Six University of Bristol students who took their letting agents to court over a deposit charge have won their legal battle claiming ‘unreasonable’ deductions.
The six sharers were sent a letter by Bristol letting agents Digs some weeks before they were due to move out of their city centre accommodation. The letter said that £756 was to be deducted from their rental deposit.
The bill included, £200 for a full repaint of the house, £500 cleaning costs, rubbish removal and new mattress covers, but the students sought to challenge this and brought a legal action against the agents. Finally a County Court judge ruled in their favour.
The six students moved into the flat which was located above an adult entertainment club called Urban Tiger, in July 2015. But the students were shocked to receive the agent’s letter about the deductions when it came to the end of their tenancy. Photographic evidence they provided to the court purportedly showed the flat was left in a cleaner state than it had been at the start of their tenancy.
The agents Digs, who were acting on behalf of a landlord company AvonCo (Bristol) Limited, were ordered to repay the charges in full to the students, plus interest and legal costs.
Third year biology student Ed Straw, 20, who is from Exeter, said there was no other alternative to get our money back but to go to court. “The agents were just waiting for us to get bored and to stop emailing them. Practical advice I can give to other people is take photos because it’s evidence to show that your flat was in terrible condition and it greatly strengthens your case. In terms of taking them to court you just have to persevere. It’s really not that hard.”
The additional charges for rubbish removal were also disputed by the students who claimed the costs had been aggregated across 732 of the university’s population. He added: ‘The flat was filthy when we got it, and clean when we left it.
Digs were not represented in court but managing director Steven Harris told the metro.co.uk:
‘Renting out student properties can be a minefield for all parties concerned. Digs in Bristol work very hard to ensure this process runs smoothly.
‘We’re extremely disappointed that the deductions charged to Ed Straw and his fellow tenants led to him taking the Landlord to court and in all instances we work towards a more amicable solution.
‘Whilst we would have hoped to resolve the issue through the free dispute resolution service, Ed would not consider this option.
‘We also offered a settlement but again Ed was not prepared to accept anything less than the full amount.
‘Whilst the court system is there to be used, Digs hopes that their tenants do not feel the need to go down this route.
‘Having managed 8,000 tenancies in total it is the first time this has happened and we firmly believe it will be the last.’
The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) reminds landlords that while fair wear and tear has long been a “grey” area for landlords, because every case is different, it does not mean that landlords can charge for deposit deductions without them being fair and representing their actual loss.
Since the introduction of the deposit protection scheme, an accurate inventory showing a schedule of condition has become essential for providing objective evidence in case of a dispute.
Tenancy agreements should be clear on specifying what can be claimed for, usually damage, cleaning, rubbish removal, rent arrears and reasonable legal costs if the landlord needs to take a tenant to court.
Landlords should make sure they protect deposit within the statutory 30 days allowed and serve on the tenants the necessary statutory information about the deposit scheme involved.
Every claim against a deposit should demonstrate evidence, preferably an independent inventory and an agreed schedule of condition with photographs. An assessment of loss should include estimates and invoices, plus an allowance for betterment if old is replaced by new.
Student Tenants Win Deposit Dispute https://t.co/0BfkMTKjCr
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) March 20, 2017