Tenant sueing over unprotected deposit – A cautionary note

by Readers Question

10:12 AM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Tenant sueing over unprotected deposit – A cautionary note

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Tenant sueing over unprotected deposit – A cautionary note

As landlords of some 30 years, we served notice on a tenant in October 2013 who had been with us for 10 years.caution

In 2003, when we initially rented the flat to this lady who worked for the NHS in HR in Wolverhampton, all was fine and dandy and at this time deposit protection wasn’t even born.

As the tenancy progressed the tenant became more difficult to manage and a complete hoarder. We took the view that this was becoming a risk to us, as our central heating guy wasn’t being let in to service the boiler and the amount of clutter and stuff piled into the flat was becoming a fire risk. We also could not carry out any renovation work as she had not reported certain issues with the flat that needed attention.

This is the important bit….. We didn’t protect her tenancy as she started with us before the law came into force. It just slipped through the net, not intentionally, but it did……… But 2 years after she left and a 17K refurb bill for us to bring the flat back to rentable standard, she is suing us for not protecting her deposit. To a tune of 15.3K …….. £390 x 3 x 13 tenancies ( 6 month assured shorthold tenancies ) …….

The irony is we’ve protected everyone since the act came into place religiously, but this one slipped through the net. It’s looking like a very costly mistake…….

The lady got her deposit of £300 back less a broken lamp shade at £15.00 after 10 years of abusing the flat, but is still suing for 15.3K which we feel is a little disproportionate. She did use her deposit as her last month’s rent which is against the tenancy agreement, but that doesn’t seem to matter to our solicitor.

So if you have tenancies that are not protected, get them registered now before you get stuffed like we currently are.

And if you rent flats in Tettenhall in Wolverhampton and took on a lady tenant in Jan 2014, best of luck……

Any advice or comments welcome !

Steve



Comments

Neil Patterson

10:16 AM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Steve,

I can't believe a Judge would award such an astronomical amount against you for one small mistake.

However I would have an initial chat with our friends at Cotswold Barristers just in case. Please see the contact form on Mark Smith (Barrister-At-Law) members profile page >> http://www.property118.com/member/?id=1945

Romain Garcin

10:27 AM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Steve,

Until April 2012 it wasn't possible to sue after the tenancy in question had ended.

If you served notice on your tenant in October 2013 then I suppose that no new tenancy was created after that date apart perhaps from a statutory periodic AST.

So that means she can in fact only sue for 2 or 3 tenancies, which is a massively lower maximum penalty.

She has also 6 years from the breach to sue. So in any case that means she can only sue for breaches that occurred after 2010.

On a side note, this is one of the reasons that make me think that it is not beneficial to keep granting fixed term tenancies, especially for only 6 months.

Steve Dalloway

10:41 AM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Thanks for that, its quite disappointing to think this tenant who we bent over backwards to help over the 10 years, wants to use a law that is designed for rogue landlords rather than very caring ones like us to make money ! In effect she lost nothing other than a nominal £15.00 for a broken lampshade. I cant believe a judge would award against us but can we take that risk ? Landlords have a bad name right now in general, so any judge we feel would look to award the maximum penalty against us.

Steve Dalloway

10:43 AM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Neil Patterson" at "04/04/2016 - 10:16":

Thanks Neil,

We will have to wait and see....... Our solicitor is working on this with council right now. But I will pass your councils details onto my solicitor to see if any further advice could be taken. A small mistake may cost us dearly.....

Romain Garcin

11:00 AM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Steve,

I would start by discarding the spurious claims (which your solicitor should have already done) then try to settle for the remaining tenancies.

3x deposit is 'only' £1,170. The court fees will be about the same and legal costs may be more: Those costs may end costing you more than the penalty so try to settle quickly and not to let it go to court.

Gary Nock

11:43 AM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Steve it looks like either the tenant has read about it somewhere, has been advised to do it by Citizens Advice or Shelter, or has got one of these PPI style "no win no fee" parasite law firms. I agree that 15k is a lot of money. But never underestimate the Judges. Some are quite fair but some love beating up landlords. Romain knows his stuff so what he says is right to be honest. The 15k figure is the opening gambit so it's a process of negotiation I think. Hope it all works out.

JohnCaversham

13:10 PM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Can't you counter with a claim for the refurbishment costs which are well in excess of fair wear and tear??

Steve Dalloway

13:24 PM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

We had thought of that !

Steve Dalloway

13:27 PM, 4th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Gary Nock" at "04/04/2016 - 11:43":

Yes I agree she's with one of the no win no fee brigade, but we have some good guys on the team here and will do what we can to challenge it. All for the want of protecting a deposit, quite sad what some people will do for money in this litigious society we live in nowadays.......

AA

17:22 PM, 9th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Am I missing something ? First tenancy begins deposit taken. Second tenancy begins No deposit (as in there is no deposit that has been submitted to the landlord.) Third tenancy - same as second. - the breach was only once ergo maximum 3 x deposit plus deposit !

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