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check-out fee £114 deducted from tenancy deposit


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Hi,

I vacated a house two weeks back and the agent is charging me £114 as check-out fee and deducting it from my deposit (deposit amount is £900). unfortunately this fee was mentioned in the tenancy agreement in terms and conditions (not clearly visible like other fees) and I signed it in the beginning without noticing that charge. now the agent says I will have to pay because it is mentioned in the agreement and says this cost is my contribution for the cost of the check-out. they appointed a third party for the inspection of the property after check-out and may be they are collecting this to pay for that inspection. but I am not sure if I should be paying this or they should charge the landlord. I rented properties before, but never paid any check-out fee. do I need to pay this fee now because I signed, regardless of whether it makes sense or not?

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These days it is not unusual for agents to charge for checkouts - just one more of their growing family of fees to pay for their BMWs.

 

What does it actually say in the contract? Is there a specific fee mentioned?

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These days it is not unusual for agents to charge for checkouts - just one more of their growing family of fees to pay for their BMWs.

 

What does it actually say in the contract? Is there a specific fee mentioned?

 

yes, the check-out fee mentioned as £95 plus VAT. but shouldn't they charge landlord these costs? just because it is in the agreement, does it mean I must pay whatever is mentioned in it?

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Have a look at this document:

 

http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/reports/unfair_contract_terms/oft356.pdf

 

I had a look and found the following in 4.7:

 

We do not regard

ancillary payment obligations as transparent unless either they conform to

what a reasonable person would expect to find in a tenancy agreement or

they are drawn as clearly and fully to the tenant's attention as the obligation

to pay rent itself – ie: rather than appearing ordinarily in the body of the

contract.

 

Now an agent might argue that such fees are what a "reasonable person would expect to find". I'd beg to differ but...

 

What the OFT say is not "law" as such. Not being a lawyer I don't really know how an individual can use what the OFT says - eg. whether a County Court judge can take what the OFT say into account.

 

Does the contract say that the deposit can be used by them to pay for such fees? If not, then you could possibly consider going to arbitration to get the fee back. Then they would have to sue you to get you to pay the fee.

 

If you cause them enough hassle they may just back down.

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no, nothing is mentioned in the agreement about the what is included in the cost of the check-out. I am not thinking of going to court for this matter. it is too much hassle for me. I don't think the pain is worth it. I will have to spend more to make the claim without knowing whether I will get the money back or not. I think it will just be a lesson for me not to make such mistakes in future. I think this is a way of extracting money from people by adding hidden fees in terms and conditions and there could be more people like me who failed to notice it before signing the agreement. Thanks for all replies.

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What you can do is to raise a dispute with the organisation that is protecting your deposit (assuming it is in a scheme). Or the threat of raising the dispute could encourage the agent either to negotiate or at least to consider dealing with future customers more fairly.

 

This is what one of the schemes, DPS, say:

 

http://www.depositprotection.com/documents/a-guide-to-tenancy-deposits-disputes-and-damages.pdf

 

While it is accepted that agents can insert standard fees into their Terms of Business,

tenants can challenge these. If they are considered to be unreasonable, it may not be

possible to claim them. Landlords and agents should be aware that the deposit should

only be retained for breaches of the tenancy agreement causing a financial loss and not a

failure to pay standard agency fees.

However, standard agency fees can be inserted into the agent’s own Terms and Conditions

which accompany the signing of the tenancy agreement, on the agent’s website and,

increasingly, in the tenancy agreement itself.

We accept that these standard fees are put in place to deter tenants from breaking the

terms of their contract. But if the agent seeks to retain these fees without question, then

it is arguable that they should be kept distinct from the deposit and separate invoices

raised to the tenant. Alternatively, the fees would have to be explicitly explained to, and

agreed by, the tenant when he signs the contract.

If a tenant disputes the fees deducted from his deposit, an adjudicator will consider

several factors.

For example, the Office of Fair Trading provides guidance on unfair terms in tenancy

agreements (Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977). A clause which is inserted into a contract

will not automatically be deemed to be a fair clause just by virtue of its presence. The

adjudicator needs to consider the merits of each case in order to decide whether the

clause is reasonable.

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