Is my landlord entitled to make these deductions?

cleaningHere is a question to the blog clinic from Jon who is probably a lodger:

I’m afraid this one is rather petty, but I am being threatened with not only part of my deposit being withheld, but also extra costs which I will explain.

I had been living in a bedsit for 12 months, paying £400 rent a month. The rent included all bills, but restricted me to only my bedroom and occasional use of the kitchen. The room came with a preowned bed and mattress,which I would estimate was between 5+ years old.

I supplied due notice to leave as I was moving to London to start a new job. My room was inspected, and no damage was made aware to me and I was told that my deposit would be paid back to me in full within 14 days.

Towards the end of this 14 days, I received an email claiming that the mattress was no longer usable and would have to be replaced. On top of that, he noted a “strange smell” that he claimed would require professional cleaners.

He had brought this smell up before but never in official format, but I had suggested it was the washing-up that he had left in his living room, of which I had no access, to go mouldy while he was on a 2 week holiday, and considered the matter closed.

I was told this would come out of my deposit and he would be taking these costs off, and transferred the rest to my account.

On disputing this, explaining that I did not feel this was fair and would seek legal advice, I was told that he was “disappointed, as he will now have to pay storage costs to keep it as potential evidence” and that he “will now have to change all the locks, and will be seeking charges for this”, even though I had explained to him where I had left my key.

Can anyone tell me if he has ANY grounds for this whatsoever? We only had a verbal tenancy agreement and no deposit protection scheme was put in place, though I understand this may not be a requirement for a live-in landlord.

You give the most significant piece of information, for a legal advisor, at the end almost as an afterthought!

Yes, you are quite right, you do not have an assured shorthold tenancy (which is  not possible if your landlord lives in the same property).  It sounds as if you were a lodger, as you did share kitchen facilities, albeit only occasionally.

So the tenancy deposit regulations will not apply to your deposit, as they only apply to  deposits taken for ASTs.

This means that if you want to challenge the deductions this will have to be by way of an application to the court –  the Money Claims Online service would probably be most convenient.  There is no  tenancy deposit scheme arbitration service open to you.

No written agreement, no claim

With deposit claims, the starting point is that the money is the tenants (or in your case, the lodgers) and a landlord is only entitled to make such deductions as are authorised by the tenancy or lodger agreement.

So as there is no written lodger agreement here, your landlord will be in some difficulties.  There is nothing to authorise any deductions!

I suggest therefore that you write to him and say that if he fails to pay the balance of your deposit to you within 7 days you will be bringing a claim to the County Court, and that as there is no lodger agreement, there is no written agreement authorising deductions from the deposit.

You will therefore be arguing to the Court that he is not entitled to make any deduction and that you are entitled to the return of the deposit in full.

Note by the way, that if he were entitled to make deductions, he would need to provide evidence in the form of receipts or invoices to prove the sum he is claiming.  He can’t just say “this is a nasty smell” and deduct whatever he wants.

So you would be entitled to call on him to produce the professional cleansers receipt and receipts for any other payments he is claiming for.

It sounds to me as if he is  trying it on.

Buffer

Important note. If you are reading an old post, remember that the law may have changed since it was written.




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3 Responses to Is my landlord entitled to make these deductions?

  1. Take him to court, he hasn’t really got much of a case. It’s this sort of behaviour the deposit legislation was designed to prevent. Shame it only applies to ASTs.

  2. As always, Tessa is spot on. The only thing I would add that even without a tenancy agreement, a landlord could counter claim for any loss he has suffered, if for example the mattress really had been damaged. He could then ask the court to set off his claim against that of his lodger

  3. the suggestion that without a written contract the landlord has no claim is simply incorrect.

    if you haven’t had the room professionally cleaned he can easily deduct this cost, as long as he has a receipt. the landlord is unlikely to get much for an old mattress though, unless he has a receipt to prove it was new.




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About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google



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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.


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