Small claims court (Landlord won't return deposit)- worth the hassle?

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  • Small claims court (Landlord won't return deposit)- worth the hassle?
  • DanW
    Member

    Hi all,

    Thank you to those who helped with my previous questions in trying to get my deposit back for my previous rental flat:

    Please help me get my deposit back!

    Basically the landlord has not budged and still feels entitled to a half the deposit whereas I feel (as others agreed in the previous thread) that his claims are preposterous.

    I have taken the case to the DPS resolution service. The landlord declined to take part. I have filed a single claim through the DPS which again the landlord declined to go to the DPS resolution service. The DPS can not force the landlord to agree to dispute the claim for the deposit so basically the landlord can keep this going round in circles as long as he wishes.

    It would appear small claims court is the only real remaining option. How painless/ painful is this likely to be and how much can I expect this to cost me? The costs seem to be around £50-75 for a £550 deposit- does this look about right?

    Any help or thoughts would be much appreciated!

    Many thanks in advance, DanW

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    What did the dps suggest as a next step? If it’s with the dps the landlord does not have the deposit and unless he enters the process he won’t see the money at all. Taking the landlord to court is only an option if they will force them to enter dps dispute resolution.

    What did the dps suggest as a next step? If it’s with the dps the landlord does not have the deposit and unless he enters the process he won’t see the money at all. Taking the landlord to court is only an option if they will force them to enter dps dispute resolution.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true at all. The landlord just pays a small fee to the DPS, and keeps the rest of the deposit himself/herself. When you raise a dispute they are meant to pay the deposit money into a holding account controlled by the DPS until the dispute is resolved, but if they refuse then the system is pretty useless.

    xiphon
    Member

    IANAL but if the Landlord has repeatedly refused to take part in the DPS resolution service – that really does NOT look good on his part when a judge sees your case at a small claims…

    The first question the judge would ask is “Mr Landlord, why did you refuse – on several counts – to resolve this through the DPS?”

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    Sounds strange we had to pay the full amount to dps otherwise there was no point. Something sounds fishy to me. The point of the dps is that the landlord doesn’t hold the funds.

    scaled
    Member

    oooo if he’s not put the whole amount in to the DPS then you’ve got a good case for 1 – 3x the deposit.

    This is also the case if he’s failed to supply you with the relevant documentation regarding the DPS.

    I used that as a stick to beat the letting agent with, after my letter of intent the relented and returned my deposit in full.

    ScottChegg
    Member

    Take him to court.

    Your potential loss is nothing to the gain if it goes your way.

    The hard bit then will be getting him to stump up.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    My understanding of the DPS was that a landlord is legally obliged to have the DPS hold the deposit. If he’s not done that, he’s broken the law.

    IANAL(andlord).

    oooo if he’s not put the whole amount in to the DPS then you’ve got a good case for 1 – 3x the deposit.

    This happened to me. Went to court, got 3x the deposit back. Landlady started crying in court and i did feel a bit guilty, but i’d tried SO hard to get in touch with her and she’d refused all contact and never exaplined why i didn’t have my deposit back until i issued a court summons. It still took about 18 months to get my money back.

    The hard bit is enforcing the judgement. The court process just decides in law that the landlord owes you the money. You then have to force them to reveal bank details, get bailiffs round or take out a CCJ against them with further visits to court. Its all quite time consuming and could easily cost 200 quid or so, though all these costs are added to what the landlord owes you which you get back IF they pay up.

    After my case, the landlady came out with all sorts of excuses why she couldn’t pay, but never had any evidence for them. The court rejected them instantly.Eventualy the bailiffs scared her enough to pay up.

    In many cases, a court summons is enough to make people pay before it even gets to court.

    The problem is, if they are really dishonest or broke, its pointless taking them to court as you can never enforce the judgement, but otherwise its worthwhile, yes.

    dooosuk
    Member

    DPS should hold the full deposit within 30 days of you giving it to the Landlord. If not, the landlord is in trouble.

    The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS) is the Government approved custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme. Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP), as set out in the Housing Act 2004, requires that all agents/landlords protect their tenants’ deposits under a statutory tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving a deposit. The DPS will safeguard that deposit throughout the period of the tenancy and repay the funds to the appropriate parties in accordance with their instructions at the end of the tenancy period.

    Premier Icon footflaps
    Subscriber

    Sounds strange we had to pay the full amount to dps otherwise there was no point. Something sounds fishy to me. The point of the dps is that the landlord doesn’t hold the funds.

    DPS holds the whole deposit and neither side can get it back unless both sides agree.

