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View Full Version : Landlady kicked me out, entered my flat and kept my deposit



northlondoner
07-04-2010, 08:27 AM
I moved into a studio flat in December 2006. The studio is one of four on the top floor of the landlady's home. Each has a lock and number and is let with a seperate contract. She usually lets them out through a letting agent but as I was introduced to her by a friend, she simply photocopied one of their standard contracts and let the studio to my herself. I had a 12-month fixed assured shorthold tenancy, which then became periodic.

As the landlady lived away, it was a nice peaceful let. After a year she broke up with her husband and moved back in. The place became more noisy. It was good to have her around though, because the bathroom, which I shared with the three other studios, was often having faults. We had frequently had to go without a shower or toilet for weeks on end in the past so finally she decided to have it fixed - by builders who started at 6am in the morning. Which we complained about but she said we had to put up with it. We were never warned, I just stumbled out of my door in a towel once to find them there setting up. Then the noise began and continued every morning for two weeks!

Then the builders converted her attic above my room. Again banging around from 6am. We all politely complained again but to no avail.

Not long after this, she banged on my door and waltzed in one night and started screaming at me at 9pm because I was using the washing machine "too late" It was doing its final spin. At 9pm. I work long hours, what more can I do? she was very drunk (you could even see the red wine round her mouth, and I notice her recycling is always several empty bottles a day) and shouted at me as I tried to apologise and promise to never do it again. She didn't care when I said I'd been visiting my ill mother at the weekend and then working very late every night and this was the only time I'd been home in days and able to wash. So she can make noise at 6am repeatedly but I can't at 9pm. She often played loud music until much later than 11pm. It seemed so unfair.

Shortly after that I found a hand-scrawled note telling me the landlady wanted my studio back so her daughter could move in. I had four weeks to get out. I didn't want to leave because I was in the process of looking to buy but she said I must leave. Her daughter wanted the studio. Her daughter lived with her downstairs so she wasn't homeless. I had no leeway or official notice, just this note and a rude, curt refusal to be accommodating.

Because the date she gave me to move out was just five days after my rent date, I cancelled my final rent and informed her and she verbally said, that's OK we'll take it out of the deposit.

The day I moved out she vanished. I think she hoped to get away with keeping my deposit. I waited for her to come back though - late in the afternoon. She marched straight up to my room and over to the curtain rail. The one which held the net curtain had fallen down but on my penultimate day I had fixed it completely. She looked shocked and said, oh I thought that was broken. She'd clearly entered my studio without telling me.

She then kicked her "rug". It was a piece of hessian with masking tape on the edges. It had been there for the five years my friend lived there before me. It had been covered in stains when SHE moved in, in 2001! The LL said she was keeping my £400 deposit for the rug. I protested. She relented. Then she said she was taking £80 from my deposit because I stopped my last month's rent. Because it was only five days and we had discussed it. She said her bank had charged her £80. She refused. Wrote me a cheque for £255 (£400 minus £80 and five days rent) and told me to leave. I did, in tears.

Can I claim any money back? Was she in the wrong at all with any of her behaviour?

mind the gap
07-04-2010, 09:10 AM
If you believe your LL has no right to keep your deposit because she has no evidence that you have caused any damage over and above 'fair wear and tear' (the onus is on her to prove this, usually by means of detailed check-in inventory agreed and signed by you when you moved in), then write her a Letter before Action asking for it back in full and advising that if it is not returned you will sue her for it. Fill in a money claim on line https://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk/csmco2/index.jsp and attach a print out to show you mean business. Say that if she does not respond within 7 days you will press 'send' on your claim.

Then do it.

westminster
07-04-2010, 09:27 AM
I moved into a studio flat in December 2006. The studio is one of four on the top floor of the landlady's home. Each has a lock and number and is let with a seperate contract....

...As the landlady lived away, it was a nice peaceful let. After a year she broke up with her husband and moved back in.
You say it was the landlady's 'home' but was she living there or not when you moved in? If not, who was living on the lower floor(s) - was the daughter living there or another relation of the landlady? This is relevant because it affects your tenancy status and the length of notice you should have been given.


Shortly after that I found a hand-scrawled note telling me the landlady wanted my studio back so her daughter could move in. I had four weeks to get out....

Can I claim any money back? Was she in the wrong at all with any of her behaviour?
You can bring a claim against the landlady for the £80 in so-called bank charges (via Money Claim Online). You owe the rent for the period you lived there.

