‘My landlord didn’t protect my deposit correctly and I won compensation’

Matilda had to find a cheaper place to rent when she became self-employed. She rented from a friend who then became her landlord. Her landlord failed to carry out repairs and protect her deposit in the correct way. After deductions were made to her tenancy deposit, Matilda took her landlord to court and successfully received compensation.

R1C

In April my flatmate Gemma and I became self-employed. This meant finding a cheaper place to rent.

A friend was going to renovate and rent out a four-bedroom house owned by her parents. It sounded perfect and at £400 per room a month, it was half what we were paying.

We found two other flatmates reducing our overall bills and rent.

Our friend effectively became our landlord, and wanted us to move in 1st of June, earlier than we wanted. I was going to be away in US and though Gemma could handle the move, it was just two months away and we would have to give notice on our current flat immediately.

By email, we agreed that we would live there for 12 months and that the house would be ready by 1st of June. We wanted our terms put in a single assured shorthold tenancy contract.

I left for the US in May. As the move-in date approached, we got wind that house was not ready. I emailed the landlord to have things in order, like our contract, by the move in date.

Gemma moved in on the agreed date but only one room was ready. Gemma told me the communal areas were full of the landlord’s furniture and the place was filthy.

She had to eat out as the kitchen wasn’t fit to be used. I thought she was being squeamish until I moved in and saw the state of the place.

A lot of cleaning had to be done before unpacking our belongings. Mice faeces could be found in every corner, down sofas and on kitchen surfaces. The kitchen needed repeated scrubbing and sterilising. Small black pellets were a daily reminder that an army of mice lived here too.

There were outstanding issues and it was a constant battle to get things done. The landlord would only deal with issues outside of her work, yet we were having to take time out from our work, to clean and let workmen in.

Finally we signed a contract and paid the deposit.

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I chased the landlord for proof that our deposit was protected. From the dates on the certificate which I eventually received, it was clear that she hadn’t protected my deposit when she was meant to. I was just relieved to know the deposit was protected.

Six months later, the landlord said she needed to increase the rent by £800 a month. We couldn’t accept increases in the rent, and told her so. We had agreed a flat rent for 12 months.

At the end of the month she gave us an eviction notice.

Despite battles with the landlord, we liked the house and area. We didn’t want to move but reluctantly found another property in a different part of London.

After the checkout inspection, she sent a text agreeing to give us the full deposit back. This was a relief. We needed the money as we had just paid the deposit on the new place.

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Eventually she transferred the sum minus £50 to fix a doorbell. Previously when I mentioned the doorbell didn’t work, she said it was a cheap doorbell and wasn’t surprised it had stopped working.

I sent her another email demanding the full deposit be returned or we would have to go to court.

On the day of the deadline the landlord emailed back advising as gesture of goodwill she would reduce the bill by reduction of £10.

We were all furious.

After finding out for certain from the tenancy deposit protection scheme that that my landlord hadn’t protected the deposit correctly, I called Shelter.

My landlord lied about the date she had received the deposit, she hadn’t protected it in the legal timeframe.

I found out that the landlord faced a penalty of up to three times the amount of the original deposit. In our case this was over £5,000.

Because the landlord hadn’t protected the deposit in the proper way, the eviction notice was invalid. But by then we had already moved.

R2CI used a Shelter template letter to tell her I wanted compensation for three times the original deposit to avoid taking her to court.

I attached emails, evidence of payment dates, communication and texts. I also included deadlines for her to take action. I sent everything by recorded delivery and emailed the documents too.

The landlord returned the £50 immediately. We pressed for financial compensation for not protecting the deposit.

A month passed. The landlord had still not replied.

I lodged a claim, costing £280 with the local court.

At the hearing, the landlord wanted to negotiate to avoid the case continuing. We agreed a sum of money. It wasn’t the full amount that I wanted but it was in my bank account the same day.

I never imagined I would take someone to court.

The sum received covered my costs and all the tenants including myself got a share. I was even able to make a donation to Shelter who provided documents and links and been supportive when I needed someone to talk to.

Shelter gives free advice. Landlords must protect the deposits of assured shorthold tenants.  Check your tenancy deposit has been protected or get help writing a letter to your landlord.

A model has been used to protect the identity of Matilda. Her name has also been changed.

 

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