advice would be greatly received.

    T signed 12 month contract for 01/12/2008
    Deposit put directly into DPS scheme

    T called 31/12/2008 stating they had signed up with LA and looking to move out due to damp and mould growth. (Homebuyers survey conducted 31/08/2007 no damp found). I reminded T that they had signed a 12 month contract.

    I contacted my solicitor and arranged for surveyor to visit to property. Outcome being condensation damp not penetrative/rising damp. Black mould due to poor ventilation.

    I sent a letter confirming findings and said if they require further investigation its to be performed at their own cost as I'm satisfied that its a user issue and not a problem with the property.

    T unhappy with outcome arranged for EVH officer to visit (outcome unknown). I was happy to comply and get any problems with H&S of house sorted.

    I then received a phone call last Tuesday to inform me they were moving out over the weekend and wanted to meet at house so they could get their deposit back. I declined and they posted keys through letter box.

    Questions......
    Can I retain the deposit as they have broken the contract only two months in, and because the T didn't hand in sufficient notice of their intentions to leave?

    I submitted the deposit within the 14 day period and gave them the details but I've now read about prescibed information.
    I gave them details of how to access the DPS online account but worried now about how much information I was supposed to give and what to get them to sign!! Dont want this to come back and bite if it does end up in court

    Cheers in advance for any advice

  • #2
    Unless you agree to an early surrender with your tenants, the tenancy continues and they continue to owe you rent and to be responsible for council tax, utility bills and all other obligations as laid down in the tenancy agreement.

    They cannot just walk away, especially when you have investigated the cause of the mould and taken their complaints seriously. Moving out/posting the keys back through the door (of the property, or your door), does not mean you accept that their tenancy can end. They are in breach of contract and it would be wise to inform them of that, and of their continuing legal obligation to honour their contract. Mould is not a sufficent reason to assume they can end their tenancy with impunity; that would only happen if the EHO considered the property uninhabitable.

    Because the tenancy has not ended, they should not be able to get their deposit back from the DPS because you will (I imagine) dispute it, if they try. I would supply them with the prescribed information immediatley with a covering note apologising for the slight delay. Then if they do attempt court action over this, you can be seen to have done the correct thing, albeit a little late.

    You will then need to decide whether you wish to agree a surrender (on your terms - e.g. they will pay rent until you can re-let). If you do not agree a surrender you can pursue them for the rent throught the courts if need be.

    What do you think you will do?
    'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

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    • #3
      Totally agree with Mind the Gap.

      I would also charge the outgoing tenants for any letting agent fees, referencing fees, etc.

      Comment


      • #4
        Most ASTs have a clause stating that the T must pay all reasonable LL costs re court costs too.
        The deposit scheme was supposed to help avoid situations like this.
        Keep all your paperwork safe and in order and if there is no break clause then you can legally claim for as long as the property is empty -though you are supposed to make an effort to re-let.
        They do have to give you proper notice and are unreasonable if they don't.
        Also, did they tender their complaints in writing?
        If not then they are on even dodgier ground and you have a good case.
        If the EHO had found problems you would have been contacted directly.
        I think they have found somewhere cheaper but this is not your fault.
        Perhaps they will be less willing to mess people about if you remind them of potential costs.

        Amazing how many tenants complain of the black mould related to condensation & bad ventilation.
        Do the windows not work? Simple common sense really.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by sherifffatman View Post
          Amazing how many tenants complain of the black mould related to condensation & bad ventilation.
          Do the windows not work? Simple common sense really.
          Absolutely. I suppose they reason that because it is expensive to heat homes, they don't want to waste that heat by opening the windows and research suggests that over the last 25 years the average temperature at which people feel comfortable in their homes has crept up. I bet that sales of Damart thermal underwear have shown a corresponding decline!

          That would be fine, wouldn't it, if people didn't also insist on wearing (ie changing) and thus washing and drying more clothes than ever before. For some reason, even people with access to gardens can't seem to be bothered to hang clothes out to dry when the weather permits; many tenants have wet washing drying indoors seven days a week. This, combined with their morbid fear of exposing themselves to fresh air by opening windows, is often the cause of the problem.

          On the other hand, I would say it would circumvent the problems in many letted properties if the LL provided a tumbledryer correctly vented to the outside and insisted on its being used in winter, and an effective cooker extractor hood to remove steam from the kitchen.
          'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks everyone for the replys

            Yes I have sent various letters reminding them they cannot terminate the contract, their response being "its not worth the paper its written on!"

            With regards to the deposit, yes its now being disputed. I have no forwarding address for them so concerned about how to get the prescribed information to them. I do know where he works so think that will be my first stop.

            With regards to legal action I'm slightly concerned as they are classed as a low income family so I guess chances of getting any ££ out of them is small I assume.

            Sherifffatman, on a visit to the property to look at the mould I asked T why in the middle of cooking for a family of 4 she'd not got the window open or extractor fan on, the reply being she wasn't tall enough! It does make me wonder.

            I have contacted letting agents this morning to re-market it.

            Just going slightly off the subject but has anyone had experience where by the LA gives you a fixed rent for the property, you pay no up front charges or commission. If no tenant is found within 25 days they start paying LL the fixed sum for the year regardless if T is found or stops paying rent?

            Cheers

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