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  • Property-a-holics

    Advice please - landlord refused to return deposit

    I have a colleague who I have recently employed. He and his partner have been living in shared accommodation, renting a room in a four bedroom home (3 bed semi with the dining room converted to a fourth bedroom)_. They have an AST (since Feb15) and have paid a £250 deposit and have paid £400 pcm in advance since moving in. Landlord recently asked them to pay their rent a week earlier than stated on the AST. This caused them financial stress. They did not pay the rent a week early, it was due today. Yesterday the landlord asked them to move out. Today, they removed their belongings from the room, and waited for the landlord's agent to turn up and return their deposit. He did not give them any money. They still have the keys to the room. Landlord says he will change the locks if they don't return the keys. I intend to go with them in 2 days to check if locks have been changed. Tenants are not in violation of any terms of agreement, but I have noted the following:

    1 Person signing the AST - landlord name and address is unintelligible.
    2 Blank line where tenancy deposit scheme being used is supposed to be written
    3 I took photographs of every room door (numbered 1 to 4). None have fire doors nor smoke alarms.
    4 I took photos of the upstairs hall, downstairs hall and kitchen. Battery powered smoke alarms in evidence in hall, but no sensors in kitchen, or any of the bedrooms. No kitchen fire door, no fire extinguishers, no fire blankets, no signs for exits, no emergency lighting.

    It is my intent to help these tenants in finding redress in law against their errant landlord. This was the fifth visit I have made to this property, and it is blatantly unsafe with four shared rooms let. It is also illegal - a disgrace to our town and country, and makes a mockery of tenant law.

    I am seeking advice as to what to do first, and next, in terms of process. If we visit the property (to properly clean the room and seek return of the deposit) in 2 days, and find the locks have been changed, I thought of calling the police to report a lockout by landlord, followed by a complaint to (don't know which authority or redress scheme). Can anyone give any advice as to how to proceed? I have now found them legal, safe and pleasant accommodation closer to our place of business, and am trying to keep their personal stress at a manageable level, and their self esteem higher than it has been during the past few weeks.
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    It seems from your description of the situation that the tenants have done absolutely nothing wrong. The landlord has no grounds to demand the rent is paid early as far as I am aware. If the tenancy came into force in Feb 15, surely it's an illegal eviction whatever the circumstances?

    Getting to the bottom of whether or not the deposit was ever legally deposited is also key, I would suggest.

    You mention that the landlords details on the AST are unintelligible; do they have any contact details other than his address?

    It would also seem that your actions in the matter are also fully correct. Informing the police of an illegal lock out is an obvious step to get the incident formally recorded, however I'm not too sure what the police can/will do in a civil dispute situation.
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    I am presuming the landlord doesn't share the accomadation. I would consider it an illegal eviction and besides the police the local authority should be informed. The house is obviously a HMO that does not comply and indeed may need to be registered with the LA. There is a site I understand that the tenants can do a search on to see if there deposit is registered however as they haven't been given prescribed information giving them all the required information there should be redress through the courts. It might be worth £3 for a land register search to try and obtain the landlords details, address and mortgage company. The mortgage company might also like to be made aware.
    The best of luck Gerry well worth the fight against these landlords who are rouges and non compliant
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    [Image: New-logo2.png] Manchester based investor. I buy, sell, renovate and rent investment property in East/North Manchester Wink email: mike@brentwoodinvestments.co.uk Call: 0161 681 3724


    Hi Gerry,

    Something sounds very fishy about this to me.

    I suspect that the "landlord" is actually a Head Tenant and is sub-letting the house in a Rent To Rent format.

    Your friends were not obliged to leave and should have been given one month's notice - depending on what the tenancy agreement stated.

    This, to my mind, is an unlawful eviction, and, if the deposit was not protected, then they will be entitled to up to 3 times the deposit value in compensation.

    Also, if the deposit was not protected, a S21 notice could not have been served anyway.

    Your friends were in a very strong position as this looks like a non-compliant tenancy, but I fear that they have weakened their position by moving out so quickly.

    There are companies that specialise in chasing landlords who have not protected the deposit. You can find them via google. Your friends might like to contact them for assistance.

    Best of luck with getting this sorted out and hopefully putting a warning shot across the bows of this rogue landlord!
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    (17-04-2015 08:05 PM)Vanessa Warwick Wrote:  Hi Gerry,

    Something sounds very fishy about this to me.

    I suspect that the "landlord" is actually a Head Tenant and is sub-letting the house in a Rent To Rent format.

    That was my immediate thought too.

    The idea of using the Land Registry to locate the landlord is a good one. If Vanessa is correct, there's every chance the real landlord will have no idea that their property is being used in this way.
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    Gerry

    I suspect this is an unauthorised rent to rent agreement. The threat to change the locks is an unlawful eviction. This should be reported to the local authority's tenancy relations officer. They may prosecute. The police will do nothing. If a deposit was taken and not registered then a claim could be made for its return and a financial penalty of one to three tines its value. The agent should be registered with a redress scheme in which case you should complain to them. If they are not registered then you should report them to the local authority trading standards department
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    David Smith
    Landlord & Tenant Solicitor
    Anthony Gold Solicitors

    Find me on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/dsnsmith

    All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my firm. No comment made should be taken as legal advice and you should consult a solicitor or other legal professional for advice on your specific situation.
    (17-04-2015 08:05 PM)Vanessa Warwick Wrote:  Your friends were not obliged to leave and should have been given one month's notice - depending on what the tenancy agreement stated.

    If it was an AST then they'd have to be given at least TWO months' notice, not to expire before the end of the first six months or the fixed term, whichever was later.

    I agree with everyone else - do a Land Registry check and get the council's HMO / Environmental Health people involved.
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    [Image: 75pxLogo.jpg]

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    Thanks for all who responded. It reinforces what I thought. My colleague has a name and address of the landlord/head tenant/mr fixit. They do not wish to stay because they feel they may be further harassed by the rent collector, or any of his buddies. I met the guy one night cleaning up a pool of water from a leaking washing machine. Looked a bit shifty. He does not live on the premises. The other three rooms are occupied by foreign language students and a single man.
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