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kibuc

My road to compensation

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Hi,

As requested by stuckin2up2down, I decided to provide some details about how I've been pursuing my former landlord for deposit protection details and, potentially, for compensation.

My fixed-term 12-month AST started on the 1st of August 2015, with deposit of 1860£ paid into LA account in late July. My tenancy agreement stated that my money would be protected in 1 of 3 available schemes, with all three of them listed, and that the details would be passed to me within 14 days. I haven't been given those details, though, neither within the 14 days, nor within 30 days prescribed by law, nor at any other point during our tenancy.

On the 1st of August 2016 my tenancy became periodic, as I refused to sign a new fixed term.

On the 22nd of April 2017 I was given a S21 notice with a standard 2-month waiting period, demanding that I vacate the property on the 31th of May 2017.

Note: I deemed the notice invalid due to breach of deposit protection rules, but decided not to overstay my welcome, found a new place over the weekend and issued my own 1-month notice on the 29th of March, effective on the 30th of April.

Also on the 29th, I email the LA asking for deposit protection details. I mentioned that I'd checked my protection status online and all my checks came back negative.

On the 30th, I got an email back from the LA, claiming that my LL registered the deposit, thinks it's with MyDeposits and will look for a certificate.

On the 13th of April I sent another email to the LA, asking for scheme details. They wrote me back, stating that it was the landlord who protected the deposit and holds that information, and that they emailed them about it.

On the 20th of April I sent a formal letter to my LL requesting information about my deposit protection scheme (template from Shelter website), and also filed it personally in the LA office.

On the 27th, I moved out.

On the 1st of May, my tenancy expired.

On the 8th of May I received an email from the LA about deposit deductions. It did not refer to deposit protection in any way, but still it contained some important elements:

  • Check-out inventory report
  • An invoice for the inventory
  • An information from the LA that "an immense amount of damage" was caused to the property, but the landlord agrees not to make deductions from our deposit, except for the cost of inventory check out as per our tenancy agreement. My money would be returned to me upon signing the attached document.
  • A ready-to-sign document, in which I agree to accept my deposit minus the check-out fee and that both me and the LL "relinquish all rights to any further claims".

I wrote back immediately, stating that I don't agree with her assessment of the damage, but won't go into details or dispute the report since the LL is willing to return the deposit anyway so there's no point. I also refused to sign the document, claiming that I'm still waiting for my deposit protection details, so I won't sign a document that could strip me of my rights in that aspect.

Note: That email was a bit confusing for me at first, as I could not understand why the LL would return my deposit in full if there was indeed "an immense amount of damage" to the property (which I obviously don't agree with). However, now I think it was simply a ploy to get me to drop my compensation claim, or maybe their first step in our negotiations - an offer of giving me my deposit back and not pursuing me for damages in return for me not pursuing them for deposit protection breach. I guess my LL probably know they're in breach of the regulations and that I want to chase them for that, but they might not be aware that I could chase them separately for the fixed term and the periodic, effectively doubling my compensation, so maybe they thought it a fair deal or at least a decent first bid. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it.

I estimate the cost we might have caused to the landlord to be under 500£ (repainting, professional cleaning, probably replacing one section of the kitchen worktop) and everything else to be a reasonable wear and tear. Some damage was overlooked in the check-in report, though, so I guess I'll have to cover that as well. Still, we're definitely talking triple-digits here in my opinion.

Also, I decided that I'd review and maybe dispute the inventory report anyway, just in case. Will get to it over the weekend.

Watch this space for further updates.

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I dont mean to deter you but I wouldn't post too much hear - a simple google search might show up your intentions or that you have been publishing their letters. Do go for maximum LL LA agro though!!!

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I'm trying to avoid signaling my future intentions, unless they're obvious. Also, I haven't given any personal details or anything else that could help link that story to specific persons or institutions. I think I'm good, I appreciate your concern though :)

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Ok, as long as you don't include any original text from emails you should be ok - I'm always a bit paranoid. And I have posted loads of stuff myself so should practice what I preach. The only thing that stops me giving major hassle to the landlord is my wife seems reticent to stand up for our rights. Case in point is we have a rodent problem and she would rather we deal with it. I have just explained how they would wriggle out if someone was electrocuted after the cables were gnawed through and we hadn't informed them of the problem. 

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Cannot edit the original post, so will continue here.

Update 9th of August 2017

Notes: Things went nuclear today. The landlord stroke first.

