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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 64095
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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URGENT HELP PLEASE - UK PROPERTY LAW Hi, I am disputing

Customer Question

URGENT HELP PLEASE - UK PROPERTY LAW

Hi, I am disputing with my tenants re. the deposit. An oversight on my part due to extenuating circumstance resulted in my failure to insure their deposit for the last 6 months of their tenancy. I have on the TA 3 named tenants. One of them have emailed me an unsigned Letter Before Action. To which I have promptly replied asking for a signed letter by all three of them or a signed letter by one of them accompanied by a legal document of nomination to represent signed by all three of them. To date I have not received either letters. I have however just received an email from one of them to say that they are filing a claim for the deposit with the court as I have acknowledged receipt of the letter before action.

I have just responded that I do not acknowledge that I have received such a letter, detailing the reasons why and have again asked them that in order for me to respond to their email and alledged letter before action can they please send me the correct letter/letter and document.

QUESTION 1: have I done the right thing?
QUESTION 2: also is it possible for me return the deposit and make a claim for the damages as small claim or something? The amount I need to claim is between 8000-9000 pounds. Please advice what sort of claim I should make and how to go about it. Many thanks.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: UK Property Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Hi

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer. I will try to help with this. Please RATE my answer OK SERVICE or above.


What type of contract is it?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Short term - they were there for a year, then renewed for another year

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
So, in short, their letter asks you for sight of the tenancy deposit details and threatens legal action if you do not provide it?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

No. They asked me about their deposit at the end of their tenancy. I told them they need to refer to the documents I sent them at the beginning of their tenancy. I then emailed them a list of the damages they have done. To which they accused me of exaggerating the amount owed and how horrified they were that I was being so and so. I then replied that I have not exaggerated and is willing to discuss the matter face to face. The next thing I know they emailed me to say that they have been in touch with mydeposits who confirmed that the last year of their tenancy the deposit was not insured. I then called mydeposits to confirm this who then confirmed that 18 months of their tenancy was insured just not the last 6 months. The last 3 years my two sisters have had endomitrial and rectal cancer stage 4 one after the other which the tenants knew about. Between my mum and I we cared for both of them. We were extremely worried that they wouldn't make it as stage 4 is as advance as you can get on both types. So the reinsurance of the deposit slipped my mind. It was not intentional. This I also told my tenants. Then the next thing I know I get emails accusing me of this and other with veiled threats. I then responded calmly that these accusations are false. That the threats are not necessary and I was willing to provide them any info they need and discuss both issues with them face to face if they need to do so.


 


I then receive an email telling me that they are going to court over the matter, totally ignoring the issue of the damages, and I responded again that I am willing to discuss both issues outside of court. I didn't hear anything back from them, so I chased.


 


Around beginning of December I then received an email with an unsigned Letter Before Action from one of them with veiled accusation that I provided them with incorrect postal address. I then responded and confirmed my postal address and that in order for me to respond to the Letter Before Action I need the letter to be signed by all three of them as all three were listed as my tenants, or signed by one of them accompanied by a legal document which states that all three have nominated that person to represent them. I didn't receive a reply. I then chased them last week about it to which I received an email from a different tenant to say that what I have requested was not necessary and that they all have agreed for one person to communicate with me and that the claim done via the court for the deposit will be in that person's name only too.


 


I responded to say that I do not acknowledge receipt of the letter before action as it's incorrect. That I still have not received the correct documents in order for me to respond accordingly. That I did respond promptly as requested in their email. That they still ignored and have not addressed my claim for the damages.


 


Before I send that reply off I just need to know the answer to my Question 1 and 2.


 


Thanks Jomo.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Ok. But forget all of that.

Does the letter threaten to claim the sum of the deposit or three times the amount?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Below's the main body of what they wrote in the unsigned letter before action:



Letter before action


 


Failure to protect my tenancy deposit with a deposit protection scheme


 


I, along with [name of two other tenants], are the former tenants of [property address] which you let to us on an assured shorthold tenancy starting on 4 Sept 2010 and again 04 Aug 2011.


 


I am writing concerning the deposit I paid to you on 1 Sept 2010 as a security against my obligations to you under the terms of my tenancy agreement.


 


Before my tenancy ended:


 


I did not receive information from you about the protection of my security deposit with a government backed scheme.


 


It is my belief that:


 


you failed to comply with your legal obligations to protect my deposit with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.


 


I have made enquiries of the deposit protection schemes to establish if my deposit is protected, but have been unable to find any evidence that my deposit has been protected with My Deposits.


 


The law required you to protect my tenancy deposit within 30 days of it being received by you, and provide me with certain information about which scheme you used. As you have failed to comply with the requirements of the law, I am entitled to have my deposit refunded to me in full.


 


I have previously requested that you return my deposit to me as far back as 18 Sept


2012.


 


I therefore request that, within 14 days of receiving this letter, you pay me the sum of


£3834.29 being the amount of the deposit paid to you less the water bills for the 2 years of the tenancy.



 


If I do not receive payment or a substantial response from you by 18 Nov 2012, I intend to issue court proceedings in the County Court without further notice. I reserve the right to include a claim for interest, costs and compensation in addition to the amount of the deposit. Please be advised that the courts may order you to pay compensation of between one and three times the value of my deposit.


 


I will be relying on the Court Civil Procedure Rules Practice Direction: Pre-action Conduct. I must therefore draw your attention to paragraph 4 concerning the court's powers to impose sanctions for failure to comply with the Practice Direction; and inform you that ignoring this letter before action may increase your liability for costs.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Ok. They are trying to claim three times the amount.

On your specific points

1 Not really. Letters before action can be very informal. In fact, responding to the effect that you didn't acknowledge it is really just an acknowledgement that you have had it so its game over. You haven't done any harm but there's no real good in it either.

2 Its not quite that simple. See below.

Your actions come down to whether they have left already. If they have left then its much easier. You do need to decide how much risk you want to take. You have failed to protect the deposit and they have a claim against you for three times the amount. They will not get three times the amount. You will just have to explain that you are an inexperienced investment landlord and this was an over sight. The Court would not award any more than the sum of the deposit.

If they have not left then its a harder task as you cannot lawfully serve a S21 notice upon them if the deposit is not protected. Your only option there is to return the deposit in full. If they refuse to accept it then thats harder but tenants don't generally do that. Then you would have to decide whether you want to bring a claim or write it off to avoid any counterclaiming.

It is possible to return a deposit and then sue at the small claims court but if you are claiming £9000 then this wouldn't be a small claims court sum. It would be fast track which is expensive unfortunately in terms of costs.

If they have left already then it would be better to invite them to sue. They will probably not get three times the amount and your reductions would be considered by a court. Obviously there is risk in that but the only risk free option is to pay them three times the sum.

Hope this helps.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 64095
Experience: Over 5 years in practice.
Jo C. and 5 other UK Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Do I need to do a counter claim to their claim for the deposit? And if so how do I do so please Jomo?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Only if the sum you are claiming exceeds to sum of the deposit. Otherwise you just defend their claim.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

it does exceed so what should I expect and how do I go about submitting my documents to counter claim please?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
In that case you either wait for their claim and counterclaim or you sue them here

Www.moneyclaim.gov.uk

And await their counterclaim
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 64095
Experience: Over 5 years in practice.
Jo C. and 5 other UK Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you Jomo you've been ace as always!

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
No problem.

All the best.

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