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  1. Hi All, looking for some advice and hoped someone here might be able to help please. My mother's house consists of a standard house and a detached converted garage. She lives in the converted garage part and rents out the main house (the old family home). Both parts share the same address, same land registry title, shared driveway, garden and utilities. Prior to renting out the house, I spoke to a number of agencies to ensure all was above board in terms of contracts etc. The government licensing agency (rent smart wales), resident landlord association and the deposit protection scheme all informed me this is classed as a live in landlord/lodger scenario and as such the type of contract required is a Resident Landlord Excluded Agreement (lodgers agreement) instead of a typical Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. This is due to an AST specifically relating to "exclusive use" of a property and as my mum lives on the same property this couldn't be achieved so a lodgers agreement is the only option. There is also no legal obligation to use a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme is this scenario and the Deposit Protection Scheme verbally advised against her doing so anyway as there was little they could do if the event of a disagreement relating to a bond. Fast forward a year and my mum had her first set of renters in and they left damage in the house (carpet burn in the lounge being the main issue) and money for utility bills outstanding. Their bond (held by my mother) was deducted by 90%, yet the renters were unhappy the bond wasn't held by an external company and had no way of challenging the deductions, even though they openly admitted to causing the damage and leaving bills unpaid. After speaking with a No Win No Fee solicitor, the renters took my mum to a small claims court stating she should have used an AST agreement, protected the bond and as such was liable to return the deposit in full and be subject to a fine of between 1-3 times the bond. The hearing was last week and the judge found in their favour. While there was no dispute that my mum lived in the converted garage on the same premises, my mum being scared at such a large fine, foolishly stated both her and the renters had access to the entire property during their stay (both the main house and converted garage) to reinforce to point that they were indeed lodgers. The renters used the advert my mum used on zoopla and the inventory provided to them at the start of their stay to prove this wasn't the case. They also used a statement where my mum said the converted garage had its own sub meters for utilities (when trying to explain for the umpteenth time to the renters that their share of charges for utilities were accurate), when indeed in court both parties agreed this was not true. The judge found my mum to be deceptive by using these arguments and despite from our interpretation of the law this made no difference to the facts of the case, he awarded the renters over £10,000. The renters barrister successfully argued my mum was being unreasonable with regards to the bond because of her statements so this figure included the maximum penalty of 3 times the bond, along with the full bond back as well as £3500 towards their costs (despite originally informing her that small claims court proceedings rarely award anything but a nominal contribution to the winning party's costs). Apparently the renters were allowed this as they said my mum acted maliciously. To say she was devastated is an understatement. The judge seemed to see the issue as an argument about the bond and who shared what parts of the property rather than the big issue itself which we saw as there was no legal obligation to protect the bond and therefore not being subject to any fine for wrongdoing in that regard given both openly agreed they shared the same address and the contracts signed reflected that. My mum had offered the renters their bond back in full on numerous occasions once their No win No fee solicitor got involved, simply because she didn't want to go to court, yet again this wasn't considered. She requested the right to appeal after the judgement was made but the judge was offended by this and denied her the right to. I've since gone back to the government body who deals with these matters and licensing for usual landlords (rentsmartwales) as well as the Deposit Protection Scheme and they both again state my mum was correct in the contracts used and had no obligation to protect their bond externally. I am awaiting written confirmation from them so we have proof of their statements. I've also looked into appealing and despite the judge's denial of this it seems it is possible if we state that he made an error in regards to the law. My mum wants to appeal but isn't happy going to court again as found the whole episode intimidating especially after being found as (rightfully) deceptive last week. I think we should have professional legal representation this time but she is worried this could end up with even more of a bill if we lose, on top of the £10,000 she already can't afford to pay. I feel not only was the judge incorrect in finding my mum at fault, the award given was grossly disproportionate to her supposed faults. She offered them a full refund in goodwill, she did all investigations to ensure she was on the correct side of the law and gathered evidence and quotes so the bond was deducted fairly. Does anyone have and advice or thoughts on our predicament please? I'm going to ring around some local solicitors/barristers tomorrow to see their opinion. I'm unsure if they'll want to take the case on even if they think they'll lose because obviously they get paid either way unless a No win No fee firm can be found. It's the first time we've ever had any experience with this type of thing so feel out of our depth. Maybe there's a firm who would be specialise in this sort of law? Either way any opinion or help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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