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I broke AST, now being taken for a ride...

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403 views 5 replies latest reply: 23 June 2016
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Tenant

Sorry if this is in the wrong section, it doesn’t really fit into any one category.  I will try to keep to basic facts, but can give more detail if needed.

I viewed the property while the previous tenant was still living there.

I signed a tenancy agreement on 7 August, and paid the security deposit and a months rent up front.

I entered the property and found it was not “immaculate” as described, it was filthy and there were numerous issues with the state of repair.  Please see photos.

I emailed the agent regarding the above.

Then here’s the twist:

I became very ill on 9th August and was hospitalised on 10th August.

On 10th August the agent emailed me stating that the landlord was willing to replace the carpet and meet to discuss the other issues (I take this as agreement that the condition was unacceptable).

I telephoned the agent to let them know I was in hospital and unable to complete the move.  At the time there was no way of knowing if I would be out in a few days – I have had the same condition before and I was in hospital for 6 weeks.  The exact details of the conversation are fuzzy as I was high as a kite on morphine, but they did advise me to return the keys.

The keys were returned on 11th August and I noticed the property was re-advertised on the same day.

A day or two I later noticed the property was listed as “no longer on the market”.  The dates are vague at this point as I obviously had other things on my mind.  I emailed the agent asking them to clarify the situation, and they did not respond.

A few days, possibly a week later the property was re-advertised by a different letting agent.  The description mentioned that the property had been “refreshed”, had a new carpet and the photos showed that the landlord had indeed made some improvements.  The price had also been increased.

At this point I telephoned the agent and the owner of the business answered the phone.  He stated that he didn’t deal with lettings and I’d have to call back when the lettings person was in the office.  I pressed the matter, stating that I only needed a little information and that I would be on the operating table when the lettings person was available.  (He was quite happy to deal with lettings when I first called to enquire about the property.)  He refused to assist and that was the last contact we had.

When I was finally discharged from hospital I sent the agent a letter of complaint which they received on September 1.

In it I pointed out their obligations as set out in The Property Ombudsmans Code of Practice, including various breaches of that Code.  I also asked them to supply me with the contact details of the landlord, and to return my deposit and first months rent.  I also stated that the landlords actual losses were not clear-cut due to the property being taken off the market, improvements made, increased price etc – and in this case I’d like any deductions to be arbitrated by a third party – I don’t think it’s fair that the “wronged” party should be judge and jury (I didn’t use those words! I worded it as professionally as possible).

They have not responded to this letter, despite the TPOS Code stating that they should acknowledge the complaint within 3 days.

I have sent a follow-up letter requesting an response within 7 days, which they signed for on September 11.

I don’t think it’s acceptable for the agent or landlord to keep about £1000 of my money without discussion or arbitration, even though I did technically break the tenancy agreement.

I don’t even know if it’s the agent or the landlord playing this game – the only contact details I have for the landlord are c/o the agent.

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Administrator

Hi Matt

This is a difficult and stressful situation but you’re right that you should be given a clear response and not ignored. You could start by raising a dispute for your deposit with the tenancy deposit scheme that held it. That would give you a forum in which to make the landlord justify his actions and to find out whether he is entitled to hold on to your money. You need to do that fairly swiftly. You could also try making a claim via the courts for the return of your money based on the conditions in the flat and the landlord being in breach of the tenancy first – I’m not a lawyer but it might be worth speaking to someone at a law centre or Citizens Advice to see if this is feasible.

The other key thing here is were you served with any notices? Even if you’re in breach of the tenancy agreement you still have to be served with the right notice or it’s an illegal eviction, particularly as you were within the fixed period. If you weren’t served with notices then this is something to ask the agents about 

Whatever correspondence you have with the agents now I would make sure it’s in writing and try to get together as much evidence as possible about how everything happened.

Alex

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Tenant

 Thanks for the advice Alex.

 

I have raised it with the deposit people, they say they’ll respond within five days.  I’ll update this thread when they do.  I also intend to pursue a complaint with the Property Ombudsman but I have to first exhaust the agents complaint procedure (or if they ignore my last letter I think I can skip that step).

 

I’ve not received any notices, nor any contact at all regarding the ending of the tenancy – the property has also been re-let, while at the same time the agent has advised the council to chase me for the council tax!

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Administrator

Hi Matt

Ok good luck. Here’s some information on illegal evictions – it’s a criminal offence to do this and it could well be that by not giving you notice that’s exactly what they’ve done. That would give you some leverage in terms of getting your money back.

Alex

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Tenant

Thank you, I’ll keep the illegal eviction angle in mind.  I’m treading carefully at present as I don’t want to put something in writing that later trips me up.

The agent didn’t respond within 7 days as requested, so I’ve got a complaint in motion with the Ombudsman.

It also occurred to me that I haven’t directly asked to landlord to repay me.  I don’t think the agent will have passed on any info, as they are clearly not trying to help the situation.  So I’ve written to the landlord directly, c/o the agent…

I also found this:

If the tenant offers to hand back the keys, make sure that at that stage any conditions connected

with that return are agreed, and record them in writing. For example, are
the keys only being accepted on the basis that the tenancy continues
until a new tenant signs up at the same or a higher rent? Once a landlord
accepts a surrender of the tenancy, the tenant’s liability for future rent
ends unless it has been agreed otherwise. Payment of rent is a debt, and the rent is due for
as long as the tenancy continues. However, once the tenancy comes to an
end (e.g. if the landlord agrees to accept the property back) the tenant’s
liability to continue paying rent stops (but they remain liable for any
arrears that accrued up to that point).
 

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Tenant

Small update:

The Ombudsman at first tried to mediate, which did cause the letting agent to stop ignoring me and release my deposit. Turns out the Ombudsman has teeth… After a fairly flippant “complaints procedure”, the agent reverted to ignoring (without addressing any of my complaints) so I escalated it back to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman agreed, after a very detailed investigation, that the letting agent’s handling of the matter was not acceptable, their record-keeping was abysmal, and their conduct was not professional. A small financial award was made in my favour, and the agent has spent a lot of time on the matter which was my intention (all I needed at the beginning was a few minutes of their time – they’ve spent a lot more now). Perhaps the next time they receive a complaint from a tenant they’ll take it seriously.

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