Taking our landlord to court
Angus, 24, is just one tenant out of many who's had to fight to get a deposit back off a dodgy landlord. It took months of preparation and a court case to resolve the dispute, but was it worth it in the end?
I couldn't believe it when our landlord refused to give back our deposit. He claimed he needed to keep all of it to redecorate the house, but as far me and my two housemates could see, there was nothing wrong with the house apart from general wear and tear. When we asked for evidence that he'd spent the money on any kind of redecoration, he couldn't provide us with any.
In fact he actually showed us some decoration quotes from 2004, which was before we even moved in. We asked him several times for a proper invoice and gave him every chance of settling the matter outside of court, but he refused. One of my housemates got in touch with the housing advice people at our local council.
They suggested threatening our landlord with going to court then to scare him into giving the money back, but we never really thought it would end up with us having to go.
Making a claim
The process started with us filling out a claims form, which we did three months before we eventually got to court. With the small claims court you can make claims of up to £5,000 and get your court fees back, so we felt it was the best option for us. Weeks passed between filing the complaint and hearing anything back.
You're supposed to get around two months notice of your court date, but we were only given about two weeks, so there was hardly any time to prepare. We had to get together all the correspondence we'd had with the landlord, copies of our contract and anything else that might be relevant to our case. It wasn't easy because there had been three of us living in the house and by then we'd all moved on.
The day of the court case finally came and I went along with one of my old housemates to Shoreditch County Court. We assumed it would be in a little room and would involve an informal chat with the landlord and the magistrate. It actually turned out to be a proper court room with a press box and a judge sitting up on a raised platform just like how you'd see in a film or TV show. He had slicked-back silver hair and was very formal so it was far scarier than I'd expected it to be.
"It actually turned out to be a proper court room with a press box and a judge sitting up on a raised platform just like how you'd see in a film or TV show. He had slicked-back silver hair and was very formal."
Meeting the defendant
Our landlord didn't actually turn up on the day claiming he was on holiday and instead he sent along the letting agent to represent him. In retrospect, I think it may have been a tactic to intimidate us while we sat there nervously flicking through our notes. As the claimant we got to present our statement first, then the defendant presented his and questioned us about our statement, and we then questioned him about his. This questioning process went back and forth a few times until the judge questioned each of us. This all seemed to go on for a really long time, two to three hours I think.
There were times when we thought we might lose, but at the same time we were fairly confident because we knew that our landlord had a poor case. One of the mistakes we made in our case was that we asked for the full deposit back, when he'd taken some money out of it to clean the flat, which was allowed.
Because of this we had to concede that the £300 they'd taken out of the deposit was legitimate. But in terms of any redecoration, there was no evidence apart from the invoices that were two years out of date, so really he had no argument.
Winning our case
Because of the lack of evidence on the part of our landlord, we got £850 back that he'd taken from the three of us plus about £100 in court fees and £50 each for loss of earnings because we'd had to take the morning off. As well as that, we got the interest back on the amount we claimed, which was backdated to when we were supposed to get our deposit back - so in total we came out with just over £1,000.
I'm really glad we went ahead with the case, but I didn't realise it would take that long and be such a drawn out process. Considering the amount of work that we had to do it was worth it, but if it was for a smaller claim I don't know if we would have wanted to go through with it because going to court was particularly unpleasant.
We obviously would have been quite annoyed if we'd lost, but it wouldn't have been a huge issue. We just went there to make our point and anything we managed to get was a bonus really. I'm just glad it's all over now and hopefully I'll never encounter another greedy landlord again.