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Will try to keep this short but for those with a very short attention span -

 

Summary cliffs: a letting agent is refusing to repay a £1,200 holding deposit after negotiations on the tenancy agreement broke down despite them agreeing (prior to us paying the deposit) that a disagreement on the tenancy agreement would lead to our deposit being refunded (clearly fraudulent on their part to not repay??).

 

Long form: all communication detailed below happened over email.

--------------------

 

- Looking at a property (Mayfair/Marylebone) managed by Landlord X being shown to us (friend and I) by Agent Y: Agent Y requests non-refundable holding deposit of £1200 to take property off market

- I comment that we can't agree to a non-refundable deposit before seeing the tenancy agreement (wasn't ready yet) as it may have a number of strange clauses in there which we would not agree to

- Agent Y states deposit will be refunded if we can't get to an agreement on tenancy agreement: at this point, we paid the £1200 (nothing signed yet)

- Tenancy agreement is sent to us and we send back with comments on a number of clauses we couldn't agree to. Main ones highlighted below:

-----no use of washing machine and dryer if no one is home

-----landlord can claim ownership of any furniture or fittings in the property even if property is restored to original state prior to us moving out

-----unless reported asap, tenant liable for all damages in the property even if such damage existed prior to tenant moving in

 

- Landlord X rejected our changes to/deletion of the clauses above and said we'd have to accept their tenancy agreement

- We sent email cc'ing both agent and landlord stating we decided not to proceed with the flat as we could not sign their tenancy agreement in its current form and requested a full refund of the holding deposit

 

One month later, we're still yet to receive the deposit back: Landlord X states Agent Y never told them deposit would be refundable if tenancy agreement wasn't agreed. Agent Y says Landlord X refuses to pay full deposit back but that they will "try" to recover some for us.

 

Obviously above is unacceptable and I refuse to settle for anything less than a full refund. I just emailed them both a "Final Notice before Legal Action" including all of the above (all email was saved in Outlook so all evidence described above was attached) and gave them a final opportunity to repay us in full - they ignored it (I assume they think we are bluffing? I'm excited by the opportunity to prove them wrong).

 

Question: which court / govt agency / process should we use to follow up on the above? Would a small claims court see this case? Any other thoughts on what we should do here? Have a number of lawyer friends who can help for free so lawyer fees not an issue - not sure how good their Real Estate expertise is though.

 

Frankly, both the agent and landlord seem to be detested in the area for having dodgy practices and a part of me doesn't want them to repay as I would love to see them hit with a punitive and exemplary damages order and for them to be driven out of business. Appreciate any thoughts on the above.

Edited by PrinceZ
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One more thing (which frankly should not matter in my opinion) - in addition to the above, shortly after the disagreement on the final tenancy agreement and us pulling out, they re-listed the property and subsequently rented it out to someone else at a higher rent level than what we were going to pay.

 

We have asked them to make clear what legal grounds they are holding our deposit on and they have failed to do so - despite us giving them three weeks to provide this information.

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I am sure there will be caggers looking in later today, if not, then Shelter might be able to advise.

 

 

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Was this request by phone or letter, if by phone or face to face, then send you request in a recorded delivery letter giving them 7 days to refund. If nothing after that 7 days, you send the same letter but this time headed 'Letter Before Action', give them another 7 days and add that further action will be taken without further notice at the end of those 7 days.

 

Don't say it if you don't mean it though. you can start it on line and will cost about £30 which you will, of course, add to your claim.

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Requests have been by phone and via email. Do I have to give them any additional notices before commencing legal proceedings? I feel like they have had more than enough time to respond properly already and am ready to pull the trigger on a more contentious process.

 

The last email I sent was titled "Final Notice before Legal Action" and already included the words "In the event that we are yet to receive confirmation by close of business today (Friday, 23 July 2013, 5pm) that this amount will be repaid in full, we will commence legal proceedings against both Agent Y and Landlord X without further notice or warning to recover the cost of this action, the deposit, and punitive and exemplary damages far and above that number ."

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It will be so much better and easier for you if you stick by the protocol. There is no denying a recorded delivery letter whether they sign for it or refuse it.

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The claim for return of your deposit seems reasonable particularly if you have written evidence that the deposit was agreed to be refundable, but I don't think you will get exemplary or punitive damages as these are rarely awarded in the UK (so I understand - iamnotalawyer, but I looked into this some years back when a friend of mine was being threatened with these by a big fat lawyer).

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