I received an email from the agency, confirming that their previous offer was in fact their offer to settle all claims from both parties in one go. The summary:

  • Landlord is aware that he failed to give me prescribed information and that's his first and final offer to resolve matters
  • Listed estimated costs of covering our damages (repainting the property and replacing carpets), around £4k in total
  • Claimed that the state of the property adversely affected sale price
  • Advised us not to take a gamble and settle

I responded, stating that

  • I disagree with their assessment of damages
  • Most of the property would have to be repainted and carpets would have to been replaced anyway, as it has not been done before we moved in and repainting the walls and replacing carpets every few years is a cost of running a business, and any adjudicator or judge will agree with me on that.
  • I agreed we might have caused the need to repaint bedrooms
  • I estimated costs of damages caused by us at $500
  • I would be seeking compensation for each agreement separately, putting the landlord on the hook for between £3.7k and £11k
  • Landlord should have told us the truth straight up, instead of ignoring our requests
  • I would be seeking joint compensation from the landlord and the agency, as Housing Act 2004 section 212(9) clearly puts the agency in breach of the same regulation
  • It's not a gamble, it's a slam-dunk
  • I'm happy to negotiate, but their initial "final" offer does not bode well.

Within an hour, the agency called me back:

  • What is it that I want
  • Landlord is the an old man who let for the first time and simply forgot about his obligations
  • Landlord did not protect my deposit at all
  • If I'm even thinking about pursuing the agency, I won't get far
  • Landlord really didn't want to kick me out, so don't make it personal
  • Money grab
  • Karma
  • The property has already been sold with keys exchanged on the 8th, and the buyer bought without viewing.

I informed the agency that I'd still be filing my letter before action later in the day and we can discuss matters after that. Also, I called her out on some pieces of misinformation, namely: it was not landlord's first let and we know exactly how old he is as we met him in person when he inspected the property last fall (duh!).

In the afternoon, I sent my joint letter before action against the landlord and the agent on the agent's email, requesting for my deposit to be paid back in full without deductions, as the property was under offer before any viewing or inspection took place, and informing them that I'd be seeking compensation in court if we don't settle matters in two weeks. Separately, I also quoted one of her previous emails from early April, where she states that the deposit has been protected and that the landlord would for the certificate.

Notes:

First, the agent had the saddest and the smoothest voice I've ever heard from a person. You could spread it on your toast to make one depressed sandwich. It honestly got me thinking for a moment that maybe I was doing the wrong thing.

Second, I think the part highlighted in bold really put cats among pigeons. I think every tenant should be aware that people operating on landlord's behalf as as much liable as the landlord himself when it comes to deposit protection rules. You can only demand return of your deposit from the person actually holding it, but you can claim for compensation from the landlord, agent or both.

And third, I think they just dug their own grave, both on the account of deposit deduction and on the account of defending our compensation claim. Will elaborate on it in the future.

Edited by kibuc

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Thank you Kibuc,

For the update. I'm a tenant so interesting to see how this works out for you. Hopefully it will.

They were trying to rip you off anyway over the redecorating. Don't feel sorry for them. 

Does your LL live in this country? Do you know what his financial position would be like?

I'm wondering what he would do to try and get out of this even if you get a court judgement against him.

p.s. I saw a progamme on TV about someone trying to recover a debt from a LA recently. Will post a link if I can find it again

 

 

Edited by Flopsy

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8 hours ago, Flopsy said:

I'm wondering what he would do to try and get out of this even if you get a court judgement against him.

Another HPCer (kaladorm?) got to the point where a court was days away from ordering the sale of the landlord's property in order to raise money to pay court-awarded compensation to the former tenants. At that point the landlord caved in and coughed up.

Housing is immobile and illiquid, landlords are sitting ducks when being chased by somebody they owe money to.

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Once the courts decide the property is to be sold, it will happen whether the owner complies or not. A judge can sign to exchange contracts in place of the owner, the funds from sale can go to the court first so that compensation is paid to the former tenant before transferring the remainder to the former landlord etc.

The courts really can transfer money from one person to another without the cooperation of the debtor. Judges are not very impressed by people who ignore court orders.

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According to the LA, the property has been already sold (without viewings!) and new owners received the keys on the 8th. The landlord wanted to sell quickly and "accepter an offer £50k below the market price". I was not in the mood to explain to her that the price you sell for on the open market is the market price.

 

So far, they have went through Grief, Anger and Defiance and are now asking about how much I want. Still, I think they'll try to regroup and hit back before they finally reach Acceptance.

 

Will keep you posted.

