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Deposit dispute with letting agent

(3 Posts)
noidles Mon 17-Mar-14 12:51:34

So this isn't the normal deposit issue here really, because this is from a landlord's perspective.

Basically, my parents separated 6 years ago and my Mum kept our family home. My Mum eventually met and moved in with someone around 4 years ago, and the housing market was dire back then, so instead of selling, she chose to rent the property out until the market picked up. The house was rented unfurnished, apart from white goods.

When the tenants moved in, they asked permission to fit a new carpet and paint one room. My Mum agreed on the proviso that it would be in a sellable condition once they moved out.

She rented the house using a local estate agents and they managed it too because she didn't want the hassle of being the landlady.

The estate agent has never done an inspection of the property, but she was led to believe this was normal. She didn't really care too much at the time anyway, as she knew she wanted to sell, and as long as she was about to do that, she didn't mind.

Anyway, cut to now, and she's decided to put the house back on the market to sell as everything has picked up. It's been on the market for a month and the tenants finally moved out just over a week ago.

My Mum finally went back into the property again on Friday to discover that the house is a complete mess - they obviously kept a dog as there is dog poo all over the garden, the house smells of smoke, looks like they barely cleaned. The bathroom is now really mouldy and they painted one of the rooms bright pink with stickers, which they haven't painted over or removed. To top it off, they have taken the fridge freezer!

Obviously, the first thing we suggested was to call the estate agent and withhold the deposit until they can come to an agreement on getting the house back to how it was.

Mum says she's done this and that they say there's nothing they can do! They have paid the deposit back to the tenants ALREADY, less than a week after their move out date without doing an inspection. She says they are claiming that there's too many legal restrictions on inspections, so legally it's not possible for them to inspect.

I know this to be complete bullshit. I rent at the moment and we've had 3 inspections in the last year, and every property I've rented we've been required to have an end of tenancy clean and to be present during the inventory at check out. These check outs are always very, very detailed.

To top it off further, my Mum was selling the house with this estate agent too. They took an up front fee and took terrible photos, and first listed the property online for almost two weeks at the wrong price - £10k lower than it should have been. They then increased this again, but I think that looks bad on sites like Zoopla, as it shows the change in asking prices. Obviously she does now want to go with another agent.

What are her legal rights? Presumably she can't get the deposit back from the tenants, but surely then the estate agent are liable for giving the deposit back without checking first? Also, would she legally be able to get back the selling fee she has paid?

specialsubject Mon 17-Mar-14 15:02:36

oh no, dodgy agent and thieving tenant - the worst combination.

letting agents are unregulated. If by any chance this lot do belong to a trade association then get them involved.

was there an inventory at the start? If not, she is really stuffed. Has she contacted the deposit scheme to raise a dispute?

I'm so sorry - but agents are often a matter of keeping a dog and barking yourself. Not right, but that's how it can be.

Slapperati Mon 17-Mar-14 15:15:06

She can sue them for breach of contract (I assume she has a written contract?) but TBH she has been a victim of her own making - you cannot leave an asset as valuable as a house untended for four years without running the risk of this happening.

She would be crazy to let this agent also sell her house.

I am a landlord and I use an agent. They do inspections every six months. Once the inspection showed concerns about the state the property was being kept in and they then failed to follow up as promised two weeks later - by which time the tenants had left. I made them pay for the cleaning and the repairs that came over and above the deposit, and they waived their re-marketing fee. They are generally good agents though.

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