Here is a question to the blog clinic ‘fast track’ from Gavin (not his real name) who is a tenant
A quite long winded story which I’ll condense as much as possible but the long and short of it is I feel like I’m being scammed by my landlord.
We rented a flat in London last April and during the first 8 months of the tenancy we had reason to contact the landlord (self-managing) a few times and the text conversations were very agreeable. Then we started receiving calls from various estate agents to show the property to potential buyers. We agreed initially on the pretense this wasn’t going to be an everyday occurrence, but sadly by month 10 it had got out of hand, agents were calling at all hours.
The landlord emailed us reminded us of a clause in the contract that as long as 24hrs notice was given, they could gain access and that she had given keys to the agents.This was the final straw, we asked to sever the contract in this email chain she agreed we left with exactly 2 months remaining and severed as far as we thought.
Then an awful period of radio silence from the landlord as we constantly tried emailing and texting re the checkout which we were fully expecting to attend.
Then an invoice through the door after 2 weeks or so claiming £10,800 for damages and rent arrears and a copy of the checkout which we had (deliberately) I believe been excluded from .
Obviously, plenty of agents had been in especially towards the end of our tenancy so luckily we had photo evidence from them because the checkout was talking about damage we had no idea about !!
As an example, they claimed £2,000 to completely redecorate and £1,000 for a new oven! My partner is foreign and had done most of the dealing with the landlord and I started thinking this is a GREAT WHEEZE isn’t it .. claims 10k+ foreign lady then panics and lets them keep the deposit and thinks we have saved 8k .. it’s an absolute disgrace !!
So we go to dispute resolution with My Deposits I send in over 200 pages of emails and photos only to hear back from them 3 weeks later that apparently a CCJ was served on me at the London address relating to rent arrears (£229) form the first month of the tenancy (remember the many text email contacts with the self-managing landlord through the tenancy .. nothing at all said about any arrears obviously had we known we would have paid them).
Obviously, the papers were served to an address we had vacated 3 days earlier, and we never knew, when no reply was received to the court they actioned the CCJ. The KEY here, the CCJ completely wipes out any dispute resolution proceedings (I’m sure the landlord knew this) so we back to square one !!
She’s now hoping we give up, all she’s paid is £25 to serve the CCJ. I email the landlord again saying we will pursue this in the small claims court they reply any claim by me will be met with a counter claim for the £10,800.
I summons them, they surprisingly !!!! Don’t counter claim they defend the claim.
All the time she has held our deposit and the total cost to her as been £25. We aren’t in a position here to go to a solicitor for advice, so this forum seems like a great idea , do we have a case against these swines?
I guess we’d like our deposit back and also some damages for what has been a ridiculously stressful period, I can see her game, a lot of people would have given up . As a footnote, we “viewed” the property posing as potential renters a few weeks ago (it’s still unoccupied) a CD rack which in the checkout is stated as missing is very clearly still there, and obviously, no redecoration has taken place.
I don’t think you should worry too much about these exaggerated claims. For a Judge in a court claim or an adjudicator in a tenancy deposit adjudication – the starting point is that the deposit is the tenant’s money.
For the landlord to be entitled to succeed in a claim for any part of that money, they need to be able to prove – with evidence – that they are entitled to it. So they will have to prove that
- The loss actually happened
- That it was your fault, and if it was
- That the sum claimed is reasonable
They need to be able to prove this for each and every item they are claiming for.
What they need to prove for the oven claim
So, for example, the claim for the oven:
- They first need to be able to show that the existing one was damaged by you to such an extent that replacement was the only option (ie that it was irreparable).
- They will need some sort of report for to prove this – ideally from a relevant engineer.
- They will also need a check in inventory report (showing the oven was in good condition) and a checkout report (showing that it was damaged beyond repair).
But if the checkout report was done some time after you left, then you can argue that the oven was fine when you left and so the damage must have been done afterwards. In which case you are not responsible and so cannot be expected to pay anything.
Or – if you can show that on a visit to the property later, the oven was still there, undamaged, this will defeat their claim. The best way to prove this is to have someone independent visit the property and take a photograph of the undamaged oven and do a witness statement confirming this.
- Then, even if the landlords can show that you are liable for the oven – is the price of £1,000 justified?
- How much did the original oven cost?
- Where is their receipt for both the original oven and the replacement?
They would need this sort of proof. They can’t just pluck a figure of £1,000 out of the air and expect the Judge to uphold it.
I hope you took a picture of the property when you visited it later to show that the claims are untrue. If you can prove that they are lying on one issue, then this will cast doubt on all their evidence.
The Judge (or Adjudicator) also will not like the fact that you were excluded from the final checkout meeting. Judge’s do not like that sort of thing; they are all for fairness and honesty.
What to do next
As to what to do next – you need to apply to the Court to have the CCJ set aside (if you have not already done this). Your reasons should be that
(1) you did not receive the court papers and
(2) that you have a defence to the claim as your deposit has not been returned to you.
You should then counterclaim for the return of your deposit. You could also maybe throw in a claim for harassment on the basis of the unreasonable number of inspection visits from potential buyers which breached the ‘covenant of quiet enjoyment’.
It would be best if you could have some help for this. Check to see if there is a Law Centre or a Shelter Office near you as if there is they will be able to advise and help you draft up the application. If not, see if there is a solicitors firm who offer an initial free interview or a CAB office.
You will find a long list of places where you can get help on the blog post here.
Contact the deposit company
However, are you sure that a CCJ for the rent arrears debars you from using the free adjudication service for the deposit? I suspect it will, but you should check.
If you can succeed in a court claim against the landlord for the return of your deposit, and the landlord fails to pay you, then My Deposits should pay it over to you and then seek to recover the money back from the landlord. That is the whole point of the scheme.
But check with the scheme helpline first and make sure you are within the time limits and also check that you are following the correct procedures as per their scheme rules.