Issues with Return of Deposit from Landlady

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    Issues with Return of Deposit from Landlady

    Hi

    I am looking for some advice with regard to my landlady and the rental return deposit on a property which I have recently moved out of after having lived there for over 6 and a half years, as after a meeting today she has advised that she will only be will to return 25% of my deposit due to damages in her bathroom with cost her £2,000 over 5 years ago.

    I rented the property through a letting agent in 2003 and therefore my deposit is not protected through the new deposit protection scheme. The property had initially been the landlady's main residence and I have been the one and only tenant in her property during this time. When I moved in one of the first things that was said to myself was that the bathroom would be being replaced at some point soon as a) it was an old 1970's suite and b) that sometimes downstairs complained of leaks in the bathroom. The bathroom did not have a shower and was just a bath but the taps had a shower attachment. As I did not fit in the bath - I utilised the shower hose and would stand/kneel in the bath in order to semi shower and wash myself. There were tiles on the wall surrounding the bath to a height of about 1 meter above the bath. I was always v cautious when I was washing myself not to get water above the tile line etc. After having lived there for approx 18 months the landlady announced that she was finally going to have the bathroom replaced and that it would take 3-4 days. The reality of the situation was that it took 13 days to be completed and I could not live in the property at that time as for a large proportion of the time there was no working toilet or bathroom facilities so I stayed with friends and was offered no rental rebate or reduction by my landlady.

    Approximately 5 weeks ago now my landlady contacted me and informed me that she wished to give me notice on the property as she wanted to have works done to the property in order to sell it. She then posted a letter through my door the following day asking me to be out of the property by 3rd of April 2010, giving me less than a months notice. I responded to her letter via email informing her that my contract stated she had to give me 2 months written notice and that the tenancy must end at the end of a rental period, in this case being the 7th of the month, and that while I could appreciate her situation and that I would endeavour to leave the property by that date I could not guarantee that I would have found somewhere else by then. She did not respond to the email. I began to look for places and within a week had found somewhere new and subject to reference checks would be in a position to leave over the Easter weekend. I moved out of the property on 3rd of April and returned for a final clean on the 4th whereby I met the landlady to go through the inventory and hand back the keys.

    The landlady arrived without her copy of the inventory and only seemed interested in v quickly rushing through the property and leaving. I wanted to go through things thoroughly before handing over the keys. At the end of the walk through I asked when I would receive my deposit and she said to give her a week to move back in (it transpires that she wanted me out in order to move back in herself) and that she would be in touch. I explained that that is not how it works and that the check out process is for her to go through the inventory and highlight any defects along with myself in order to agree them. She said she would be in touch and I handed back 2 sets of keys to her - my set and a spare set which I had had cut to keep with a friend who lived nearby in case I should get locked out, as the landlady was unreliable at answering her phone or returning messages for days at a time.

    I had to return to the property today to collect a couple of items which had accidentally been left behind in the move and also to discuss the return of the deposit. Initially the landlady was pleasant but when the discussion turned to the return of the deposit, which according to my contract is due within 14 days of vacation of property ie today, the conversation turned. She started to say that the reason that the bathroom had to be replaced in the first place was because I had been using the shower hose and was regularly flooding both of the downstairs flats, this is the first time this has been mentioned to myself. She then proceeded to tell me that the reason that the newly installed bathroom started to leak into the other flats after only a few months was because the plumbers who were installing it had walked off the job half way through as I was coming home and constantly shouting at them and that the people she got in to replace them botched the job. Considering I was not even able to live there at this time due to no facilities I find this accusation ridiculous and even more so as none of this was ever mentioned to me at the time. She then proceeded to tell me that as a result of this my negligence cost her £2,000 to replace the bathroom and that as a result she wanted me to consider if it was fair that I expected the full return of my deposit. She then said there were various other things wrong with the property and that she could be petty and list them if I wanted her to – but I believe that any other defects purely to be down to reasonable wear and tear over the past 6 and a half years.