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Update 12th of May 2017

On the 11th of May I sent a veeery looong letter, structured like this:

  • Facts proven beyond doubt by definitive evidence
  • Our assumptions based on partial evidence, but not yet proven beyond doubt.
  • My assessment of those facts and assumptions
  • My estimate of possible figures awarded in the court resulting form the above.

I projected damage compensation awarded to the landlord in court to fall between (highly likely) £0 to (unlikely) £1000.

I projected deposit breach penalty to fall between £7440 and £11160.

I claimed that the lower end of that bracket would only possible if they drop their damage claim immediately.

I said that I expect their settlement offer to fall between £7440 and £11160.

Each cited figure was backed in the way mentioned above: facts - possible facts - assessment - figure.

At the end, I invited them to challenge it and present their figures in the same manner.

When it's all said and done, I might publish it here in full.

 

They responded on the same day

  • They strongly advise that I remove the agency from my equation
  • My logic on deposit compensation is flawed, because it's always 1x-3x regardless of the length of the tenancy
  • My reasoning for damage compensation is pointless, because all that judge takes into consideration are check-in and check-out reports
  • Landlord was an accidental offender and will surely be hit with the lowest fine possible
  • I should not take landlord's kindness for weakness

 

I responded, agreeing that length of the tenancy does not matter for damage compensation, but number of agreements clearly does, and we had two. Included two links for them to digest:

http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2013/08/05/why-a-periodic-tenancy-is-a-new-tenancy/

http://tenantprotect.co.uk/nine-times-the-deposit/

I demanded that she backed all her other claims with facts and reasoning, as "I think" wasn't good enough.

 

She responded, asking for a final figure I'm after, so they can present it to the landlord. Otherwise, I should start looking for a lawyer.

 

I wrote back, saying that I've already gave then enough in one go and now I'm waiting for landlord's response. I said I expected the landlord to put as much effort into his argumentation as I had into mine.

Edited by kibuc

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On 9.05.2017 at 10:07 PM, Flopsy said:

They were trying to rip you off anyway over the redecorating. Don't feel sorry for them.

Is is a ripoff indeed, but for a whole different reason. They didn't actually do any redecorating, they only said how much it "would have" costed to do it. They sold the flat a few days after our tenancy ended, and what they are claiming for is reduction in sale price. The kicker is, there have been no viewings when we lived there, so the buyer most likely bought without it. How there're gonna prove that we made them reduce their sale price, is going to be very interesting to see indeed.

The way I see it, they have no case, but I'm not sure they are aware of it. They seem to be in the mindset of "there was damage, so there must be compemsation for it", which is totally not how deposit deduction works - you don't claim for damages, you claim for actual costs you suffered, and you must prove - on balance of probabilities - that the cost was a result of my wrongdoing. Proving such thing in the context of sale price reduction is a tricky piece of business even in normal circumstances. It the property has been a long-term let with no refurbishment in years, and the buyer knows it*, it's even trickier. If there were no viewings, I think it's impossible.

 

* How does the buyer know it without viewings? That's the best part - it's our neighbour from downstairs. The flat is an upper-floor Victorian conversion, and she lived directly underneath it for 12 or so years. She simply sold her old flat downstairs and bought the upper one, most likely cash. She had all the bargaining power you can dream of.

Edited by kibuc

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Update 16th of May 2017

Things went a bit quiet now, as I'm awaiting their response.

In the meantime, I got in touch with the new owner (and my former neighbor). Apparently, she's "in very good relationship with J. [the landlord]", they already warned her that I "looking for ways to cheat them" and may try to "approach her with tricky question" and won't speak to me. Wow!

Anyway, it forced me to pay £3 for a title deed from Land Registry and have my questions answered that way.

She better reported all her tax income for all those years she had been lodging :) 

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9 hours ago, Dorkins said:

Why did your former neighbour want to move from the downstairs to the upstairs?

My guess is she wanted to downsize and cash in - her place downstairs was much larger, well maintained, with private back garden. I think she completed the swap with extra 150k-200k in her pocket.

Also, she used to let out her spare bedrooms, but in the last year or so we've seen it dry out. From a financial standpoint, I can only applaud her decision.

Having said that, I believe it was in fact her that initiated the whole process and got us kicked out (we used to be at odds due to our kids running around), so sod her.

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Good effort on holding your nerve.

These are nothing but scum trying to stiff you. Shaft them. Take it all the way - and anonymous inform HMRC on any dodgy dealings. Screw them.

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Update 23.05.2017

On the 18.05.2017 the landlord wrote me back:

* They checked with an "expert" in the field and are confident they are liable for only 1x-3x penalty regardless of the fixed term having rolled into periodic

* They reassessed their claim and now they want £2k in damages. They provided bills for their previous re-carpeting and repainting, and expected me to cover most of painting and roughly 25% of carpeting, plus cleaning.

