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tenancy deposit issues

(18 Posts)
rachelandmonty Mon 01-Aug-16 12:26:05

Hi - I'm looking for some help/advice from anyone who might have been through something similar or has subject matter expertise in this.

I have recently had my tenancy agreement terminated by the landlord due to him electing to sell the house. In principle, nothing wrong with this. However, there is a back story. In January I reported various problems with the house - some concerns with mould, drains, plumbing, etc. I received no reply. I sent chasers, I called in to the estate agents; I received assurances that something would be done, but nothing was. I made (idle) threats about withholding rent, and still nothing was done. Eventually, in about March, they sent someone around to look at the damp (by this time a wall of black mold in my bedroom) who immediately said it was severe and needed attention; they then sent a window specialist around to quote on replacing all of the windows. Another month or so went by and nothing was done. I chased again and was told that the landlord had become angered by the estate agent sending someone to quote for the work 'without his permission' and had outright refused to do any work. He then arranged to view the property in person to give it his own opinion. He came, viewed it, and two days later I received notice that my tenancy was not being renewed. I am a single mum with a six year old. This was not funny at all.
Anyway, I found somewhere else and moved and have now had a request for cleaning fees from the landlord against my deposit. When I rejected this, he proposed a second amount that was more than double the first amount he'd requested, so of course I have rejected that too. I now have to provide evidence to the deposit protection service as to why I should not pay this. But it seems that the ruling defaults to the landlord if they deposit service don't feel my evidence is sufficient. Meanwhile, over £570 of my deposit is being held from me.
What I am wanting to hear is: would I have had grounds to withhold rent (I never did, incidentally)? Is there anything I can do to support my argument? Anything I should refer to or mention? Any other avenues I can try if this fails? Could I, for example, attempt to pursue him for damages (I was repeatedly ill, as was my son, this winter and I have no doubt it was exacerbated by the damp next to my bed!)? I don't want anything from him- but I do want my deposit back and I would have thought a decent human in his position would have just let me go, knowing full well that he was in the wrong, rather than trying to squeeze out a bit more money!

Thanks in advance.

LIZS Mon 01-Aug-16 12:33:22

You should never withhold rent except in very specific circumstances. Unless your illness was documented at the time and a clear link established I don't think you'd get anywhere. Do you have date stamped photos of the mould etc which you can send? I don't think dps necessarily fund in favour of ll. Might be worth a chat to Shelter about wording your response.

rachelandmonty Mon 01-Aug-16 14:09:54

Thanks- I will try them.
I do indeed have date stamped photos of the mold and also sent these to the estate agent.
Just to be clear, I did not withhold rent at any point.
And as for thinking that the deposit service would err on the side of the landlord, I'm only going by the summary I received from them in which they state that if I do not provide sufficient evidence they will pay the full amount to the that seems pretty definitive.
Thanks for the help!

Normandy144 Mon 01-Aug-16 14:29:17

Wasn't there an inventory? When we moved in and out an inventory was carried out. We ensured that the property was cleaned thoroughly. We didn't have a professional clean because the previous tenants didn't when they vacated. So all we were obliged to do was to return the property to the same standard. The mould is a separate issue to cleaning IMO. What is he stating the revised costs are for?

Normandy144 Mon 01-Aug-16 14:30:21

£570 sounds like an awful lot for cleaning! Not sure how he can justify this.

Roussette Mon 01-Aug-16 15:08:13

My DD is going through this at the moment.

You are wrong to say that the Deposit service will err on the side of the landlord. This service was set up for Tenants which is why it's called Tenant Deposit Service and it will more likely err on the side of the tenant.

A few questions...

Your LL can only insist on a full clean (the £570) if you moved in and you were told and you could see that a full professional clean had been done. So it's like for like if that makes sense.

How clean did you leave the flat? Was it as clean as you moved in? (apart from damp and mould damage of course). If you left the property in a mess or worse than when you moved in (apart from wear and tear), you probably won't have a leg to stand on to be honest.