    I then pointed out some issues to her: 1) that the property had not been maintained during my tenancy at all and that as a result of lack of maintenance the stairwell ceiling collapsed twice last year within the space of 7 days and that I had to clear up the mess both times as she was out of the country. 2) that as a result of the collapse of the ceiling that I then had to live with a gaping 6ft square half in my home for over 5 months before she had it repaired. 3) the boiler had never been serviced or a landlord's gas safety certificate issued to myself despite repeated requests throughout the duration of my tenancy. Then there is the list of defects which I have reported to her throughout the tenancy which she has not repaired despite repeated requests for an update as to what was going to be done. Her parting shot as I walked away from the meeting was that she was unhappy about the amount of time my boyfriend stayed over at the property - this was one or 2 nights a week maximum as he lives and works at the other end of the country to myself - and the fact that I returned 2 sets of keys proves that he had his own set and that was breaking the terms of the contract and therefore I am actually entitled to no money back but that as she is a fair person then she will be willing to give me 25%.

    I believe this offer to be unfair as the property was handed back in a better state than it was received in. I believe I am entitled to have the full deposit returned to myself and am prepared to take it as far as it needs to be taken in order to have my monies returned but I am unsure whether I have a strong enough case as it is basically just her word against mine. I have been told that she has set a precedent by moving back into the property and living there currently as it shows that there are no issues that make the property uninhabitable. I am willing to take this as far as needs be but do want to throw money away taking her to court if there is not a good likelihood that I will win and receive the full amount back. Am just looking for advice as to whether I should pursue this or accept her offer.

    #2
    Originally posted by seaelle View Post
    I am willing to take this as far as needs be but do want to throw money away taking her to court if there is not a good likelihood that I will win and receive the full amount back. Am just looking for advice as to whether I should pursue this or accept her offer.
    The following assumes this was an assured shorthold tenancy, in England/Wales, with rent less than £2,083.33 per month.

    The deposit is your money and in order to make deductions the landlady must prove that she is entitled to do so, i.e. prove that you caused her a financial loss. From the sound of it, she has little or no evidence to support the alleged damage and deductions, so you have a strong case.

    Note that you should have been given at least two months' notice, and it is none of the landlady's business if your boyfriend stayed with you a couple of nights a week.

    If you have evidence of the disrepair during the tenancy, you might also be able to claim a rent reduction for the period of disrepair (however, I recommend you contact Shelter, a CAB, or a community law centre for advice on this).

    A county court claim in the small claims track costs very little and is designed to be relatively easy to pursue as a litigant-in-person.
    1. Send the LL a letter before action, demanding your deposit (and any claim for the disrepair), and giving a deadline to pay (two weeks is plenty). Say you will issue county court proceedings if she doesn't pay by the deadline.
    2. While you're waiting for the deadline, buy a book on the small claims procedure on Amazon.
    3. After the deadline, issue a claim using Money Claim Online.


    For future reference, see this link about dealing with disrepair
    http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_ad...n_private_lets

    Also, you could have reported the LL to the Health & Safety Executive regarding the lack of a gas safety certificate.

    Comment


      #3
      Just to support Westminster post the small claims process is very simple and low cost (about £90 which you get back if you win)

      It is specifically designed so that you and your LL make your own case (no solicitors needed) and the judge make a decision based on what they see.

      Key to winning is a good case (we think you probably have one), good and well documented evidence and tell the judge how it is in a straight forward way without lying. They have sat through 100's of these cases and see straight through liars and the moment people to start to lie their case is dead in the water, all this talk of you scareing off builder will either need proof (unlikely) or will be seen as a lie.

      It is quite nerve wracking prior to the case but to be honest great fun when you get in there. I positively enjoy seeing an ex-LL of mine that thought keeping my £2700 was a good idea, destroyed by the judge who described her as "fundementally dishonest" I got £300 of interest as well because she stalled the case for a year.

      Do you have any pictures of the hole in the ceiling? or the condition of the property in general. Either way a judge will never allow L to take T's deposit for improvements

      Comment


        #4
        Many thanks for your replies I feel a lot more confident now about taking her to court and not backing down over this.

        Yes I do have photos of the hole in the ceiling and the mess it made in the property which I had to clear up on both occassions as she was out of the country. I also have photos of the condition the property was left in as I had a feeling that she would try to get out of returning my deposit as she has mentioned a few times when we had spoken before I moved out about how she had no money etc and I became suspicious then that I would have problems getting my money back.

        I will issues the letter before action to her tomorrow by registered post giving her 2 weeks to return full monies otherwise I will take action.

        Thank you again

        Comment

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