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Finally I’ve had a chance to see things from the tenants side! As a landlord I’ve always thought that tenants have a lot of cards to play, but my view has changed recently!
To cut a long story short, my son is attending Essex university and is trying to rent a flat with another boy in Colchester.
They found a place and paid a holding deposit to the agent back in mid June. Moving in date was supposed to early August.
However the AST was only produced and sent out on the 23rd August, despite constant chasing, and all parties signed by the 28th August electronically.
A electronic completion certificate was received. Funds were transferred and a valid contract was formed.
The agent then later unilaterally decided to withdraw from the contract for reasons only known to themselves thereby creating a breach of contract and is also refusing to return the holding deposit.
This of course leaves the boys in a very difficult situation of having to find accommodation in a short timescale in Colchester.
My understanding is that “a breach of the requirement to repay the holding deposit is a civil offence and will be subject to a financial penalty of up to £5,000”.
My question is who is supposed to enforce this offence?
I tried to contact Trading standards in Colchester, via citizens advice line, but they don’t seem interested. I’ve filed a complaint with the Property Ombudsman but it is a slow process requiring me to first go through the complaints process of a cowboy letting agent who won’t respond!
Would need David Smith to confirm but from what you have said the Agent is in breach of contract. Consequently you would be entitled to sue the agent for liquidated damages which in this case would be the additional costs you have had to incur in finding alternative accommodation eg If a new flat is an additional £20 per week and your initial tenancy was the usual 50 weeks, you would by entitled to £1,000 damages + if he had to use a hotel in the area for a few weeks whilst he found accommodation you would be permitted to claim the difference it would need to be a travellodge or similar standard
Whilst this doesn't get you the flat, pointing out to the agent the level of damages you will seek might focus their mind on finding you something.The level of damages would fall within the remit of the small claims court, so a credible threat to make.
I'd make a formal complaint against the Agent, then referring it to the Property Redress scheme. Also,
A complaint against the Council, that is usually required for the LGO to intervene ( as it definitely is before Prop Redress intervene with Agents )