    We had a tenant who stopped paying rent, who we evicted after a length process inc court cases, barristers etc. However, we then found that even with a debt order of £4k and a Court eviction order we couldn’t get the deposit out of the DPS scheme without the tenants consent (the idea being it would clear some of the £4k debt). So we had to go back to court again to a get court order on the DPS to release the deposit back to us…..

    jonba
    Member

    FWIW I’d do it on principal. If he screwed you over then he will probably do it to the next person as well if no one ever stands up to him then it will continue.

    Could be a childs face next time 😕

    joemarshall
    Member

    The hard bit is enforcing the judgement. The court process just decides in law that the landlord owes you the money. You then have to force them to reveal bank details, get bailiffs round or take out a CCJ against them with further visits to court. Its all quite time consuming and could easily cost 200 quid or so, though all these costs are added to what the landlord owes you which you get back IF they pay up.

    I used high court enforcement which is cheaper, and more effective than the various county court things.

    Like you say, court is dead easy and not very expensive. Make sure that the total cost including court fees is more than £600 – if you are just under the boundary, then use the paper based process rather than the online one, as it is a tenner or so more expensive. This means you can use high court enforcement. Just said this on a different thread, but I would really recommend high court enforcement – they are unlike the court bailiffs and other county court ways of getting money in that they are paid by results (as a percentage of money that they fetch), so they are much more keen to get money back. They also have pretty extensive powers to take things away from the debtor, enter business properties by force, tow away cars etc. I used these guys – http://thesheriffsoffice.com/services/high_court_enforcement and they were jolly efficient. I went from judgement to having the money back in two weeks.

    Things I’ve learnt from the process:
    1)Do everything in writing starting from now – don’t take any offers by phone, just tell them to put it in writing to you.
    2)Do everything at the shortest possible time – write a letter of intent today, saying what they owe you, and that you’re going to take them to court if they don’t pay within 7 days (which is reasonable given they’ve been months not paying it already).
    3)Make sure you mention in the court papers that you have tried to do alternate resolution through the DPS but that they have refused to take part.
    4)In 7 days with no payment, put in the court papers.
    5)If they offer payment after the court papers are in, only accept it if they include the court costs also, and only call off the court process if you actually have the payment in your bank account.
    6)Once you have a judgement, the very day you get it, call up high court enforcement to get them started with transferring it up to high court and enforcing the judgement. If you have to actually go to court for a hearing relating to the judgement, there is a form (N293a) that you can get stamped in person at the court which saves a week or so in the process – ask the high court enforcement people (like the people I linked above) about how to do this.

    Basically, don’t piss around, they’ve already demonstrated that they are dishonest and don’t want to pay, and part of their strategy is to waste time in the hope that you’ll give up and intimidate you into paying. If you get stuff going now, you could have your money back in a couple of months in a pretty bad case, or this week if they realise you’re not giving up and give in. If you’re even vaguely organised and literate, the whole thing is just a couple of hours work writing letters and filling in forms. Any time you waste giving them a chance is just time where they have your money and you don’t.

    It does depend on the service used, but a landlord can just pay a fee to a DPS who will “protect” the deposit by underwriting it, but won’t actually hold the deposit. I know this is the case since I am going through the same process, in my case the DPS does not have the money, and the landlord is being obstructive.

    dooosuk
    Member

    Pleader – which scheme is he using?

    poolman
    Member

    I am a landlord & his behaviour in this case is poor.

    Therefore go for it, surely if you win & he won’t pay a ccj for the default won’t look too good on his credit file.

    As far as I know the whoile deposit is lodged with DPS – you can check how much is lodged there on yr account. Also, he had to provide details within 30 days.

    These cases have gone to court & the LL has lost.

    Good luck, if I were yr LL I’d have paid you off by now!

    DanW
    Member

    Thank you to everyone for their advice!

    It is very unfortunate that it is potentially so hard to actually get the pennies back even if it is deemed in a court of law that the deposit must be returned. It seems like a lot of hassle for £550 but then I guess this is why landlords might still try and intimidate a tenant. I will pursue it though.

    I get the impression that my landlord is completely ignorant (rather than some clever underhand con artist) to the purpose of a deposit and the various legal requirements surrounding it. I think he genuinely believe he can take what he wants to replace items which were in need of replacing when I moved in. I think he stupid/ ignorant enough to actually keep arguing until the cows come home even when he has little/ nothing to support his claims which has always been my main worry! It pretty hard arguing with an idiot 😀

    as an ex letting agent I can tell you now take it to court. I had two incidences (before the tenancy deposit system came in to force) where I deducted cleaning charges from deposits for damage. One example was a girl was moving out after a 3 year tenancy and two weeks before her moving out date I went and did a pre check out inspection and noticed a huge red wine spill in middle of carpet in dining room.

