Before AST signed and Holding Deposit

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    Before AST signed and Holding Deposit

    Hi - new to this but worried for my son.

    He and his girlfriend were looking for a flat in an area that was between his Uni and her work; 45 miles apart. Because they were both new to the area they told the LA that they wanted something for six months so they could see how it went. If the journeying was ok, they'd probably stay; if not they would re-appraise their situation.
    They filled in the application form stating a six-month AST was required and paid £140 admin fee.
    LA phones girlfriend (who is on holiday with her parents in the West Country) 5 weeks prior to let to say they should come in and pay a holding deposit of £700 as a good will gesture. Girlfriend is worried so she and her Mum make way to LA (some 250 miles) and pays £700 'Holding Dep'. Gets a receipt saying it is Unallocated Funds.
    Son disgruntled and phones LA to say it's too early for them to insist on deposit and asks for better receipt than 'Unallocated funds'.
    Gets letter back saying it is a holding deposit.
    Day of moving in and signing of AST comes. Son hires two vans, loads them and heads out from herre at 6 in morning to get to LA's by 10am.
    He goes to sign AST only to find it is for 1 year. He queries this and is told he was sent a letter confirming it was 1 year and therefore he can't pull out without loosing all.
    Son says he didn't receive a letter, refuses to sign and leaves.
    LA refuses to hand back 'holding deposit'.
    Girlfriend was due to begin work immediately after moving in and having landed on my doorstep (200 miles away) has had to tell employers she cannot take up position. Luckily they say she can begin later if they can find somewhere else to live quickly. Son does not start uni till end Sept.
    They go back to area following week and find another place which they are now going for.
    Original LA saying they have broken contract (although they've signed nothing), will not return copy of their original application (clearly stating they wanted a six month initial AST) and says no-one in their office remembers being told why they only wanted six-months to begin with.
    Son and girlfriend can't afford to lose this money - girlfriend loses earnings and son has paid out for vans & petrol to try to move in).

    Deposit waas not paid into any TDS - LA citing it was a Holding Deposit showing Good Faith!.

    Any suggestions would be helpful. I wonder if they could go down the Small claims Court route but don't want to advise that if they've no chance.
    Please help - Worriewd Mum

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