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How much bond can my landlord keep?

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663 views 4 replies latest reply: 14 April 2015
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Tenant

I moved out of my last rented home on 27/2/15.  I am still waiting for my bond to be returned and my landlord wants to withold part of it for a cracked wardrobe mirror.  I noticed the crack on the day we moved in, before we had taken any furniture into the room, but stupidly didn’t take a photo as proof.  It was quite large, so I assumed it had been picked up on.  My landlord disagrees and showed me undated photos of the unbroken door.  I accept that I should have taken picures or reported it, so while annoyed at being asked to pay, accepted my responsibility.  I looked online and you can get a glass wardrobe door for arounf £70.  

My landlord wants better quality doors at £110 and says he has to replace all three, taking the total to £330.  I told him I wasn’t happy with this and his respose was that he would take me to court; his actual words ‘I’ll take it to court, so get a solicitor’.  As a single parent, I can’t afford the fees, so I had to back down. (In hindisght, I feel like this is a bullying tactic).  

A week went by and I had heard nothing, so I contacted him again, to be told that the cost is rising, as the original door was custom made (highly unlikely as there was a big gap between the top of the wardrobe which had been boarded up with a plank of wood).  The new door would cost £350 plus VAT making it £420, or he could have the cheaper doors and pay who knows how much to have the rails lowered and the top boarding in.  

All communications are via text. I have no address for him and if I try to phone his mobile, it goes to answer machine.  I rented through a letting agency, but my landlord is selling (the reason I moved – I got in from work to a fore sale sign on my front yard) so the letting agency is now out of the picture.  It took him well over a month to come out and do a property check, as he doesn’t live in the area and the selling agents had keys from one week after I moved.  

What are my rights here?  I have no objections to paying for the door as it is my fault that I didn’t get proof of it being broken.  I do object to how the price is rising and the fact that it is coming up to two months since I moved.  Also, the fact that my landlord isn’t easy to get hold of, except for by text isn’t ideal.  I have asked for information to be given in writing and my new address, but still all I get is text messages.

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Administrator

Hello

Which tenancy deposit protection scheme is holding your deposit? You can find this out from the agent, the landlord or by searching the databases of each of the three schemes (details here). Find out which scheme has the deposit and then raise a dispute with them – do it quickly to avoid missing their time limits. Each scheme has its own internal dispute resolution and it’s that which is used to determine what the landlord can keep and what they can’t – it’s not up to the landlord. The scheme might find that you need to contribute to the cost of the door but that contribution will likely be much lower than the landlord is ‘estimating’ (a contribution not the whole cost).

I think the landlord is trying their luck here – particularly as the cost suddenly went up as soon as you agreed to the first amount. There is a concept called ‘betterment’ which means that landlords can’t try to put themselves in a better position at the end of the tenancy than at the start by keeping your deposit (which this landlord is). This is something the tenancy deposit protection scheme disputes people will know about and they should force the landlord to be reasonable. It may be that the costs suddenly drop when the landlord has to justify them to anyone he/she can’t bully. Just for info: the deposit remains your money until the landlord PROVES they are entitled to keep any of it.

If the landlord hasn’t protected the deposit in a scheme then you can take them to court for the return of the entire deposit plus compensation of 1-3 times the amount of the deposit. This is because protecting a deposit is a legal requirement and if the landlord hasn’t done it then you’re entitled to compensation. If you want to do this it’s a simple case of filling out a form, no lawyers (info here).

Alex

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Administrator

Ps as you can see from the above, the ‘see you in court’ line is really just a bit laughable. If your landlord knew anything about deposits they would know it’s the tenancy deposit schemes who deal with disputes. There’s no need to be intimidated.

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Tenant

Thank you.  He sent me a message last night, claiming that I have to pay for removal of the old doors, which when I queried this responded that he would deliver them to my house if I wasnted costs keeping down so much!  This was at almost midnight.  I’ve requested that we communicate in writing from now on.

I’ve found the deposit scheme and am working through the steps. He has said he has instructed his solicitor and is now saying (still via text) that if he accepts the original ammount of £330, he will have to take me to court to recover losses as it will now cost over £600 at least.  My bond is only for £525.  Can he do this?  It does feel like he is trying to intimidate me, but I can’t help but worry.  

Also, I did accept, via text, the cost of £330 after he threatened to take me to court, will this affect my dispute?

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Administrator

Ask him for the full name and contact details of his solicitor and the details of the claim he is planning to make against you.

If he doesn’t go through the tenancy scheme dispute resolution process no court is going to look favourably on that – you’re supposed to try and avoid taking cases to court these days if they can be settled outside the courts system and these schemes are government authorised for the very purpose of keeping deposits disputes out of the courts. A good solicitor will tell him that too. This is such a small matter it’s a bit ridiculous.

All this, and the fact that he is contacting you by text at midnight smacks of unprofessionalism and bullying to me. You’re right to ask him to put everything in writing and you could also print out your text messages for a record. I’m not a lawyer so if you want legal advice try the Citizens Advice or a law centre local to you. I would say though that the correct forum for this is the tenancy deposits dispute scheme and he should know that.

If it was me I would follow things through with the deposits scheme, ask the landlord for the relevant information as mentioned above – and to stick to written communication from now on – and wait and see what he comes back with. If he provides you with solicitor details you can check them out with the Law Society (if they’re not listed they’re not a solicitor) and maybe come back on here and let us know what exactly his losses are and the details of the claim.

I know it’s worrying but this happens a lot unfortunately so you’re not the only one. 

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