Here is a question to the blog clinic from Sarah who is a tenant:
I hope you can help. 18 months ago we moved into a HMO purely because I had a dog and could not find any other accommodation.
We paid a months deposit plus a week in advance then weekly thereafter but the landlord refused to give a rent book or tenancy agreement. All was ok until we started to see other tenants not getting their deposit back as he had worded the receipt as 4 weeks rent in advance.
So after my dog died and we were able to move I went to him with a Dictaphone and recorded him agreeing it was a deposit and we cld give notice and remain in the property for 4 wks without paying.
When I gave notice he disputed this and refused so we agreed to me not paying rent for 2 weeks then he would give us 2 weeks rent on receipt of the keys, yesterday he has used me not being at home to show a prospective tenant round as an excuse to withhold our money.
We were supposed to move out today and when I told him I would take him to court for the money he turned nasty and rang the new landlord and withdrew his original good reference and slagged us off in all manner of ways to the point my new landlord has refused us the property.
He also sent threatening texts saying we had to be out by midday else the heavies would be sent to throw us out with our property regardless of damage. The police are involved with this, however we are now stuck, we have no where to live, a failed credit reference so no chance of being rehomed by the agency and costs of more than £500 in lost removal fees, credit ref fees and loss of earnings.
We have moved our stuff back into the flat but are still awaiting the ‘heavies’. He says as it is an HMO the law doesn’t apply to him and he can evict us in hours,
I am trying to contact the new landlord and show him proof of all this to change his mind and the agency have been great too but for now we are in limbo and have no idea what to do as have absolutely nothing in writing just a bunch of texts and a Dictaphone conversation.
Your landlord is seriously out of order and you may well have a substantial claim against him. Where to start?
It sounds to me as if you have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). This is automatic if you move into a property and pay rent – your landlord cannot prevent it by failing to give you a written agreement.
A written agreement is always preferable but in most cases, if you have ‘exclusive occupation’ of the property – even if this is just your own bedroom in a shared house, an AST will be created.
Whether or not you have a written tenancy agreement.
Has your landlord protected your deposit? If you have an AST, then if he has failed to protect your deposit and/or served the prescribed information on you (and from what you say, it does not sound as if he has done either of these) you have a potential claim against him for up to 3x the value of the deposit money, under the deposit regulations.
The fact that you failed to allow a tenant round is NOT a reason to withhold your deposit money.
In fact unless your tenancy agreement provides for this (and as you don’t have one – it won’t), he is not entitled to show tenants round at all, without your consent. This is not an automatic right that landlords have.
Then, if he wants you to leave, he is not entitled to evict you other than via a County Court order for possession. To get this he will have to serve the proper form of notice on you and then issue court proceedings. You are legally entitled to stay in the property for the whole of this time.
He is NOT allowed to evict you via the ‘heavies’. If he does this, he renders himself liable for prosecution in the criminal courts AND you will have a claim against him in the civil courts for compensation.
You may want to have a word with your local authority tenancy relations officer (TRO), as prosecutions for harassment / unlawful eviction are normally done by local authorities (not the police – who will generally refuse to help saying this is a ‘civil matter’ – even though technically it is a criminal offence).
Depending on how busy they are and whether they have the staff, Local Authority TROs can be very helpful and will often agree to write to the landlord warning them that their behaviour is illegal.
Your landlord is also technically liable for prosecution failing to provide a rent book, which is something that could be added to the charge, if your local authority were to decide to prosecute.
However it sounds to me as if you main problem is finding somewhere else to go to.
You may want to consider being upfront about your problems with any potential landlords – explain the situation to them and warn them that your current landlord may well tell them lies in order to be spiteful about you. Try to get some alternative references lined up so they can see that you are decent people.
Although it is not strictly speaking ‘legal’, with someone like your landlord, often the best thing to do so far as recovering your deposit is concerned, is to deduct the money from your last rent payments.
If he threatens you, tell him he is welcome to sue you for the money – as if he does you will bring a counterclaim for the penalty you are entitled to due to his failure to protect the deposit and also for compensation for harassment.
If the worst comes to the worst and you are illegally evicted, go straight to the homelessness department of your Local Authority, as they may well be able to help you find somewhere else to live in this emergency situation.
Or they may agree to bring injunction proceedings against your landlord ordering him to let you back in again.
Getting legal assistance
Note that as well as your local authority TRO, you may also be able to get legal help from
Tenants – note that I have various free and paid for resources available on my Tenant Law website.
Including my free 12 part e course.