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Hello! Obviously I am brand new here, but I've been lurking for a while reading some helpful previous posts. However, I'm not sure that many apply to my situation, which is an issue with a former landlord (licensor!) at a yard my friend and I formerly let for our horses. We were there from April 2010 to February 2012, but only had a signed license on file for the first year. We paid monthly, and the licensors regularly accessed our barn, and used our fields for their own purposes. We also had restrictions on hours we could be onsite, all of which make me think that it was definitely a license, rather than a tenancy. We signed contracts prior to moving in... actually prior to the facility being built, which was a mistake in retrospect. They cut corners everywhere possible, and we moved into an unfit facility. They promised many more renovations and facilities, however any that actually were completed were done well beyond the promised date and to an unsafe standard. We did not pay a deposit on moving in, as we had to spend over a thousand pounds to render it usable at all. They also claimed that they needed the deposit so that they could fund some of the promised improvements which weren't complete on arrival.

 

Our license required three months' notice by either party to terminate the agreement, however we did not sign a contract after the initial contract ended. The licensors informed us that they would then be free to force us off the property with no notice, a risk which we were happy to assume. We gave just shy of six weeks' notice at the beginning of 2012 as we had found a safer facility for both horses and handlers for a much more reasonable price, and paid a deposit into a DPS (something I'd never heard of before!). After giving notice, the already tense situation with the licensors became much more difficult, with them alternately saying that of course we were free to leave without paying anything, and that they "didn't want to get heavy". We agreed orally that our initial costs to render the facility usable would be offset against any costs for damage, and I paid the deposit (£1800) as a gesture of goodwill at that point. They also claimed suddenly to have never received license fees for October and November 2010. We produced bank statements demonstrated that those months had indeed been paid, and they produced bank statements demonstrating that the payments had not arrived in their account. Again, as a gesture of goodwill (and to prevent physical action which they have a local reputation for), I paid those two months so they could not consider us to be in arrears, and resolved to pursue it through the banks. They had four different accounts we paid into during our tenure there, and they only showed us statements for one. Eight months later, the bank is apparently still trying to sort it out, as the licensors are refusing to cooperate in locating the money.

 

We did a check out meeting in which we stated nothing would be agreed at that time, we would merely take notes and respond in writing. They made several unreasonable requests, and I responded in a registered letter, stating which costs I agreed to have deducted/offset from the original costs we incurred, and which I disputed. Seven months later, they were still refusing to return my money, despite the fact that I offered that they simply ignore the original costs and just deduct the £110 they were requesting, and return the remainder.

 

Soooo I went onto MCOL, and filed a claim for the deposit. They defended it, and referred to a tenancy, landlords, and tenants. While this is not accurate terminology, I am wondering if the court will now consider that we had a tenancy, and that the original notice period (three months) should still apply? They have counterclaimed for nearly two full months' rent (until the end of what the license period would have been, had a contract been signed), and have suddenly come up the idea that a field needs re-seeding because of us, despite never mentioning it before, and included an extortionate quote from their tenant farmer. Their defense is very emotive, and very inaccurate. Their conclusion was that I should have £212 returned to me from my claim, but that they should be paid over £2500 for their counterclaim. I have sought some basic help from a local solicitor to draft a defense to their counterclaim, and a 30-min directions hearing has been scheduled for later this month. My solicitor has been absolutely wonderful, and has worked within my limited budget to give me a great framework, but I'm hoping there might be some more rural bods on this board with some experience in the field of horse properties.

 

What can I expect from the directions hearing? There are two defendants, and just one of me. They are very intimidating, and I am not looking forward to being on my own around them, as they used to wait until my friend was away on business to take me aside and push for money. They know I'm a soft touch. Do I have a right to bring someone with me for moral support? What sort of rights/obligations did we have as licencees with an expired license for an equestrian facility? The next tenant left a month ago amidst a lot of similar issues, and they are threatening to pursue her through the courts as well. She is willing to be a witness for me that the fields were in good repair when she moved in. They are also trying to claim money for themselves from my deposit for routine work which SHE paid to have done when she moved in. The tenant farmer stated to me that he felt it was due to their lack of maintenance after our departure that the field needed re-seeding, but he is unwilling to be a witness, as he is still in a business relationship with them.

 

Sorry, this feels incredibly complicated to me, and I'm so unsure of what to expect and now even questioning whether I am in the right insisting that my money be returned! They spend a lot of time on various legal actions, and I am so unfamiliar with these sorts of situations that I'm beginning to worry that they might be in the right. Thanks in advance for any help anyone can give. I know this is not your typical residential or commercial letting question.

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