* They are willing to settle for 2x penalty for deposit protection breach. However, they feel blameless, as they paid the agency to handle all things related to our tenancy.

* In total, they offer a total payment of roughly £3.5k.

 

I responded, claiming that

* My expert claims their expert is wrong. I referred them both to relevant legal acts (see below), and to actual court rulings in similar cases.

* Their bills are from 2007. If that's the last time they repainted and re-carpeted (not 2013, as I assumed before), then they have no case at all.

* I'd expect my liability to be max £700 if I mess up my defense in court, but I'm willing to accept £1k if we settle all our issues and avoid the hassle of going to court.

* If the agency shifts the blame on the landlord and landlord shifts it back to the agency, I have no other option to take them both to court and let the judge untangle this, and decide how to split their bill. In court I'd be going for full 6x, but I'll accept their 2x (for each agreement, so 4x in total) if they set their story straight and we settle all our claims and couterclaims.

Cited acts:

Housing Act 1988 section 5

Housing Act 2004 sections 212-215

Localism Act 2011 section 184

Cited cases:

Kazadi v Martin Brookes Lettings Estate Agents Limited & Faparusi, Edmonton County Court, 14 May 2015

Akrigg v Pigeon, County Court at Chippenham and Trowbridge, 25 September 2015

Superstrike ltd v Rodrigues 2013 EWCA Civ 669

 

On the 23.05.2017 they said they'll be returning my deposit minus check-out costs later in the day.

That's one of the things I requested in my letter before action, so I think they're laying ground for their court defense, trying to avoid 6x.

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Do you have legal training? I'm impressed by your ability to cite the relevant acts and case law.

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On 5/23/2017 at 10:07 PM, Dorkins said:

Do you have legal training? I'm impressed by your ability to cite the relevant acts and case law.

No, it's Uncle Google mostly. It went more or less like this:

1. Read about deposit protection on Shelter website

2. Google some stuff found on Shelter

3. Find landlordlawblog.co.uk entries about googled stuff, with references to Housing Act 2004

4. Read Housing Act 2004 212-215 and draw conclusions

5. Google my conclusions

6. Find more stuff on landlordlawblog and other sources, pointing to even more legal acts and cases (Housing Act 1988 chapter 5, Localism Act 2011 section 184, Superstrike case)

7. Separately, Google for damage compensation after landlord sold the flat

8. Find even more stuff on landlordlawblog, pointing to Landlord and Tenant Act 1927 section 18

9. Read all those acts (not as boring as it sounds, but quite challenging for a foreigner) and draw even more conclusions

8. Google my new conclusions

9. Find a lot of anecdotal evidence on various landlord blogs

10. Find nearlylegal blog and learn about real-life court cases (amazing resource, highly recommended)

11. Obtain legal advice from two separate sources, to confirm or deny all those findings and my understanding of them (quite costly, so I wanted to do my own research first).

 

So, with the power of Google, in a few weeks I went from not knowing shit to knowing that:

* I can chase my landlord for compensation

* I can chase my landlord for each agreement separately

* I can chase his agent, too

* I can also chase him for retroactive rent reduction due to some repairs not being carried out during tenancy (I still keep this one in my sleeve)

* I should be able to defend his claim against damages

 

and also being able to:

* Quote relevant acts supporting the above

* Quote court rulings supporting the above

 

But it was still a relief to have two independent solicitors confirm that my findings are correct and relevant to my case.

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Update 26.05.2017

Landlord came back to me, agreeing on my offer of £1000 in damage compensation and even upping his offer to 2.5x the amount of deposit for lack of deposit protection. Wow!

However, they stick by their claim that I'm only eligible for a single compensation, and they attached a letter from their legal advisor clarifying their reasoning.

 

In response, I wrote directly to their legal advisor, pointing out inaccuracies in his reasoning and urging him to contact his client immediately and reassess their position.

 

Notes: things are getting increasingly interesting, as I have to graduate from arguing with landlords and agents to arguing with lawyers - assuming that they respond to me in the first place. Then again, it should be a good warm-up before our case hits the court, which now seems more and more likely.

I like it how the landlord went from "we could f*ck you and your dog if we wanted to" to "let's discuss, we wish your family well" to "take our money". However, once he obtained legal advice, I think he'll stick by it and take his chances in court, unless I can persuade his lawyer to reconsider. I know I can rebuff his claims, but even if I do, will he be willing to admit to the landlord that he was wrong? Where do you go, if the lawyers don't know the law?

