Property Management and Deposit Dispute

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    Property Management and Deposit Dispute

    We are having some major issues with our property and I'd be grateful to receive any help or guidance that you can offer.

    Our property was let out in 2011 and we have had one tenant who has recently moved out. She was in the property for 5 years and 10 months. Throughout this time we have paid a property management company to manage the property on our behalf. As part of the fees they were to inspect the property and address any matters arising.

    Last month we were given less than a weeks' notice that the tenant was moving out. We were told the tenant had given the required amount of notice but the email had gone into an email account which was no longer checked! As a result we did not have the opportunity to check the property ourselves before the tenant moved out, as we're not local to the property.

    The property management team went in and did the check out photos and report. They had not checked any of the check in photos prior to going into the property so had no idea what they were looking for in terms of damage. I was emailed the check out report and said they needed to compare the photos to the check in photos as the damage was significant. We then asked to retain the deposit. I was told by the property management team that the rules for disputing deposits have changed significantly since the tenant moved in in 2011. They told me the original photos were not dated or signed, in line with the new rules and guidance as the rules changed during the tenancy. No inventory was taken at the time either. We thought this was covered by the management company. It would now seem it was not.

    The costs incurred to fix the damage far exceeds the deposit. We discovered holes in numerous walls, the tenant had removed the bath seal (without permission) which resulted in a leak through the bathroom floor and through the kitchen ceiling. The kitchen cupboards need replacing as the wood has expanded and laminate has peeled off.

    The check out document didn't even look at the attic where the tenant had put poison for vermin. Again, the tenant did not tell us of any issues. There was excrement and poison all over the attic. We have taken our own photos but as the management company failed to even go into the attic the evidence is missing from their reports.

    The management company have told us that there is no point taking the deposit to dispute as we haven't got signed and dated photos. They said the lack of signed and dated photos means we wont win anything back, despite the rules changing since the tenancy started.

    We do have check in photos which were taken by the letting agent. The "properties" on the digital photos show the date as the day the tenant moved in. Can this be used as evidence of dated photos? We also have our own extensive exit photos, again with the "properties" date when the digital image was created. Will this get us anywhere?

    The tenant is saying the property is in better condition now than when they moved in! This is simply not true. She has offered us £100 to replace 7 missing light bulbs and broken blinds. The full deposit is 550.

    In addition we have now discovered that the property management company did one inspection of the property in 2014. That was it. This was carried out after we asked when the last inspection had taken place.

    I have written a formal complaint to the property management company who don't seem to have done anything for their money. In addition, we feel their lack of care and attention has resulted in the damage going unnoticed and the issues surrounding the deposit dispute.

    Can anyone make any suggestions regarding the deposit or furthering the complaint with the property management company?

    Thanks in advance

    #2
    Doesn't sound like you'll get anything off the tenant. Take advice and take legal acturn against the agent for loss due to their gross negligence.

    Why do people still use agents? They are, almost wit out exception, entirely useless with no knowledge of basic requirements let alone best practice.

    I don't mean to make you feel worse than you obviously already do, but I simply can't understand why anyone would hand over something so valuable to the management of an industry renowned for its incompetence.

    Comment


      #3
      Speaking of incompetence, I blame the typos on my phone.

      Comment


        #4
        Well we won't be using property management anymore! We don't live near to the property so at the time it seemed like the better option. Hindsight is a great thing. We had no idea they would be so useless.

        Comment


          #5
          Ask the agent to put things right, ie cover costs of damage. Not likely theyll agree just like that though.

          Take to redress scheme.

          Comment


            #6
            When did the rules change on photos being signed and dated? If this was not the case when the tenant moved in how could we have met these criteria for the deposit dispute?

            Comment


              #7
              You are entitled to compensation for the loss in value of your property that occurred during the lease beyond fair wear and tear.
              You have to be able to show that there has been a loss and quantify it.
              Your photos are evidence, at least.

              The tenant may argue that they are not accurate or were taken at a different date than shown, but, like all evidence it becomes a question of credibility.

              You are conflating two different issues and it might help to clarify them.
              The tenant is responsible for the damage to the property and, therefore, your loss.
              Your claim is therefore entirely against the tenant.

              If the poor performance of the management company directly results in your claim against the tenant being unsuccessful, you may have a different claim against the management company for that (separate) loss.

              Don't try and claim the loss from the damage from the agency, but make them aware that if you can't recover from the tenant because their check in/check out and inspections were negligent, you will seek recovery from them as your loss will arise from their negligence.

