I'm just starting my third year at university and have moved into a new house with some mates. The problem is my last landlord, whose house I left in June, is refusing to refund our deposits. His solicitors claim we damaged the drains, which just isn't true but they won't even enter into a discussion about the bond unless we provide them with copy-receipted utility bills. To add to our problems we had paper-free billing and the utility companies have not provided us with valid receipts. Are the solicitors allowed to withhold our deposit unless we provide them with bills?
His solicitors claim we damaged the drains, which just isn't true but they won't even enter into a discussion about the bond unless we provide them with copy-receipted utility bills. To add to our problems we had paper-free billing and the utility companies have not provided us with valid receipts.
Are the solicitors allowed to withhold our deposit unless we provide them with bills?
Your landlord should return the deposit to you at the end of the tenancy, after you have left the property. Even if you have paid a deposit to an accommodation agency or solicitor, the responsibility to return the deposit still lies with your landlord.
Your landlord can keep some or all of your deposit to pay for the following items:
- Any damage you have caused to the property or to any furniture provided (but not including normal wear and tear)
- Missing items
- Cleaning (but not if needed due to normal wear and tear)
- Unpaid rent.
Normally repairs to drains would be the landlord's responsibility so this doesn't sound like a reason to withhold the deposit unless, and you haven't been specific about this, they are trying to say you damaged the drains.
You also mentioned the landlord's solicitor is withholding money to pay for utility bills. Your landlord cannot keep the deposit to cover fuel bills that you haven't paid, and they are normally unable to keep it to put towards reletting the property, for example advertising or agency fees. But this doesn't apply if you don't give your landlord proper notice to leave the property (see Shelter's website for more information on ending a tenancy). If this is the case your landlord may be able to keep some or all of your deposit to cover rent and reletting fees.
Ask your landlord's solicitor to state exactly what s/he is withholding your deposit for, and provide receipts and copies of estimates for any repair work. Your landlord can only keep some or all of your deposit if they have suffered a financial loss. They cannot withhold it for other reasons. If you don't agree with your landlord withholding your deposit, or with the amount they have withheld ask them for a detailed list of what amounts they are keeping back and why.
If you can't come to an agreement with your landlord, then you could take court action to recover your deposit. The case will be heard in the county court, often known as the small claims court. You can get the forms from your local county court or an advice centre like a Citizens Advice Bureau. You can also submit a claim online at the Court Service website.
In court, the judge will consider all the circumstances, and will decide whether your landlord should give you all or part of your deposit back. Take any evidence you have with you to court, such as letters and information about your bills.
Small claims court hearings are usually more informal than other types of hearings and you can represent yourself. The court fees are usually less than other court hearings too. However, if the judge decides your landlord doesn't need to give you all or part of your deposit back, then s/he might also say you have to pay some or all of your landlord's court costs. This can be expensive, so bear it in mind when you are deciding whether to take court action. You can find more information on court fees from the Court Service website.
If you need further help, for example with completing court forms, you can use the advice services directory to find an advice centre near you.
Question answered by Shelter