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Dodgy Agent/ Ex Partner and Opportunist Tenants = Sleep Deprived Landlord

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Author Topic: Dodgy Agent/ Ex Partner and Opportunist Tenants = Sleep Deprived Landlord  (Read 104 times)
Posts: 1

I like property

« on: August 23, 2021, 11:40:14 AM »

 I would like to know where I stand in relation to tenants wanting to claim back their deposit and 3 times the amount, due to late protection and late PI.
However, I feel that I need to give a bit of background info first, so please bear with me.
I have owned the property for over a decade. Its a sui generis student house. Let on 12 month joint ASTs throughout.
However whilst I am the landlord in all intents and purposes, ie my name on deeds, I pay mortgage, bills and my name is on licences etc  I have had absolutely no control over it until last summer. My ex partner had complete control, managing it through his letting agency. I was given just enough to cover the mortgage and that was pretty much it. No say in the tenants, never held a deposit and for a long time did not even have keys for it. (I know I sound really stupid and weak but I was in a controlling and coercive relationship for many years - which has also been recorded by the police)
Then fast forward ten years and I finally see sense and decide to take back control. Initially tried to sell it but ex made it mere impossible to obtain any documentation required by solicitors. In the end I kept it and through the little info I had from the solicitor I contacted the new tenants that were due to move in, in 2 months time and advised them that I will be managing when they do move in.
Ex was telling me very little and refusing to give over the file. Saying it was incomplete and that not everyone had signed the contract and he only had holding deposits for them (not confirmed).
This led to me contacting TDS who advised to protect the deposit, whether or not it is a holding deposit and despite me not actually having it. I protected it immediately.
Then just over 30 days later I finally took full control of my property. This was the day the tenants moved in and the first time we'd met. They signed a comprehensive inventory and the PI. I had previously emailed them the certificate BUT not the PI.
They turned out to be very messy tenants that had little respect for my property and treated it like a party house. Despite this I bent over backwards for them, giving them whatever they wanted, going over out of hours when they mistakenly told me there was a gas leak/ a water leak and when the electrics had blown (all sep occasions and none true) I also cleaned up after their parties when they left for the holidays and left the house in a state, all free of charge.
I had to have pest control out for various issues. - due to their uncleanliness.
Come the end of the tenancy they've caused around 2000 worth of damage /cleaning/ rubbish removal. - which exceeds their joint deposit (which i have still never recovered from ex)
I offer them a settlement figure and waivered almost half the charges. They refused stating that whilst they agree with them, they are going to take me to court to get it all of it back plus the 3 times. - not sure if this is for late protection/ late giving PI or both.
One of them however has since emailed me separately as he states that I was a brilliant landlord and would like to settle as he feels that I am being really fair and appreciates all the deductions from the overall charges. He says that the others have just got greedy when they've learnt they could get thousands off me and morally he does not agree with this (his words not mine) he even apologised on their behalf.
I would like to know 1. Have I inadvertently broken the law? I protected the deposit as soon as I was aware and advised to do so. (Ex never protected, but believe some / all payment was made several months prior to me contacting TDS)2. When does the 30 day rule start? As the legislation states it is when the landlord receives it, but I never did. Yes in normal circumstances the agent is acting on my behalf, but I literally had no control or knowledge of its existence until too late and had no information required in order to protect it. And they signed the PI on the day I took full control and only a few weeks after the contract was complete and binding. (Although to this day my name and details are still not on the contract and I have not been given it or the deposit.)
I have paid the nice tenant back his deposit minus the deductions and he has stated in writing that he will not proceed with a court claim. Can the others still go to court without his support?
I will put in a counter claim if necessary as I am doubly out of pocket. Will it essentially mean that I am held responsible and then it would be up to me to pursue any claim against the ex / agent separately?  - as I am extremely reluctant to do this given the circumstances.
Any help in regard with this will be much appreciated.
Global Moderator
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2021, 02:24:23 PM »

I have read through this twice,as it is hard to focus on such a block of text.I am still unclear about how long it took to protect the deposit. As I understand it you did so before contracts were even signed and entered into,and at a time when it was nominally still just a holding deposit,is that correct?
I do understand the situation you were in due to your domestic situation,but legally you would be held responsible if it comes to court. However, it is by no means certain that a court would award 3 times the deposit.

 Personally,I would return the deposit less deductions to the other ex-tenants,and wait and see what happens.Given the huge backlog of court cases I don't see anything happening  quickly,so you don't have to rush. In reality,trying to sue students who have presumably no income to speak of would just be sending good money after bad,so forget counterclaims. Your ex sounds pretty crafty too,so I suspect he would make it very hard and expensive for you to pursue.
Accidental Landlord
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Posts: 90

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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2021, 01:34:43 PM »

I agree with Heavykarma that you are still legally liable should the other students take you to Court. It is true that the 30 days starts from when the deposit was received by the Landlord - in your case irrespective that it was your ex or his company since your name was and still is on the deeds (not joint with your ex, right?). Even if it was an agent who failed to protect the deposit and unknown to the Landlord, they are treated as acting on the Landlord's instructions. Ignorance is no defence I am afraid. I would still try to settle with the other students in a reasonable way just so you can put a line under this and move on but you can't force them of course. They may run out of steam and see that money offered now is better than waiting to go to Court where it is not guaranteed they will get 3x the amount in any case.
Global Moderator
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2021, 02:08:24 PM »

This makes me wonder about the likely outcome of such cases.We hear from worried landlords being sued for non-protection,and from tenants who hope to make a nice profit.Has anyone heard if the penalty of 3x deposit is often awarded? There was a tenant on here some time back who had high hopes of getting around 15,000, but we never heard the outcome. I don't think it should ever exceed 1x deposit for a first offence,especially when the original deposit was paid back in full without hassle. 
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