Didn’t protect deposit and tenant turned nasty taking us to court for 6 times deposit!

by Readers Question

2 years ago

Didn’t protect deposit and tenant turned nasty taking us to court for 6 times deposit!

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Didn’t protect deposit and tenant turned nasty taking us to court for 6 times deposit!

My husband and I have a converted garage annex flat on side of our property and we rented it out in November 2014, we advertised over Gumtree and a couple offered us £850 rent and they gave us £850 deposit. We held the deposit in a separate account which was only used for the deposit and rent. I had rented a flat many years ago and I just did the same this time. We just didn’t know anything about the DPS. we were just were not clued up enough. This was a side income that helped pay the bills while I was off work with our baby. The couple were lovely, shared our garden and everyone was happy.nasty

The 6months tenancy finished in May 15 and the couple really wanted a new year long contract. We agreed and did another tenancy agreement with them. Once this was signed everything changed, he began operating a builders business from this small annex flat, they dumped building rubbish and things in and around the property, mixers, concrete, rubble.

They became noisy, dirty and wanted to build outside. We sent them an email asking them to abide by the tenancy agreement and if they could not, we were happy for them to give us notice.

In August they gave us 1 months notice which we accepted. We found another tenant to move in earlier which worked for everyone. There were a few things that needed doing, carpets cleaning, plastering bits, repainting because of the mess they made. They said they would do it but in the end they didn’t. So we got the work done, agreed everything with them, agreed any costs before taking from their deposit. We then provided all receipts and we paid them back £450 of their £850. We did the check out inventories, gave them receipts for everything, doing check out correctly.

Our new tenant asked if his deposit would be held in an escrow account which started me looking online and we realised then that we should have done this before and that we needed to use a DPS scheme now which we promptly did for the new tenant.

We didn’t think much more about it, but today we received a letter from a solicitor (I think its a no win no fee company). The first tenants are taking us to court for not holding the deposit in a DPS. They solicitors are demanding £5,100. They say the tenants are owed 3 x £850 for the first tenancy (6 months) and a further 3 x £850 for the year long tenancy agreement. Although we did not take any additional deposit.

Now having read and read forum articles and information we know that they can take us to court and the court can slap a penalty of between 1x – 3x the £850 deposit. But would they do that on the rolled over second tenancy agreement? I don’t think the tenants even have any of the tenancy agreements as they dumped them in the bin when they left, does that help our case? Should we see a solicitor asap?

Can you help us at all? We know ignorance isn’t a factor that the law takes into account!! but what can we do now to hope for minimal damage to us?

We are in a bit of a state, this is so much money for us

They have phoned us early hours of the morning, laughing and jeering and sent us texts and come back in their van and dumped building rubbish outside our house.

Thanks in advance



David Price

2 years ago

As always this is complicated but it is the tenant's claim and for them to prove their case. If they paid by cheque or electronic transfer then they have an audit trail but if they paid cash then how are they going to prove anything? The rules concerning renewed contracts changed recently to the landlord's advantage so the double claim may not be valid.

No win no fee solicitors are the bane of society, I have about three spurious claims a year, my son works for a housing association with 12,000 properties and they have a dozen a week.

Steven Burman

2 years ago


You sound like a decent, well intentioned person and I sympathise with your situation.

I will leave others more knowledgeable than I to advise you on the issue of the unprotected deposit. However, the first thing you should do is report the phone calls, texts and dumping of rubbish to the police. This is clearly harrassment and is unacceptable. Insist that the police investigate and that they make contact with these people. If they see that you are serious they may think twice about persuing you for the deposit money.

I realise this is unpleasant and probably goes against your nature but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Good luck

Steve Burman

Ian Narbeth

2 years ago

Dear Laura
Get advice from a solicitor immediately. He or she can advise on the best tactics. Unfortunately under this draconian legislation the court has discretion but only to award the tenant between one and three times the value of the deposit. I doubt the court will be impressed by the argument that there are two deposits but it all depends on the facts of the case. You are looking at a cost of £850 minimum.

If you try it on your own without professional advice, expect to lose badly. The no win no fee company will be taking a large percentage of what they recover and will fight aggressively against unrepresented parties. By virtue of having a solicitor, you show that you are well advised.

Do not bother going to Citizens Advice - they have a policy of never helping landlords.

Ian Narbeth

2 years ago

I have just read the last part of your post again. I recommend you keep copies of all the texts to show the judge and take photos of the dumped materials. You may not want to escalate it but on the face of it dumping building materials outside your house, if they trespass onto your property may be criminal damage. The texts may constitute illegal harassment. As said, get legal advice immediately and contact the police about the matter.

2 years ago

Laura - if you need some legal help check out my profile - I have dealt with cases like this a few times.