    I told her that’s not fair wear and tear and to have it cleaned. Two weeks later she was nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t get access to the property and her phone was off. A day after she was supposed to be out I got a call off her in Tenerife to ask why I was ‘sniffing around her house’ and I told her she was due out yesterday and new tenants were due in the day after.

    She basically told me tough shit, she’d move out when she gets back the week after. The week after she did move out and didn’t clean the house at all. I deducted £100 for house clean (my cost price) and daily rent for the time she was overdue. A week later I got a cheque returned asking for the whole amount and I sent it back. I then got CCj forms and after a few months it went to the small claims court.

    Our slot was 10:30am, she turned up with two children (after being told they couldn’t go into court with her) and we then had to sit around until gone 2pm until she could off load the kids.

    In the court I showed the judge the RLA letting agreement, the signed inventory with replaceable value amounts she agreed and signed, photo’s of before she moved in (the carpets where brand new) and photo’s of the damage.

    He asked me where on the contract it stated I could remove monies from her bond, I pointed out and he then just said ‘well the landlord’s had the benefit of the rent’ and made judgement in her favour.

    Irrespective of who’s at fault landlords get a very rough deal in the courts because there are as many rogue landlords as tenants and the perception is all landlords are minted.

    go for it i’d say.

    DanW
    Member

    Wow, rough deal Mick!

    I do feel for landlords when I see how some properties get treated. Then I think back to some of the landlords I have come in to contact over the years and it is all in balance again 😕

    I’m certainly not keen on ever being a landlord!

    gozarch
    Member

    Do it, I say. I had a landlord when I was a student who withheld my deposit because another tenant left owing money. I took him to the county court, he didn’t turn up, the court judged in my favour yet he didn’t pay. Can’t quite remember how it happened, but he eventually paid up my court costs and deposit. His main drivers seemed to be the CCJ against him and the fact I reported him to the University and they took him off their list of recommended accommodation.

    beefheart
    Member

    I used high court enforcement which is cheaper, and more effective than the various county court things.

    I’m currently trying to enforce a judgement, but not sure which way to go- as the debtor seems to know what he’s doing and is claiming to have no money (despite owning 3 properties and running a business).

    Would high court enforcement bailiffs have any extra powers over the county court bailiffs?
    Is it true that if they refuse to open the door the bailiffs can’t do anything, and they aren’t allowed to take possession of a car if they say it is needed to get to work?

    I don’t really want to be throwing good money after bad pursuing a serial scammer.
    I basically want someone to get medieval on their ass.

    joemarshall
    Member

    I’m currently trying to enforce a judgement, but not sure which way to go- as the debtor seems to know what he’s doing and is claiming to have no money (despite owning 3 properties and running a business).

    Would high court enforcement bailiffs have any extra powers over the county court bailiffs?
    Is it true that if they refuse to open the door the bailiffs can’t do anything, and they aren’t allowed to take possession of a car if they say it is needed to get to work?

    Does he have business premises? If so, they can break in there. Homes they can get in if no one is there and a door is locked. Also if you refuse to open the door and talk to them, then you can’t rely deny possession of your car.

    Debtors have a right to keep tools of their trade. Which might include work vans or whatever, not sure. But having said that, I understand the definition is not very broad at all – for example one thing that some enforcement people do is take computers, which they argue are only tools of the trade if the person is in IT or similar, but in practice for many small businesses losing their computers would shut them down.

    They have more power than county court bailiffs, don’t have to notify the debtor in advance, and are paid by results, so are more keen.

    It depends how much money you’re owed, but in the worst case that they are unable to find the debtor and unable to get any money off them, it is £120 down the drain. If you use county court bailiffs, they have a bad reputation for getting money back, and if they fail it is £100 down the drain. For me the extra twenty quid was a no brainer.

    Some stuff about them here.

    http://www.hceoa.org.uk/faq/do-you-need-the-services-of-a-high-court-enforcement-officer.html

    Obviously you have to look at whether the person is actually likely to have the money – if they don’t actually have the money, or goods worth that money, then you won’t get it back, their 3 properties could be mortgaged up to the hilt, car could be a lease car. But if you think they have the money, it is very very easy to get enforcement done. Once I had the judgement it took me about 30 minutes work filling in forms and chatting on the phone to the person from the enforcement agency, and two weeks later Derby Car Centre had paid me back my money.

    He asked me where on the contract it stated I could remove monies from her bond, I pointed out and he then just said ‘well the landlord’s had the benefit of the rent’ and made judgement in her favour.

    Blimey! Sounds pretty unfair. Was it just the fact you’d taken the money from the deposit that the judge had issue with? i.e. you could have claimed for the cleaning, but it would have had to be done via a seperate process?

    I’d not heard of the high court Bailiffs, sounds useful.

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