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Landlord won't return unprotected deposit

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1092 views 4 replies latest reply: 21 November 2016
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Tenant

We have recently moved out of the house we were renting. We moved in in February 2012 and we only found out a few weeks ago that our deposit has been unprotected since January 2014. We mentioned this to our landlord and he avoided the question, simpy responding with ‘yeah, yeah we’ll sort it out’. We met him at the house a few days ago (we’d spent almost two days cleaning the property and making sure that we left it in a good condition) and he was fine with the condition of the property (he has put the house up for sale). He said that he wanted proof that we’d paid our Council Tax, Water bill and Gas and Elec bills before he returns our deposit. We have paid all of our bills and have sent him photo messages of the bills showing that they are paid. We’ve also sent him our final meter readings etc. We had an idea that he may try to delay paying us our deposit back (from previous experience with him) but I woke up this morning to a text message that basically says he needs to take photos of damage to the property which includes brackets on the radiator covers (he had heavy wooden radiator covers on most radiators in the property and fixed them to the wall with velcro which didn’t hold them). When our son started crawling he pulled one down on top of him so we had to put brackets on them to fix them securely to the wall, okay we didn’t phone and ask his permission but at the time we were more worried about our baby being hurt. His text message also said ‘and a few other things’. This has come as a complete shock to us as when we met him at the house he didn’t mention any issues with the condition of the property and he even shook our hands and said thank you for being such good tenants! We’ve had a few issues with him over the last 3 years where he’s been a bit awkward. We also know that he has money issues so we kind of prepared ourselves for difficulties with getting our deposit back. What is our next step? In our notice letter to him we asked for our deposit to be returned within 10 days so presumably we have to wait until those 10 days are up before we take any next steps. I really don’t want to have to go ahead with legal proceedings but we have done absolutely nothing wrong, we looked after the house and returned it in a good condition. We paid our rent and bills on time and he even said himself that we’ve been ‘no bother over the last 3 years’ so we feel pretty annoyed about him now deciding to be awkward when he looked us straight in the face and shook our hands saying thanks for being good tenants!! I had a few phonecalls with him in the weeks leading up to our departure regarding our deposit and each time he assured me that we would get our deposit back and that him and his wife ‘weren’t that sort of people’ and he even swore on his childrens life that we would get our deposit back but he would never commit to timescales etc. We even had to push him to meet us at the property on the last day to hand over the keys etc, he wanted us to leave and post the keys through the letter box! I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have fallen foul to less than reasonable landlords so I’m hoping someone on here can offer some good advice. Thanks for reading.

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Administrator

Hello

So your deposit has not been protected? You could start by pointing out to the landlord that it’s a legal requirement for landlords to protect a deposit. This comes from the Housing Act 2004 and it’s non-negotiable – more info here.

Because he hasn’t protected it you’re within your rights to make a claim against him for the return of the entire deposit. You can also claim compensation against him for 1-3 times the amount of the deposit because he didn’t protect it. Perhaps start with a letter stating all of that and letting him know you’ll go ahead with the claim – for the deposit and the compensation – unless he stops messing around with the deposit return. Give him a short period of time to either respond in writing or to repay the deposit and then start proceedings against him. It’s not that hard to claim as long as you have proof that you paid the money and he can’t provide proof of protection. Start with step 3 on this page.

Get everything in writing whenever you interact with him, even if it’s text messages. If you don’t want to go to court, maybe use the above as negotiating leverage – he doesn’t really have a leg to stand on if he hasn’t protected the deposit.

If you want legal advice then speak to Citizen’s Advice or Shelter but it should all be fairly straightforward.

Alex

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Tenant

Thanks for your reply. We moved in on 1st Feb 2012 and we have a certificate from Mydeposits.co.uk. Unfortunately when we called them a few weeks ago (before we were due to vacate the property) they told us that the deposit had been unprotected from January 2014. We asked the landlord about this several times (face to face and over the phone) and he either swerved answering or just said ‘yeah yeah we’ll sort it out’.

He met us to hand over the keys etc and all was fine. He told us we needed prove to him that we’d paid all the bills on the house until he’d give us our deposit back and when I then sent over proof that’s when all of a sudden there was ‘damage’ to the property that they need to take photos of and assess. I have kept the text messages between us but do I also need to summarise these in a formal letter to them? We seriously cannot believe the sheer two faced front of the landlord and his wife. They still cannot tell us where our deposit has been protected (we have checked all three of the schemes and it’s not there) and I have asked for written communication of the alleged damage. The property is up for sale and we believe they are waiting for the sale to go through to then have money to give us back so in the meantime they are trying delay tactics.

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Administrator

Hello again

If your deposit has been unprotected since January then the above advice still applies – deposit protection is not supposed to lapse, at all.

Did you have an official inventory when you moved out?

Unfortunately this is very common. Many landlords don’t really understand the law, tenants rarely enforce it and so the cycle continues. The point of deposit scheme protection is that in a situation like this the deposit scheme provides a free dispute resolution service that independently decides who pays for what. The deposit belongs to you unless the landlord can prove they are entitled to any of it and so the landlord would have to provide, for example, photo evidence of the damage that was date stamped before you moved out. Without this, the scheme would simply return the deposit to you.

As the deposit is not protected you don’t have access to this dispute resolution and your money isn’t protected against the landlord randomly deciding to keep what he is not entitled to. The landlord is not meant to put you in that situation, which is why you’re entitled to go for the full return of the deposit as per my first reply. Your landlord sounds slack and unprofessional – many often forget that this is a legally governed business transaction not their personal piggy bank. Please make sure you report him to Shelter’s rogue landlord list.

Yes, keep all the text messages. And yes write a letter, make sure it’s signed dated and sent by tracked post, and summarise a) what has happened (include a timeline and refer to the messages) b) what you’re entitled to do re taking the landlord to court etc c) what you want from the landlord and in what time frame (deposit return, written evidence of damage etc).

Alex

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