Help needed Re: repair charges

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    Help needed Re: repair charges

    We are students in a 10 month tenancy agreement with a letting agency with a DPS deposit but we go to the owner of the property with any problems, as advised by the letting agency.

    We recently vacated the property for 3 weeks over the Easter period. Before we left the land lord informed us that he was doing some work in one of the rooms. Upon coming back we call the land lord because we are having drainage problems, on his arrival he claims that we owe him up to £2000 for a new fire alarm system that he had installed over the Easter period. He claims that we broke the previous system which we all strongly dispute. Below is a sequence of events leading up to the fire alarm replacement. I would greatly appreciate any comments on whether we are liable to pay and an appropriate course of action if we are not/

    Firstly it should be noted that we live above a kebab shop and they use the same fire alarm system as us, with the master control box being located in the flat.

    1. When the fire alarm goes off we have to go to the master box and turn the system key to reset, in the first month of the tenancy the key snapped in the lock preventing us from resetting the system

    2. We informed the land lord of this asking for a replacement so when we or the kebab shop set off the alarm we could reset it. From informing the land lord it took him several days to replace the keys ( we could not replace it as we had no replacement key to copy), during that time the alarm went off several times, the only way of stopping it was to use a knife to turn it to reset or waiting for the police/fire brigade to turn up

    3. We got a replacement key and the fire alarm worked as it should. However 6 months later the system developed a default and would beep 24 hours a day. We informed the land lord of this and he said it was a fault with the kebab shop and he would talk to them.

    4. We then left for Easter and return to see a new fire system fitted, with the land lord asking for up to £2000. He claims that when we used the knife it damage the system and that is why it needs to be replaced. However the system worked for 6 months with the new key before developing a fault. Surely any software damage would be obvious when we used the knife and not happen 6months later?

    5. He also claims he has an electricians opinion that it was software damage (who happens to be his brother) none of us were informed or present when they decided a. The system needed to be replaced b. It was our fault. Should we have been informed and shown by the electrician it was our fault and been allowed to seek our own electricians opinion?

    It seems like all of this has been done behind our back. I think the main point of contention is should we be held accountable for using the knife to reset the system after the land lord was aware that we had no other way of resetting the alarm and whether his actions i.e. not informing us of the repairs and damage affects our liability.

    Any help on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

    It sounds very much as though the LL is 'trying it on' in the hope that you will be naive enough not to question his ridiculous demand.

    First, if the fire alarm worked perfectly well for six months before breaking down, it seems highly unlikely that the malfunction was caused by was anything you did or failed to do six months earlier. To succeed in a claim against you for this, your LL would need to produce objective proof of your liability and I think it would be virtually impossible for him to do this.

    Call his bluff : say 'We are not liable for this. The fire alarm is your responsibility; we have not broken it and you cannot prove we have. Sue us if you wish'. I suspect he will back off.

    If however he tries to claim the £2000 from your deposit, you must of course raise a dispute with the DPS, or via a court if he refuses arbitration.

    Good luck - what a shark.
    '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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