What does your Tenancy agreement say about an end-of-tenancy clean? in my DDs it says that one will be done. What about your agreement?

£570 sounds far too expensive. My DD is paying less than £400 for a big 4 bedroomed flat end of tenancy clean. How big was your flat? If it's the case that you have no choice but to have an end of tenancy clean, you are within your rights to arrange that yourself for the price you agree. The LL can't spend your deposit money on a ludicrusly expensive end of tenancy clean unless you are happy with the price.

Please read this, I think it is invaluable and might help you win your case --this. It sets out very clearly what to present as your case. Saying your son was poorly etc will carry no weight, because it has no relevance to the amount in dispute for cleaning, It has to be just facts. Your photos (time and datestamped) will be evidence.

How much was your deposit? By law he has to return everything that is not in dispute within 20 days of your tenancy ending. (he has 10 days to tell you how much he wishes to keep of your deposit, you have 10 days to dispute it, making 20 days). The amount in dispute is then lodged with the TDS for arbitration.

I may sound like I know what I'm talking about but it's what I have picked up by researching because my DD at the moment has the most nightmare LL ever. She harrasses my DD all day every day and we are going to be going through the same I am sure. (2 tenants have just moved out and she is trying to keep their deposits - they are £1,400 each as London prices - so the same will happen to my DD). She has even falsified pictures, lied, planted stuff in the flat, let herself in without notice, taken photographs etc. However, we are ready for battle!

rachelandmonty Mon 01-Aug-16 15:54:22

Hi all- yes, there was an inventory and I returned the house in the same state as I received it. I spent seven hours cleaning it in addition to a paid cleaner. The only thing that was picked up on final inspection was the mold, which I had refused to clean off the wall (a, as a point of principle and b, because you're not meant to get mouldy walls more wet!) and so when this was pointed out on leaving the house, I immediately called the agency and explained the situation and they said they understood. Of course I have the time and date of that call but not the transcript.
I also upheld my agreement to get the carpets cleaned due to having a cat. I honoured that agreement.
The breakdown on the LL's deposit withholding request says 'cleaning' for half the amount and 'other' for the rest.

Roussette Mon 01-Aug-16 16:00:33

OK... you are entitled to all of this back then. Look at how to appeal on the document I linked to.

List out your 7 hours cleaning, show a receipt for a paid cleaner. And a receipt for carpet clean. Send details of when you sent the photos of the mould and how it was rejected by the LL etc (all the stuff you said in your OP)

He can't put 'other' for witholding money. It needs to be itemised as to what and why. The TDS will take a dim view of that.

Your LL is trying it on and from what you've said doesn't have a leg to stand on. Put it clearly and factually in your appeal. Your case looks very strong

rachelandmonty Mon 01-Aug-16 17:24:35

I notice that no one has suggested I might have grounds for any compensation from the landlord though. I take the point, in one of the comments above, that my son's illness and mine do not justify lack of cleaning but surely there must be some kind of tenants' rights built in to tenancy agreements to protect tenants- especially vulnerable ones- against this kind of neglect. The landlord deliberately ignored my requests for this to be fixed, leaving me no choice but to live with the mold..or apply to break my tenancy agreement and move out early to somewhere else. Did he really have no obligation to ensure his tenants weren't living in a mold infested house?! I just find that very strange.

thisisafakename Mon 01-Aug-16 17:42:17

I think it will be very difficult to prove that your illness was due to the condition of the property. Especially so when you have already moved out of the property. Will you be able to show that the mould was the sole cause of your health issues?
You could try to use it as a negotiation tactic though- ie you feel that he breached his repair obligations by delaying the inspection of the property, but will agree to drop it if he gives you your deposit back.

clare8allthepies Mon 01-Aug-16 17:43:41

I opened a dispute with the deposit protection service a few years ago. The onus was definitely on the landlord to prove their claim rather than on me to prove that there was no fault on my side. In fact the day after I submitted the dispute form along with photos we had taken the landlord notified me that they would be returning my deposit in full as all the photos they had taken of the 'damage' to the property hadn't developed. hmm in other words they knew they didn't have a leg to stand on.

