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Please help! ex Private landlord - deposit return problem


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Hi there,

 

We're really in need of help.

 

We rented a property privately for over two years and moved out in 20th March 09.We even paid for the whole last month rent when we don't have to, just to be nice.

 

When we started tenancy, landlord had his own "rental agreement- scotland" although we're based in Cambridge and he lives in Newcastle . But since it seemed to be alright, we signed it knowing nothing about the deposit protection scheme.

 

The flat is an all electric ground floor funrnished 1 bedroomed flat with economy 7 storage heating and wooden framed windows. Since it was our first time renting a place (knowing nothing about the place having economy 7) and it was in August,we did not try the 2 ANCIENT storage heaters in the corridor and lounge before signing the itinenary (yes we were stupid :( ) The previous tenants mentioned nothing about the storage heaters being broken (only mentioned about the broken convector heater in the bedroom) and we only found out about it later on in october when we tried to use them. At that time, we were both out from 7am to 5pm so no point in heating the flat during daytime. Moreover, people say storage heaters cost a lot of money to run and not efficient at night time so we decided to just use the "plug in" heaters when we need to. Because of the condensation in the flat (we didnot dare to open the windows too wide at night due to safety reason), mould started to appear and we reported it to our landlord. He got someone came to have a look and they say they could not do anything if this condensation problem persist.Landlord also blamed us for insufficient heat in the flat, as he said previous tenant never had this problem. So we cleaned the flat nicely, mould free and try to turn on the heating and open window as much as we can. Mould still came back and we emailed him again.After a while, he got someone from the council came (I believe) and the guy said the flat is poorly designed (ive seen mould in my neighbours' windows too) and need to have an "air unit" (and it was only installed a year after we complained about the mould problem- november 08). From Jan 08, i became a full time housewife and kept the windows opened all the time so no more mould but condensation still happen now and then until the air unit "nuaire" was installed. Other than that problem, everything was OK.

 

On the 16th Feb 09, we gave him notice to move out on the 20th March. He said Russell letting agent will come to have a look at the flat. They came twice but never mentioned anything about any problem (because there was no mould, the flat is absolutely fine!). The first time , the agent guy said the flat is a bit cold and asked whether we used the heater. I was honest and said to him that we've been only using this storage heater once and since it didnot work and people say its not efficient, we just use our dimplex 3.5 kwh plug in heaters. The second time, other guy came to check the bathroom (they wanted to install the power shower) and didnot mention anything either.

 

We kept emailling him to ask about how to make arrangements to return the keys and check the itinenary since he lives far away but he never answered the question. He say he will fly home (Belgium) at the end of the month and will be in Cambridge on the 8th April! My husband told him that he could not afford a day off just to give him the key and check the itinenary, we dont have a car either so we asked him to please arrange someone like his agent or his friend (as he said his friend to come collect some things the night before we left) to take the key and check the itinenary.Never replied.Then Russell agent sent us letter asking us to ring them to arrange the key collection! I rang them and they said they will collect the key at 8 am on the 20th March. I said it is ridiculous as we said we only leave the place on the 20th and moreover we have already paid the rent until the end of the month. So they demanded us to give them the key when we finished moving out. I sensed something not right here so at the end of the day, I told my husband to ring Russell saying we cannot hand over the key until someone came to check the flat with itinenary. They got p****d off and said it has nothing to do with them, it is between us and landlord. Straight away landlord rang us (normally he never answers his phone) telling us to give Russell the key. My husband told him that we wanted someone to check and make sure everything is fine before hand over the key as if the flat is closed for a period of time, mould will appear and we do not want to be blamed for that. He said "its fine. dont worry about it as I will let them unfurnished anyway!" So on the 21th, we came to the flat, taking photos of the place and went to Russell to give them the key.

 

Now, 2 months after moving out, we struggled to contact him to get our deposit back. Following advice here, we sent him a "Letter before Action" and straight away, he emailled us back saying he's waiting for the quotes to repair the damage from the mould. He said currently the flat is basically impossible to let meanwhile Ive seen it on Russell website all the time since we moved out!: Further Property Details

 

He said: "The letting agency says the mould problem might have been exacerbated due to a lack of heating: they say the

heating does not appear to have been used for a very long time, which might also explain why previous tenants did not have this problem. Did you never use the economy-7 heating?"

 

I am in despair. I'm 39 and a half weeks pregnant and we're not that rich either. What we need to do? Do we stand any chance if we have to go to court?

 

 

Thanks in advance for any help.

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Ok, you have photo's of how that flat was left when you went. I hope they are dated, if not and you took them with a digital and have them on your computer, google "Timestamp" buy it (few quid) and it will thereafter date and time all your photo's for you. Even old digital pictures you have stored can now be dated accurately.

 

You also have evidence that at least two of the NSH units were not working, you can also honestly state that they had to fit a expelair unit to assist with condensation and that you were told that it was down to poor design. Without saying anything to the owner/agent, give that company a call and say you would like to see a copy of the report they submitted. You might be lucky. Don;t matter what you have to say to get it, do your best. (Might you be an EHO student and would like to use this for a piece of coursework?;))

 

NSH are very expensive to run, however, you have had additional cost in having to purchase and then use your own heating. Did you know that these old units have a solid panel of asbestos inside - the heating block? Well you do now. And now you also know that if these blocks get damaged (by a kick etc - hopefully at least one the units has a dent or ding it in!) they can break easily and it is possible for the asbestos to escape and get into the air. You would have been very silly to have used damaged NSH units for fear of a health risk, wouldn't you?;)

 

Then of course, all the time and cleaning/decorating materials you had to spend cleaning up the mess. Because of course, you know don't you, how ill mould spores could make you were you to constantly breathe them in?;)

 

I suggest a carefully worded letter, once you have all the evidence you need, setting out all that has gone on, and perhaps intimating that if your deposit is not returned forthwith you may have reason to sue the landlord for letting a property with heating that did not work, and an ongoing condensation problem. You might also like to mention that if the matter is not sorted forthwith you might have to alert Environmental Health to the state of the property because of course you are genuinely worried that another unsuspecting tenant may encounter the same problem.

 

You could ask your former neighbours if they would be willing to state that they too suffer from these problems to prove that it is poor building design.

 

I hope you get this sorted.

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Hi Jackieandwayne,

 

Thanks a lot for your answer.I really appreciate that.The only thing is we dont have evidence that the NSH units werent working.And he never mention about them being broken either (up until now). I have the feeling that the previous tenant just never mentioned about it. The only reason he asked whether we never used them or not is because his new agent came to check the flat (this agent took over when we decided to move out-we have nothing to do with them) and asked me about it and i said i only tried to use them once, and since they didnt work, we used our plug in heater.Do we really need to mention about those NSH units being broken or should we just leave it? As Im worried hes going to question why we never told him about it. Also, am I right in saying he/his agent is the one who will have to have responsibility to prove that the flat was badly affected by mould and unrentable at the time when we moved out? As up til now, they still advertise it. How can they be allowed to advertise and arrange viewings for a place that is inhabitable ?

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