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Have you considered what level of offer the landlord could make to you that you would accept and so not go to court?

Looks like you have now agreed 1k for your damage to the property.

So the remaining issue is the deposit... My understanding is the Judge has discretion between 1 and 3 times. So their offer of 2.5 times is the same as the judge making a 1.25 times order for BOTH tenancies and better than if the judge ordered only 1 times for BOTH tenancies... just saying!

Anyway good luck!

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20 hours ago, xela57 said:

Have you considered what level of offer the landlord could make to you that you would accept and so not go to court?

Looks like you have now agreed 1k for your damage to the property.

So the remaining issue is the deposit... My understanding is the Judge has discretion between 1 and 3 times. So their offer of 2.5 times is the same as the judge making a 1.25 times order for BOTH tenancies and better than if the judge ordered only 1 times for BOTH tenancies... just saying!

Anyway good luck!

Very good piece of advice.  I think you've won.  

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On 27/05/2017 at 11:57 AM, xela57 said:

Have you considered what level of offer the landlord could make to you that you would accept and so not go to court?

Looks like you have now agreed 1k for your damage to the property.

So the remaining issue is the deposit... My understanding is the Judge has discretion between 1 and 3 times. So their offer of 2.5 times is the same as the judge making a 1.25 times order for BOTH tenancies and better than if the judge ordered only 1 times for BOTH tenancies... just saying!

Anyway good luck!

My offer is well-known to them and non-negotiable. £1k to them for damage compensation, 4x the deposit (£7440)  to us for lack of deposit protection. It does not mean that I accept or admit that we costed the landlord £1k - it's just a bone I'm throwing their way for avoiding the hassle of going to court.

Should we meet in court, I'd be going for full 6x for lack of deposit protection, defend any counterclaim for anything other than cleaning costs, and I'd throw in my own claim for disrepair compensation for good measure (£3k-£4k). That last bit is more speculative than the rest, but a 5x-6x penalty for their mismanagement of my deposit is a near-sure thing. The fact that they're offering 2.5x for a single deal shows that they know that, too.

1x-1.5x is what my current landlord will be facing - she protected my deposit a week too late, but eventually did so, without me even asking. She also issued prescribed information with incorrect post code, so formally she still hasn't complied with regulation, but it's clear that she had every intention to do the right thing. The fact that she's a professional landlord with 20+ years of experience plays to her disadvantage, but I think 1x would still be quite likely. Besides, I will only play this card if we run into some ugly deposit dispute.

My former landlord failed to protect my deposit throught 21 months (and two tenancies), and when asked about it, he first lied to us that our deposit was protected, then ignored our subsequent requests, then illegally kept it after our tenancy ended and threatened to withhold it until we give in to his demands. Good luck hoping for that 1x ;)

Edited by kibuc

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On 28/05/2017 at 4:56 PM, kibuc said:

My offer is well-known to them and non-negotiable. £1k to them for damage compensation, 4x the deposit (£7440)  to us for lack of deposit protection. It does not mean that I accept or admit that we costed the landlord £1k - it's just a bone I'm throwing their way for avoiding the hassle of going to court.

Should we meet in court, I'd be going for full 6x for lack of deposit protection, defend any counterclaim for anything other than cleaning costs, and I'd throw in my own claim for disrepair compensation for good measure (£3k-£4k). That last bit is more speculative than the rest, but a 5x-6x penalty for their mismanagement of my deposit is a near-sure thing. The fact that they're offering 2.5x for a single deal shows that they know that, too.

Wouldn't the fact that you've offered £1k for damage be taken to mean that you accept you caused £1k of damage? Would a court take the view that if you don't accept or admit that you caused that why would you offer it? IANAL, just something to think about.

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Just now, Riedquat said:

Wouldn't the fact that you've offered £1k for damage be taken to mean that you accept you caused £1k of damage? Would a court take the view that if you don't accept or admit that you caused that why would you offer it? IANAL, just something to think about.

Settlement negotiations are generally not admissible in court by provisions of Evidence Act. Any offer made during "without prejudice" negotiations cannot be considered admission of guilt, and in Vestergaard Frandsen v Bestnet Europe [2013] the Supreme Court upheld the view that it extends to replies to such offers, even if the reply itself was not made "without prejudice". It can only be used during the trial to challenge untruthful statements, or after the trial - to establish liability for court costs.

On top of that, I was explicit about my £1k not being my perceived liability for damages, but my "thank you" gesture for settling things outside the court room. I think I have that base covered.

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