              You will need to be sure of what service the agent was being paid to supply in order to be able to show they didn't do it or didn't do it well.
              When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
              Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by lmf1980 View Post
                When did the rules change on photos being signed and dated? If this was not the case when the tenant moved in how could we have met these criteria for the deposit dispute?
                Pretty sure this isn't a 'rule' in the sense of, it's not a legislative or regulatory requirement.

                But it is best practice, in the sense that you could have a batch of photos from ten years ago showing your property in absolutely spotless condition, having just been refurbed and cleaned professionally. You could put those forward for use in the first inventory. But if they didn't have a timestamp on the photo and they weren't signed and countersigned by the tenant then they're far less useful at adjudication or in court.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I think part of the confusion is that digital photos used to have the date and time stamped on them pretty much by default.
                  Now the date and time is part of the XIF data associated with an image, it's much less common to date and time stamp images.

                  And people know how to change the date and time on a camera or phone...
                  When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                  Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Thank you for your response and help. The original photos were taken by the letting agent at check in. I understand if I took them myself they could have been from any point in time but surely if they were done by an independent body they have more/some worth?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      They say they don't have signed pictures, do they have pictures at all. Is there an inventory describing the condition of the property and was this signed (or included with the AST that was signed)? Do you have a copy of your contract with the letting management company and what does it say about doing inventory?

                      Have you checked that they have protected the deposit properly? Have they disputed it themselves, if so, do you know how much they have disputed and where in the process it is at? It sounds like they've been incompetent with the inventory, so wouldn't trust them dealing with the dispute. You would be best setting yourself up as a landlord with the scheme and then asking the management company to pass on the protection to you and you can take it from there. You can then take it to the ADR and build a case from what you do have hoping that they will consider your evidence as acceptable and then what you want to withhold from the deposit as reasonable.

                      Assuming you don't win the dispute and/or the cost of the damage very much exceed the value of the deposit, then you might want to take the agency to court, but you would need to build a case again, based on your contract with them (and hoping that the fact you never checked they were carrying out their responsibilities as they should won't go against you).

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by lmf1980 View Post
                        Thank you for your response and help. The original photos were taken by the letting agent at check in. I understand if I took them myself they could have been from any point in time but surely if they were done by an independent body they have more/some worth?
                        I think it adds credibility, but the letting agent is the landlord's agent and therefore not independent.
                        When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                        Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                        Comment


                          #13
                          They have pictures showing a clean and well kept house. There is a check in document that states the house is clean and in good condition throughout and that written document is signed and dated by the agent and tenant. There is a sentence about a door and cupboard which had marks on at the start which is also signed and dated. There is no inventory or contract. We have an agreement to let document which was signed when we agreed for them to let and manage the property.

                          The deposit was paid into TDS in November 2011. Our agent was then taken over by a sister company and the deposit was transferred into DPS in December 2012. We weren't notified and we were not told we would be vulnerable if the deposit ever went to dispute as the check in photos weren't signed and dated.

                          I will look into transferring the deposit into my name as the landlord. I don't trust the property management company to do anything on our behalf. All I get is that we won't get any money because the photos aren't signed so there's no point even bothering. It sums up their entire ethos.

                          In terms of dispute. The agent has registered the deposit as being disputed. We have been told the tenant now has 2 weeks to come back to us.

                          The agent has now responded to my initial complaint. They said the tenant sent the tenancy termination email to the wrong address and it was only discovered after the tenant phoned 6 days before moving out. There was no way she would stay or pay any more rent so no point pursuing. There's simply nothing they could do!

                          As for the lack of inspections, there was no cause for concern so no need to do anymore!

                          The disputes continue from both angles.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            If there is a check in document stating that the place was clean and only highlighting a couple of issues which you are not disputing and this was signed by the tenant, then surely you are in a very good position.

                            Transferring the deposit to your name on DPS is no more demanding then clicking on two buttons! All they need to do is enter your Landlord ID number and say they agree to the transfer, that's all. You'll need to register as a landlord yourself first to get your Landlord ID. It sounds like they have disputed it though, not agreed to return it, so they are now at least following your instructions. The case is likely to end up with the ADR though, so I would take this time to officially request copies of everything they hold in their file and sent recorded delivery so you know what you have to build your case.

                            In regards to termination, did they use the old email, ie. the previous company? If so, were they ever informed of the new contact. What address is stated in terms of contact for Notice?

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Thank you. That's great. I'm already registered as a landlord and have the ID number so this will be easy to do.

                              The tenant emailed a non existent email address, as in she missed out part of the address. Not sure if we have anywhere we can go with this??

                              We did have new tenants lined up but the work on the house is still not completed and they wanted the house when it was filthy and damaged. That concerned me so we have taken it off the market and will relist next week. Obviously had we had more notice that the tenant was going and we had time to check the property before they vacated we wouldn't have lost as much money

                              Comment

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