As for the landlady's behaviour, obviously it is not acceptable for her to be abusive, but it sounds like a one-off drunken incident? And while 6am is a too early start for the bathroom repairs, you can't really complain that she had the repairs carried out.

The main issue is whether you were given the proper notice to quit or not - and this depends on your answer to the first question. If you were a lodger, then a hand-written note giving you four weeks is reasonable notice; but if you had an assured shorthold tenancy, then the landlady should have served a s.21 notice giving you at least two months, the notice to expire at the end of a rental 'period'

northlondoner
07-04-2010, 09:39 AM
Thank you both for your advice.

The landlady's daughter was living there when I moved in. The landlady moved back in after a couple of years. I think she may still have been listed as living there even when she wasn't though. She lived abroad but seemed to keep this as her England home. I can't be sure, but that's the impression I got.

She converted the top floor, and a room halfway up the stairs into four studios. Each one had a number as though it was a seperate flat, and a lock on the door. I had an assured shorthold tenancy agreement for flat 3, of that number house. I also had an assured shorthold tenancy contract.

I understand that I owed her the rent, I felt it was unfair to pay £80 bank charged when we had an agreement that I wouldn't pay a months rent for five days. I've never heard of a bank charging £80 for going overdrawn! And would my deposit have not been in her bank?

It would have been much simpler if she'd given me notice that ended on a rent due date! Should she not have done that anyway?

westminster
07-04-2010, 14:00 PM
Tenancy status in England/Wales is defined not by the title given to the contract, but by criteria such as whether or not the occupier shares accommodation with the landlord or their family, the level of rent, whether or not it's the occupier's principal residence, etc.

So, regardless of the title given to your contract, I do not think you had an assured shorthold tenancy because it sounds like you shared accommodation with the landlord's family, albeit it may only have been a staircase in the house en route to the rooms/bedsits on the top floor, you were living in the same house.

As such, you would only have had a lodger's/excluded occupier's rights, and the LL didn't have to give notice to end on a rent day.

I agree the £80 deduction for bank charges doesn't seem fair, so if you want it back, all you can do is write a letter before action giving a deadline to pay, then issue a county court claim if she doesn't.

Mileage
07-04-2010, 19:27 PM
Shouldn't the deposit be kept with the DPS and therefore require both parties to agree to any clawbacks ? I have been informed that if the landlord doesn't put the deposit with the DPS that they are liable to something like 3 months rent back to the tenant... correct me if I'm wrong.

westminster
07-04-2010, 20:10 PM
Shouldn't the deposit be kept with the DPS and therefore require both parties to agree to any clawbacks ? I have been informed that if the landlord doesn't put the deposit with the DPS that they are liable to something like 3 months rent back to the tenant... correct me if I'm wrong.
Deposit protection applies only to assured shorthold tenancies, not to lodgers/excluded occupiers.

northlondoner
08-04-2010, 10:06 AM
Thanks Westminster. I didn't realise all that about being a lodger. I'll investigate more fully before I sign a contract in future to see if it's actually valid as what it says it is!

I will pursue the £80 as you advised. It did feel unfair. I've had such a battle to get deposits back every time I move. I'll be so careful not to break anything, clean the place up to a better standard than I rented it, but they always make something up, then avoid my calls and hope I'll give up! It's such a hassle. I hear a deposit scheme has come in now though, so hopefully it'll be easier next time.

Thanks again.

westminster
08-04-2010, 12:25 PM
Thanks Westminster. I didn't realise all that about being a lodger. I'll investigate more fully before I sign a contract in future to see if it's actually valid as what it says it is!
Just ask on here if you're not sure.


I will pursue the £80 as you advised. It did feel unfair. I've had such a battle to get deposits back every time I move. I'll be so careful not to break anything, clean the place up to a better standard than I rented it, but they always make something up, then avoid my calls and hope I'll give up! It's such a hassle. I hear a deposit scheme has come in now though, so hopefully it'll be easier next time.
Yes, there is deposit protection if you have an assured shorthold tenancy. See http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TenancyDeposit/index.htm

Although the deposit protection schemes offer an alternative dispute resolution method via in-house adjudication, the LL can still opt out of this and leave the T to pursue the claim via the courts. It does make enforcement easier though, because the disputed money is lodged with the scheme, and they will give it to the party who wins the dispute (whether decided via adjudication or the courts).