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Question From Tenant Regarding Deposit Deductions

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Hello. I've just moved out from a room where I've lodged with a live-in landlady for the last 4 years (49 months, in fact). There was no tenancy agreement and no inventory (a mistake I would not make again!). I paid a deposit of £300 when I moved in.

I have taken a few pictures of the condition of the room as I left it when I moved out.

The room (downstairs, converted from lounge):
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/room%201%20IMG_0159_zpsvctmmw2v.jpg.html?sort=3&o=6
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/room%202%20IMG_0175_zpsruyfwd5b.jpg.html?sort=3&o=4
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/room%203%20IMG_0180_zps2ekavtuy.jpg.html?sort=3&o=3
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/room%204%20IMG_0181_zpsknkz0n7l.jpg.html?sort=3&o=2

The landlady has so far refused to give back any of my deposit. She insists that the room needs to be "fully redecorated" and that the carpet must be "professionally cleaned". On the other hand, I contend that there has been no damage made to the room, just normal wear and tear over the 49-month tenancy.

In particular, she referenced four problems:

(1) She claims there is damage/stain to the wall above the bed. I contend that this is normal wear and tear, a result of the pillows rubbing against the wall over 49 months - and a consequence of there being no headboard.
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/bed%20IMG_0236_zps0tc9qxsb.jpg.html?sort=3&o=0

(2) She claims there is damage/stain to the wall below the light switch. I contend that this is normal wear and tear, a result of fumbling for the light switch over 49 months.
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/lightswitchfloor%20IMG_0160_zpsrlzvs6gr.jpg.html?sort=3&o=5

(3) She claims there is damage to the carpet just inside the door. I contend that this is normal wear and tear from 49 months of coming in and out of the door. It's barely visible in the image or in real life.
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/lightswitchfloor%20IMG_0160_zpsrlzvs6gr.jpg.html?sort=3&o=5

(4) She claims there is damage/stain to the wall below the window (to the left of the radiator). I contend that this is normal wear and tear. This is where I placed my recycling bag over the 49-month period, so maybe some minor spills occurred on the wall, although it's barely noticeable. Note that the apparent stain on the carpet is just water, where I cleaned the waste paper bin and it was a little damp when I placed it back in position (it's not in the picture because I moved it to photograph the wall).
http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/jms123123/media/room/underwindow%20IMG_0231_zpsthpppqm1.jpg.html?sort=3&o=1

I contend that all of these 'problems' are reasonable wear and tear. I would concede a small deduction for cleaning, but I don't think the room requires being "fully redecorated".

I would be interested to hear what people think about this? What amount would you think a fair deduction for minor cleaning, if any?
Thanks for reading!

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I'd say your first step is to figure out what type of tenancy you had.

e.g. If you were renting in England, this should help you to figure it out:

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/downloads_and_tools/tenancy_checker

I'd guess that you were probably an "excluded occupier".

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/sharing_and_subletting/excluded_occupiers

Unfortunately my impression is that there's not much legal protection for excluded occupiers so if you were one it may be difficult practically to get your deposit back from your former landlady if you dispute the deductions.

You could give Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau a ring:

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/how_we_can_help/housing_advice_helpline

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-we-provide-advice/advice/

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I think it would be reasonable to consider that in four years there is wear and tear, and so she should return your deposit.

On the other hand from her perspective your £300 deposit is probably not enough to cover the cost of redecoration and cleaning. So she may feel if anything that you ought to cough up some more money for the "damage" you did! (If she tried it would probably be as difficult for her to get extra compensation from you as it would be for you to get your deposit back though)

If you got on well and think she'll listen to reason, perhaps try explaining that it is normal to expect some costs after a long tenancy (4 years seems quite long as people often month after 6 months or a year). Part of your rent should be considered a contribution to these costs.

Again, on the other hand, if your rent was low (and if she didn't increase it) perhaps she thinks she did you a favour and therefore feels entitled to help herself to your deposit.

So if she was a reasonable person, try reasoning with her first, then.... revenge!

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Those all look like reasonable wear and tear to me - and she's totally taking the mick that there's £300 of "damage" here.

You are in a similar position as I was with my final tenancy. Long tenancy, friendly if fairly useless landlord right up until it came for time to get my money back - then turned into a total ****. Of our £500 deposit, he proposed to return £12 (later nothing because he'd got the hump with my frankly restrained emails). In the end, I regarded it as effectively under a tenner a month additional rent and wished a professional tenant on him (my missus' curses were rather stronger!)

I wonder if the wall is the ubiquitous magnolia. If so, you could perhaps give it a lick of paint yourself.

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Thanks for the replies. Yes I was a lodger - despite have the fewest rights (and no deposit protection scheme), I imagine it's still possible for me to get my deposit back by small claims court if necessary?

The situation has escalated a little. She is now demanding that I pay her extra money for the cost of new carpets, paint and rollers, decorator costs, and a bunch of other garbage - because she contends that the room requires a full redecoration. (It's worth noting that she has recently redecorated her kitchen and lounge, so now she apparently wants this room done - at my expense.)

Given that there was no tenenacy agreement, and therefore no specific details as to how the room should be left at my exit (good or bad), surely I could just say "this was never agreed, I want me deposit back"? Is there some law that I'm unaware of that gives her reason to assume that my room should be fully redecorated 'as standard'. To me, it seems entirely unreasonable.

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She sounds incredibly unreasonable. The worst landlords are the ones who are too emotionally attached to their properties and treat several years' normal wear and tear like a personal assault. Ironically the ones who seem to care so much about the condition of their properties are also the ones who budget for and spend the least on routine maintenance.

Are you in contact with her by phone? If I were you I'd switch to written communication like letters or email only, tell her you are doing this and don't pick up if she calls.

Good on you for considering the small claims route, best of luck if you decide to pursue it.

Edited by Dorkins

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Mine tried to charge us for an extra £700 too. One of the kitchen floor joists had apparently become detached, and the landlord wanted to charge us for the repair. Apparently we should have reported it. We probably would have done had we ever noticed it (it required a trip to the dank cellar to do so).

Suspect she has taken that route because she's hoping you'll be satisfied with just giving her your deposit. That room is in seriously good condition considering its been lived in continuously for four years.

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