Romain Garcin

2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ian Narbeth" at "08/10/2015 - 11:37":

"Unfortunately under this draconian legislation the court has discretion but only to award the tenant between one and three times the value of the deposit. I doubt the court will be impressed by the argument that there are two deposits but it all depends on the facts of the case."

Unfortunately, there are 2 tenancies. Which means 2 deposits were received and 2 breaches occurred. The penalty for each breach is up to 3x deposit.
Therefore 6x deposit is a possibility though it seems unlikely.

Alan R

2 years ago

Be prepared - if they phone you again put it on speaker phone and record the conversation. Any appearance at your property to harass you or dump anything should be recorded on video. Don't retaliate to any harassment - stay calm, let them make the mistakes.

As advised, get good legal advice.

laura barter

2 years ago

Many thanks for all your replies.
David - The tenant always paid via bank transfer. Yes, the internet seems to be littered with these no win, no fee sue landlord claims. It appears to be PPI for landlords.

Steven - Its strange, everyone told us to report them to council & police for dumping the rubbish as they did but I shrugged it off as spiteful so didn't bother but now I think we should, yes.

Ian - We are looking for a solicitor now, I have done additional research till early hours of the morning and feel we may have an argument that may help us (which will get on to in a moment) but yes, we need a professional now, time is critical. No win no fee solicitors will annihilate us. I have taken photos of the builders rubbish, the call is off my call history now but I have the texts.

Romain - But we only took one deposit, it was clear on agreement. We didn't want another tenancy agreement for the year we wanted to roll it monthly but the tenant was insistent they wanted it and we just were naive and thought it didn't matter really.

Now this is what we gleamed over night. Could you consider this?
I stumbled across the Shelter site and negotiated through the their which tenancy questionaire. I'm not sure an AST is the right one here. If they did rent under an AST then we would have been required to put deposit in a DPS. Our agreements with them (which they binned) just stated tenancy agreement.

We reside here, in the house, it is our only family house. The annexe is a converted garage, (along the front there is an unusable garage door), we are connected, we share side entrances, the garden, patio. We (not the tenants) use the loft space in the annexe continuosly for storage so we were always going in. We share the sheds and outbuildings and the pool and pool changing room. They even use our fridge in pool house. We provide the weekly cleaning for the annexe, I did it or a cleaner did it (it was written into the agreement), we provided bin liners/recycling bag and sorted it all for them too on recycling day. They used our tumble drier and freezer in the utility room. We paid the one council tax bill, water, electricity bill for the whole house (i mean including garage annexe) when they were there. (That is just changing this month). There is one address, not a separate address for the garage, so we shared the post box and I took deliveries and their shopping for them. Sorry to ramble but you see where I'm going....We consider this one house.

On the RLA site it Note: If any of the following apply to you as landlord then the two types of assured shorthold tenancy (AST & AST room only) referred to may well not be suitable for your requirements and you should consider an alternative form of agreement as listed below.
This applies where –
You reside in the same house/building but you do not share any living accommodation with the tenant (i.e. you do not share bathroom, toilet, kitchen or living room) and your own residence in the house/building is your only or main home. - ((Wouldn't we come under this one?)) Could we be classed as a resident landlord?

On the landlord law blog it notes....'Tenancies granted by resident landlords are not ASTs – this is specifically set out in schedule 1 (10) of the Housing Act 1988. This means that your tenancy will fall under the common law and slightly different rules will apply to those which apply to assured and assured shorthold tenancies.'

This talks more about resident landlords. http://www.letlink.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=332:resident-landlord&catid=81:topic-introductions&Itemid=100075

I know its a case of will they consider the building the same building or at least same house (as on RLA) and I think we could argue it is, it looks like it is from the front of the property and the arguments for resident landlord on the legal cases on this link also support us somewhat. I think it could be quite hard for them to argue definitevly it should be an AST and if it looks more difficult than their 'no win, no fee' legal boffin to win on that basis then they might just be put off......Could it??

The garage was converted 20 years or more ago btw.

Also, Given we were providing services, cleaning (clearly detailed in agreement) We could argue they were considered an 'excluded occupier'...according to shelter website and here too. http://www.lodgerlandlord.co.uk/2010/03/22/five-tips-on-how-to-avoid-creating-a-tenancy-when-renting-a-granny-annex/

Regardless of what our paperwork say (tenancy agreement), what the law considers the rental situation would surely over rules the paperwork?

(Have everything crossed that this could help us! :))
many thanks again for your replies.

Steven Burman

2 years ago


Good luck. Your non-AST argument sounds promising.

By the way, my partner is a police officer and agrees that you should report the harrassment. It is not spiteful, you are protecting your interests from unscruplulous people.

Your telephone provider should still have a record of the call even if it is no longer on your call log.


laura barter

2 years ago

Here it states again if renting out a granny annexe or garden flat in your house then its not AST but a common law tenancy.


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