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Letting agents refusing to return deposits (Providence Properties)

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Many of you may have already seen this company mentioned on BBC News and Watchdog.


I rented a student house through a company called Providence Properties from July 2007 - June 2008 with four friends. We each paid a £300 deposit in january 2007 (pre tenancy deposit scheme), with cheques made payable to Providence Lets.


We moved into the house and it was not in a great state, it was dirty and the fridge was broken, there were door handles missing and it was your typical student house. We documented all breakages etc when we moved in.


(I should add we also repainted a lot of the walls in the house in Magnolia, so the house was definitely in a somehwat better condition when we moved out a year later, although we didn't take photos.)


We moved out at the end of our tenancy (June) and cleaned the property from top to bottom, despite the fact that there were builders in the basement who seemed to love treading dirt everywhere! I sent Providence proof of payment of all bills (September), as required. I then received a letter (in October) with a set of pictures of 'damages' and cleaning issues to the house, and notification that we would be charged for professional cleaning services and asking us to confirm who to charge which rooms to.


Firstly it was hard to tell from most of the pictures what the 'issue' in the picture was. Some of them could quite easily not have been our house at all. They also did not tell us how much they were planning on charging. So I wrote back asking for a written breakdown of the damages/cleaning issues and what they intended on charging us for these.


I have not heard anything else since, despite sending numerous letters and trying to call them. When you call you are told that all correspondence regrading deposits must be made in writing. The address they give you to write to is a garage. Providence Properties have mored premises and a new company, with exactly the same staff, as in the old office.


We spoke to the new tenants who have told us that NO PROFESSIONAL CLEANING was done when they moved in to the house. We are getting them to sign a letter to confirm this.


So my question is, what do I do now? I was thinking of writing one final letter to Providence, enclosing a photocopy of the new tenants statement, and basically acuse them of fraud, and tell them I will take legal action unless they retrun our deposits.


But if they do not respond what should I do next? Do I report them to Trading Standards or the Police? Or do I go Small Claims Court? (They have been taken to court before and the tenants have won, but they just don't pay up even when told to, and the owner of the company has NOTHING in his name for bailiffs to seize, very clever!)


I am just at my wits end about this and I don't know what I should do next! The Student Union are involved and trying to help but it just feels like we are not getting anywhere!


Sorry for the long message but any advice will be greatly appreciated!

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