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Question re: security deposit return


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Hi all,

 

I'm having difficulties with my former landlord/letting agent and wondered if anyone has any advice:

 

Myself and three friends from university moved into a flat in London in June 2008. Security deposit= £2880, total rent p/m = £2080. The following year, the tenancy was renewed with one person leaving and another coming. The estate agent told us that the deposit from the previous tenancy would be shifted to the new one. The estate agent acted as letting agent and we had little/no contact with the LL who lived in Nigeria for most of our 2 years stay.

 

The problem has arisen because the LL insisted on paying the gas/electricity herself and then charging us. Despite repeatedly requesting an indication of a sum to be paid, the letting agent never got back to us with any information. At the end of the second tenancy, after we had sent our termination letter we were sent bills which were extraordinarily large. Upon my own investigation I worked out that the reason was an incorrect reading had been used by the utility company. When they were changing thousands, the charge should have been in the tens!! We alerted the LL to this and were told that they were getting it investigated. They failed to do so but assured us they would get the engineer to investigate (though this would have to be after we had moved out so we do not know if that happened).

 

Since there were potentially outstanding bills the letting agent told us they would hold our deposit until the situation was resolved.

 

We moved out in June 2010.

 

In September 2010, we finally called to check what on earth was happening and was told that they were keeping the deposit and would need more money from us on top of that. It took us to call them to find this out!

 

Apparently the bills were correct though they have given us no evidence of any checks being performed. Nor have they even given us copies of the bills for the entirety of the period we stayed there.. As I said earlier, they are suggesting we owe thousands when the sums based on the meter readings (which fortunately I took geo-tagged photos of as we left the flat) show a sum significantly less.

 

In October I sent a letter setting this out and asking which scheme our deposit was protected with. I received a rude phone call telling me to get lost and that they hadnt paid the deposit into a scheme. I asked if they were required to and he told me that its his job to know and that he wasn't required to. He also told me my calculations for the bills (based on the readings in the photos and the utility companies own formula) were 'ridiculous'. I asked him to put this in writing. I then wrote to him to set out my understanding of the Housing Act 2004 and that since our total rent paid in a year was under the then £25000 threshold our deposit was required by law to be protected and that the penalty for failure was an amount worth 3 times the deposit sum.

 

This was 6 weeks ago and I have not had a letter nor another rude phonecall.

 

I am starting to believe that they are not only grossly negligent but potentially fraudulent.

 

 

Any advice on what I should do?

 

In particular, any advice on how I can claim the 3xdeposit penalty given the SCC limit of £5,000?

 

Or any alternative means of resolution? (They are only a member of the Property Ombudsman service in their capacity as a sales agent so I assume this means I cannot sue that..)

 

 

Many thanks,

 

Tom

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The persual of a claim for breach of the Tenancy Deposit Rules, would never be heard by the small claims court. It should be a Part 8 claim, which exposes you to the LL's legal costs should you lose.

It appears that you have a good case (subject to you checking the deposit registration did not exist with each of the 3 schemes), but you must take specialist legal advice (a high-street solicitor wont cut it) before deciding to pursue any claim.

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Or any alternative means of resolution? (They are only a member of the Property Ombudsman service in their capacity as a sales agent so I assume this means I cannot sue that..

 

I'll leave the mechanics of Tenancy Deposit Scheme disputes to others, there are others on CAG better acquainted with it - plus, there are various stickies on the Residential forum main page too

 

With regards "alternative means of resolving" you say the Agent is only a member of the Property Ombudsman scheme, but who IS the Agent? Not meant to be a rhetorical question, but don't mention the name on the open forum. Also, are they:

 

- small independant, or part of a larger chain?

- does their website/literature make any reference to the procedure for raising a formal complaint?

- who have you been dealing with, how senior within the firm, but who are the owners of the firm too? If they are a Limited Company you can obtain this information for £1 online 24 hours a day from Companies House

- are the owners themselves a member of any professional association ie RICS?

 

If you wish to email me the company details I'll do some digging and will only use what you send me to help. I will not forward the details to any third party without your prior consent.

 

There's quite a few ways to skin a cat :) No offence intended to cat-lovers, of course...

As for me, happy to help out. I am not a Landlord, but I have been in the past. I am not an Agent, but I have been in the past. I am, therefore, a has been, so always seek independent and suitably qualified advice elsewhere before relying upon whatever has been posted here :-)

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