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Hi everyone..... I have recently got into a dispute with a landlord regarding the return of fees paid for referencing checks. I am about to file a small claims submission, but first I'd appreciate any advice/comments.

 

Basically what happened was put in an offer for a flat that he owns, and we believe he had accepted the offer (see email chain below). However when the tenancy agreement came through it was a higher amount than we agreed. I contacted him and he said he never accepted our offer, and the price is fixed.

 

We therefore decided not to move ahead with going for the flat because what he was asking was too high for the standard of the flat, and we didn't think it was safe to work with someone who acts in this manner.

 

I have tried talking to him about it but he refuses to accept that he should return the fee. I sent him a letter giving him 14 days notice before taking him to court, and he has again written back saying he will not return the fee. He says he never accepted our offer, and the price was on rightmove.co.uk.

 

Here are the emails between my wife and this landlord (I've blanked out names) where we put an offer to him, his response. I can't see however any way in which this can't be seen as acceptance of our offer.

 

We responded to this by negotiating an early release from our current landlord, so we could move in to meet the new landlords timescales. There were no subsequent discussions about the rental amount until I queried the amount showing on the tenancy agreement.

 

EMAIL TRAIL STARTS HERE....

 

Hi Charles,

 

Thank-you for arranging the viewing today, Graham was lovely and very helpful.

 

We liked the flat and are interested in renting the property from you, the only issue we have is it's slightly over what we had originally planned to spend. Would you be willing to consider £1200 per month please?

 

Thank you,

 

Emily

 

==============================================================================

Hi Emily,

 

Really pleased that you liked the flat and had a good viewing with Graham.

 

Graham said you are a really nice family and would be well suited in the flat and good tenants so I am keen to offer the flat to you.

 

What will help me make my final decision will be when you could take the flat on, do you have an ideal date to move in?

 

I would also ask if you can help give me some more info by filling in the attached document and send back to me. This will also assist with referencing if we go forward.

 

Thanks again and speak soon.

 

Charles

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Hi and welcome to CAG

 

From the email you have posted it does not look like the landlord actually accepted your offer. The landlord states he has not yet decided - he says he still needs to make his 'final decision'.

 

A legally binding contract requires both sides to have clearly and unconditionally accepted the key contract terms. Unless you have another email in which the landlord actually says he accepts your offer, I don't think you would have a realistic chance of succeeding through small claims.


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Hi and thanks for your response. I think in subsequent emails it's clear that he has accepted (see below), I can't see how it can be taken in any other way. Especially when he says "I would be happy to offer you the flat" and in the last email in the chain below "I am happy to proceed if you are"

 

============================================================================================================

 

Hi Emily,

 

Thanks for sending these back, I haven't had chance to look yet as I am replying from my phone but I will look later.

 

Is there anyway you would be able to move in sooner than the start of April?

 

My current tenant moves out at the end of Feb so it would leave me with one month without rent and a mortgage still to pay.

 

I can confirm that the property is unfurnished but yes it does come with white goods (cooker, hob, fridge, freezer & washing machine)

 

Previous landlord as a reference will be fine.

 

Yes the flat will be professionally cleaned once the current tenant moves out and you will be requested to also use a professional cleaning company when you move out as well.

 

Also Graham will go into the flat before you would move in to freshen up the flat with some painting, etc.

 

I would be happy to offer you the flat but my main issue is the month gap, is there anything you can do here? Would your current landlord let you leave earlier?

 

Let me know, thanks

 

Charles

 

=============================================================================================

 

Hi Charles,

 

We have spoken to our landlord, and he has agreed to release us slightly earlier. This means we would be able to move in on the 19th March.

 

Is that acceptable to you?

 

Regards,

 

Emily

 

================================================================================================================

 

Hi Emily,

 

Thank you for sorting this out and although this is not ideal, it is a lot better for me so I am happy to proceed if you are?

 

Shall I give the OK to start the referencing?

 

Charles

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" He says he never accepted our offer, and the price was on rightmove.co.uk. "

 

Was it?..I would assume it would have to be ?

 

So why did you offer £1200.00pcm ?

 

Regards

 

Andy

 

Thread moved to the correct Forum.


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Yes it was.... but I think that's irrelevant. It's common practice for people to offer under the asking price when either renting or buying property. I believe the email trail I have shown above is clear that he accepted the offer.

 

We offered less because the property did not match up with the advert. For example it said two double bedrooms and luxury bathroom, when there was only one double bedroom and the bathroom was far from luxury.

 

I think the real question is will the court agree with me from the emails I have shown on here that he accepted the offer.

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It looks to me like the landlord deliberately evaded responding to your offer, and you don't seem to have pushed to confirm.

 

How much were the fees?

 

Was there anything in the referencing documentation that mentioned the rent?

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This is a difficult one. I think the landlord has acted badly here - he should have told you if he didn't agree with your proposed price of £1200 per month.

 

I'm still not sure 'Happy to proceed' is enough for a legally binding contract though. I don't think this is enough for court because the landlord doesn't actually say that he accepts your offer at the proposed price of £1200 per month.

 

Can I ask roughly how much this fee was - did you see any T&Cs relating to the reference checks? If this fee was paid to the letting agency, might it be possible to go after the lettings agency for a refund? You would often get these fees back if the landlord pulls out.


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What was your response to 'shall I give the OK to start the referencing'?

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Normally credit ref and other checks are for LL to decide whether to offer a T before it starts. Quite poss LL would have accepted your lower offer if refs OK, but no refund for work carried out.

There was a separate, unwritten Contract between you and LL to supply/occupy. Since you withdrew before occupying, you are in breach of this Contract and for either reason, I don't think SCC will find in your favour.

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Surely in addition to his earlier comment of "keen to move forward", when he says "so I am happy to proceed if you are" that's acceptance?

 

Our response to his question about OK to start referencing is below....

 

There were no T&C's with the referencing..... in fact, he didn't even say there was a cost until we got an email from the referencing company.

 

I'd disagree that we pulled out as well. We wouldn't have done if he had stuck to what had been agreed initially.

 

Hi Charles,

 

Yes, we are very happy to proceed - thanks. Although it's not ideal for us either as we are going to be paying two sets of rent for a while in March, but I think it's a fair compromise all round. Thank-you for your help with this, and we appreciate it has inconvenienced you also.

 

Thanks,

 

Emily

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Oh sorry. Missed a response - no there was nothing in the reference documents that mentioned the rent.

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Yes, we are very happy to proceed - thanks.

 

There's your problem...you agreed to the referencing and that is what your money paid for.

 

Rather than kick up a fuss and pull out, you should have stuck to your guns and started re-negotiating. The LL was clearly keen not to have a void period, and he would likely have accepted the lower rent rather than miss out on maybe two months rent looking for new tenants.

 

Too late now...but in my view a court is highly unlikely to rule in your favour - there was no acceptance of your offer as in between that and the contract was the matter of referencing. The referencing took place, therefore it has to be paid for. You might get money back if the referencing costs were unreasonable, but I think you are barking up the wrong tree with the argument you are planning on putting forward.

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