Ex-tenant threatening small claims - advice please

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    Ex-tenant threatening small claims - advice please

    Dear all,

    Would really appreciate some advice here. I've made some stupid mistakes as a complete amateur landlord, which I now realise, with hindsight I would have done things differently. I have had problems with the end of a very long term tenancy, which started before the need to lodge the deposit with TDS. The AST went to being periodic, so I'm fine by not having protected it. I had a tenancy agreement and basic inventory.

    After giving notice, I found that various types damage had been caused to the property. The tenant admitted liability to some of it (in writing) but also began harassing me to return the full deposit in letters and text messages. I got several quotes for the repair work, worked out the deductions from the deposit based on the lowest quotes, sent all the details and gave the tenant a sensible timescale to reply if they wished to dispute anything. I didn't hear a thing.

    However, some changes in my personal life meant that I decided that I didn't want the stress of being a landlord anymore. I moved away, put the property on the market, and didn't get round to getting the work done (yes, I know, totally stupid)- I was just going to accept the financial loss as a potential buyer asking for a reduction in the asking price.

    From out of the blue, several months later, I have had a letter from the ex-tenant demanding the entire deposit back, saying that they never agreed with my deductions (although a previous letter said that the two greatest ones seemed fair), making accusations that I entered the property without permission during the tenancy (completely false), claiming that I had caused some of the damage (although the correspondence history between us clearly shows that they are lying) and threatening court action.

    I'm going to fight this, but was wondering whether the quotes for the repairs (which were based on photos of the damage) are sufficient evidence of financial loss, or whether I now need to go ahead and get the work done so that I can take invoices to court with me. I know I made a stupid mistake by not getting the work done straight away, but if I have to get the work done, I take it that the dates on the invoices don't matter, as long as I have the invoices? To be honest, if the property doesn't sell soon, I'm reluctantly going to have to rent again, so I will have to have it done anyway.

    Any advice will be gratefully received.

    Thanks,
    Stebbings

    #2
    Originally posted by Stebbings View Post
    I have had problems with the end of a very long term tenancy, which started before the need to lodge the deposit with TDS. The AST went to being periodic, so I'm fine by not having protected it. I had a tenancy agreement and basic inventory.
    You are out of date more than you think.

    As of May this year, all existing ASTs were required to have their deposits in an Approved Scheme.

    http://blog.tds.gb.com/blog/localism...0-days-to-act/

    Therefore you have a vulnerability to (relatively unlikely to be pursued) legal action under the Localism Act, and if in fact you previously issued a Section 21 with the deposit not protected before the Tenancy ended then that was probably itself unlawful.

    As you say, 'tis a mess.

    Others will comment on the other details, but it would be useful to have precise dates of each event, end of tenancy etc.

    In the circumstances I'd suggest your position is very weak and it is not worth a fight for a few hundred UKP.

    IMO the best you will get is to offer T to only charge for the items they have accepted and see if they accept. Alternatively return the entire deposit and hope they walk away rather than go for you in one of several ways.

    I'm open to correction by the experts.

    ML
    Refer Mad Regulators to Arkell vs Pressdram.

    Comment


      #3
      All you need are the quotes.

      "Here are the estimates to repair the damage"

      Case proven.

      But the proof is on you to PROVE the condition of the property when
      tenant first moved in, but if damage was done by tenant, and he
      admitted some in writing, then you get copies of the quotes, deduct
      them from the deposit, and send him the balance.

      Sounds like a "professional tenant"

      You could also state that the house is shortly to be sold, and future correspondence to you at xyz address may not reach you.

      R.a.M.

      Comment


        #4
        ML - the mess gets more interesting - the tenancy ended on 7th April, so the day after the localism act came into force. The tenant gave me notice, rather than the other way round. I refunded the deposit via a cheque minus deductions on 24th April, and the money came out of my account on 8th May.

        I think, given that the tenancy ended during the period of grace, I wouldn't be liable under the Localism Act but I'd appreciate your opinion!