On the other hand I think that you would need to take the landlord to court to get any kind of compensation and may be costly.

rachelandmonty Mon 01-Aug-16 18:10:12

Thanks for all the advice; I agree, I probably don't have the funds or the energy to try going through the courts, so I really only want that as a threat to try to get the landlord to back off, however I don't want to make any threats that are clearly bogus and just leave me looking foolish- hence wondering if there were genuine grounds for an appeal/damages claim.
Anyway, I shall try all of the above and see where I get to!

Roussette Mon 01-Aug-16 18:18:49

I would honestly say that you don't have grounds for that - yes it's mean, yes he was negligent but as you say, you don't have the energy for a costly court battle.

Another flat of one of my DCs had the same mould/damp problem on walls as you (I sense a theme here, my kids have been a bit unlucky!) LL tried to blame the tenants for putting damp washing in the room which caused it. (as if! Nothing would dry!) One tenant's asthma got increasingly worse because of the damp but that is all subjective isn't it... maybe his asthma would have got worse anyway and how do you prove it without costing time, energy and money.

Normandy144 Mon 01-Aug-16 18:19:57

From what you have said about the cleaning I think you are perfectly within your rights to get your deposit back. Keep the cleaning issues separate to the mould. Clearly present your receipts for cleaner, carpet clean and detail your own time - if necessary make some comparisons from the check in and check out inventories to highlight you left it the same. Then deal with the mould issue. Clearly outline and document your attempts to raise the issue of mould and that they were ignored. Did you have a dehumidifier? You can mention that, and that you took steps to minimise it.

meercat23 Mon 01-Aug-16 18:20:43

In my experience, (providing inventory services and adjudicating for one of the deposit schemes) the deposit services bend over backwards to be fair and LLs usually think they favour tenants. If you have dated pictures of the mould and even better if you have copies of emails etc to agents asking for action on the mould you should be fine. The letter they sent you would be a standard letter and a similar one would probably have gone to your LL.

The costs that your LL is trying to charge sounds well over the op. They would have to provide details of exactly what was clean at the start and now needs cleaning and what local charges would be for that. Asking for a blanket sum without specifying won't work for them.

Hope it works out for you.

tribpot Mon 01-Aug-16 18:21:14

Shelter should be able to help you with wording, and do check out their website. A solicitor's letter can work wonders as well, but I would go through the TDS route first.

I wish tenants were better protected against unscrupulous landlords like this - and I say that as a landlord. I make a point of responding as soon as I am contacted by the agency when the need for a repair has been identified, but there are plenty who think it's fine to bugger off on holiday and go out of contact for weeks at a time. Environmental Health at the Council might be interested in the state of the property but Shelter should be able to advise.

I hope you've found somewhere else to live?

PersianCatLady Mon 01-Aug-16 18:54:24

But it seems that the ruling defaults to the landlord if they deposit service don't feel my evidence is sufficient.
Actually the Deposit Service (DS) are very fair.

In my flat the LL got a company to replace the hob, they split the kitchen worktops doing this so before the hob was fitted they replaced all the worktops on the 1980s kitchen units. The hob people's insurance paid for the worktops and then the hob was fitted, great.

When I came to leave apparently there were some scratches (how they got there was a matter for debate but whatever).

Anyway the LL decided that she should take £850 from my deposit to have all the worktops replaced again. (Bearing in mind that she herself got them for free, the original worktops were from the mid-80s and awful and the scratches were tiny).

The whole case went to the DS and they decided that it was totally unreasonable for her to expect me to replace all the worktops in a falling apart 1980s kitchen.

Instead they told her that the scratches could be filled for £100 and told her to return the other £750 of my deposit. She was absolutely livid but once the DS have ruled that is the end of it.

LIZS Mon 01-Aug-16 19:03:22

Yes a ll has an obligation to provide a healthy environment but you simply don't have the evidence of harm retrospectively. Shelter could have advised you had you pursued it at the time. For example your council could have inspected the property and got involved on your behalf.

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