        Comment


          #5
          Thank-you, R.a.M. This is what I had done - although the inventory didn't state the condition of the property, the witness to the signing of the inventory (who is a relative of the tenant) wrote me a letter at the end of the tenancy (part of the harassment for the immediate return of the full deposit) saying that the property had been left clean and in good condition, as it was at the start of the tenancy. The photos show that the property was clearly not clean and in good condition when they left, so I think they have shot themselves in the foot there!

          The property had been completely renovated immediately prior to the tenant moving in, and I still have all the receipts for the work that was done then and the items that were purchased.

          I don't think that the tenant is a 'professional' - when you look at all their letters and texts together, there are complete inaccuracies and contradictions in what they say. However, as the ex-tenant was unable to communicate other than through a garbled text message during and at the end of the tenancy, but now I'm getting typed letters, I think that they are being helped by a professional. I know I'm in the right morally as the property was left damaged, but just need to be sure that I'm also in the clear legally. It's reassuring that you think that having the estimates proves the case.

          Comment


            #6
            am off to bed, and others may quantify the deposit.

            "professional tenant" means one who makes a habit of fleecing the
            Landlord, telling lies, contradicting themselves, getting every last
            penny out of you, harrassing you.

            Proof is photos before and after.

            Goodnight.

            Comment


              #7
              See what you mean - this one is certainly professional in that case! Goodnight, thanks for the advice.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by midlandslandlord View Post
                As of May this year, all existing ASTs were required to have their deposits in an Approved Scheme.
                It is not certain as to whether it would apply in OP's circumstances, with a deposit taken pre-6th April 2007 and no subsequent fixed term renewal. Statute isn't 100% clear.

                if in fact you previously issued a Section 21 with the deposit not protected before the Tenancy ended then that was probably itself unlawful.
                Not unlawful, just an invalid notice.

                Comment


                  #9
                  It's now getting even more complicated - any lawyer landlords about?!

                  I've done quite a bit of reading up, and I don't think the Localism Act should cause any problems. Both the updated Shelter and the TDS websites state that deposits received before April 2007 did not have to be protected.

                  But in the letter where the tenant said that they were disputing all the deductions apart from two (so, in as many words, admitting liability for the damage), they ended the letter with an offer to settle for ridiculously small deduction from the deposit. This offer was made 'without prejudice'. They didn't head the letter with this, but I've now discovered that this means that the letter can't be shown in court. A further 'without prejudice' letter from the ex-tenant then says that they now dispute all my statements about the damage to the flat, so contradicting what they previously wrote.

                  I take it that there's now no way that I can show these letters where the tenant practically admits liability for this damage by saying that they contest everything else? It seems madness that these letters illustrate that the ex-tenant is lying and in one of them they agree that my figures are fair, but that I'm barred from using this evidence.

                  Thanks for any advice,

                  Stebbings.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    You can show these letter. Just claim to be a litigant in person and ignorant of the procedure - in a small claims court the judge is likely to go easy on you.

                    You let the tenant sue you, your defence is that the tenant admitted liability for the damage and it cost x to repair. I assume the tenant admitted the damage in the first letter without using the words without prejudice

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Dear all,

                      Bringing this thread back to life as I have now received court papers from the ex-tenant. They are claiming the entire deposit back, even though they put in writing that they were not going to return the keys until I gave the deposit back (so, I think justifiably, I made deductions for the cost of changing the locks) and admitted causing damage to the kitchen, although proposing a ridiculously low deduction to cover the cost.

                      Morally, I know that I'm entirely in the right here. However, I have two concerns that are making me wonder if I should just throw in the towel:

                      1. My inventory was really basic - it didn't comment on the condition of the property and I don't have photos (although the property had been fully re-furbished shortly before the tenant moved in and a letter written on behalf of the tenant says (falsely) that the property was left clean and in a good condition, just as it was when they moved in)
                      2. If I lose for any reason, I'm concerned that this may affect my credit rating as the court papers say that if judgement is passed against me, I will find it hard to get credit.

                      Could anyone confirm whether losing will affect my credit rating? Also, is it possible for my ex-tenant to be awarded some costs from me but not the entire amount that they are claiming? And would this count as judgement being passed against me?

                      Any general advice would also be gratefully received!

                      Stebbings

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Judgments in the civil court are based on a 'balance of probabilities', not 'beyond reasonable doubt' as in the criminal court. In other words, the court need only be convinced that one party is 51% more likely to be right/telling the truth than the other party.

                        It's also a small claim, so the judge will not be applying the law quite as strictly as he might in a more serious claim. In other words, it may well come down to which of you comes across as a more plausible, honest, reliable witness than the other (your witness evidence *is* evidence). And judges are fairly good at working out who's lying or telling the truth.

                        Your evidence of having fully refurbished the property just before the tenancy began is good evidence that it was in good condition, so I wouldn't be too worried about the inadequacies of the inventory. On a balance of probabilities, you didn't fully refurbish the property, then go in and wreck it just before the tenant moved in.

                        However, you also need some evidence of the damage discovered at the end of the tenancy, and the cost of putting it right.

                        General advice:

                        The tenant is claiming for return of the deposit, so it is essential to counterclaim for damage, etc, as part of your defence.

                        If you lose, then you will be ordered to pay £X to the tenant. It may be all or some of what they have claimed, it may include court fees; but it is v. unlikely to include any other major costs, as costs are very restricted in the small claims track.

                        If you pay up within 28 days (or it may be a calendar month), and you obtain a 'certificate of satisfaction' from the court, then the judgment will not affect your credit rating or go on your credit history. It is only unsatisfied orders that go on the register.

                        I would advise buying or borrowing a book on small claims procedure. It will help guide you through, and you can also ask on here for advice. The one I have is by Patricia Pearl, but there are several alternatives on Amazon.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Thank-you so much, Westminster, for your advice. I'm feeling more confident about taking this on now. I will be able to provide photographic evidence of the damage and have quotations for repairing the major damage and invoices for some of the other bits and bobs (because the tenant took so long to come back I'd got rid of most of the receipts).

                          The part I'm unsure about is that I need to counterclaim for damage as part of the defence. I didn't return the full deposit to the tenant (it was a long-standing tenancy that started before April 2007) and kept the money to cover the cost of the damages. Do I still need to counterclaim, as I am not asking for any more money from the tenant (although I could do, as I found some more small-scale damage at a later date)?

                          I'll get a copy of that book - think I may be needing it!

                          Thanks,

                          Stebbings

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Hi stebbings

                            Im in the same situation as you however im the tenant taking my landlord to court as she refused to return any of my deposit. And shes made a counter claim.

                            I would say its very stressfull so depending how much they want back off you consider if its worth it. You may also be liable for there costs, interest if they decide to add it and to make a counter claim there would be a small charge. Its also took over my life and i cant wait for it to be all over!! However ive kept my case going as its the whole principle of the matter and i dont want my greedy landlord keeping my money with out a fight. So totally understand you wanting to stand your ground.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Stebbings View Post
                              The part I'm unsure about is that I need to counterclaim for damage as part of the defence. I didn't return the full deposit to the tenant (it was a long-standing tenancy that started before April 2007) and kept the money to cover the cost of the damages. Do I still need to counterclaim, as I am not asking for any more money from the tenant (although I could do, as I found some more small-scale damage at a later date)?
                              The situation is this: The tenant has claimed her deposit back, (which is legally the T's money unless a court says that the T owes the money to you, so that the deposit is set against this debt).

                              The fact that you withheld the deposit doesn't automatically mean you're entitled to keep it. So, in order to get the court to decide that the T owes you money, thus entitling you to keep the deposit, you have to counterclaim for the damage.

                              You don't have a defence without a counterclaim.

                              Comment

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