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It Pays To Use Protection

, , | Working | August 29, 2017

(I took over the last three months of a girl’s flat-share, sharing with one other girl. This ended a couple of months ago, and I was told I could expect to receive my security deposit two to four weeks after moving. About a month after I move out, I realise that I haven’t heard from them regarding it. I call up to find out what the issue is.)

Letting agent: “We’re waiting to receive proof that all the bills have been paid.”

(Since I only lived there for a few months, my housemate had all the bills in her name, so I text her.)

Ex-Housemate: “[Electricity Provider] are messing me about. I’ll chase them.”

(After a few weeks of chasing her to chase [Electricity Provider], she changed her story.)

Ex-Housemate: “I’ve sent them the confirmation code stating that I’ve made a payment, but they’re refusing to accept that.”

Me: “Of course they’re refusing, that just means you’ve paid them some money, not that the balance is zero.”

Ex-Housemate: “Anyway, I’ve spoken to Trading Standards, and they say they have no right to ask for proof of bills. I’m going to take legal action against them.”

Me: “Actually, they have complete right to ask for proof. It’s even written into our contracts. Can’t you just send them proof?”

Ex-Housemate: “Oh, they still haven’t sent it to me.”

(Fed up, I decided to contact the Deposit Protection Scheme. In the UK, landlords are legally required to protect your deposit using a DPS. I call the letting agency to find out what company they used and the reference number, then call the DPS, intending to find out what I can do if my flatmate is willfully withholding the information needed to get my deposit back.)

DPS: “Sorry, your name isn’t on that account, so I can’t discuss it with you.”

Me: “Let me guess. Are the names [Ex-Housemate] and [Girl I Replaced]?”

DPS: “Yes, they are. Sorry, they should have filled a change of tenancy form when you moved in. I can’t discuss this with you any further.”

(Not protecting my deposit means I can claim compensation of one to three times the amount of the deposit, plus full return of the deposit. I call the letting agency back.)

Me: “So, I’ve found out that my deposit wasn’t protected. As such, you’ve been holding my money for the past five months. If you return it now, I won’t claim compensation.”

Letting Agency: “We’ve already decided to release the funds. Our accountant is away until Tuesday, but we’ll process it then.”

(Tuesday comes. I call up and ask them to process it, and give them my bank details, and am told to wait a week or so for funds to clear. All the while, my ex-housemate is texting me asking if I’ll help her press charges for asking for proof of payment. The following week, no money has appeared, so I call back.)

Letting Agency: “Oh, we can’t release those funds, we haven’t received proof that the bills have been paid.”

Me: “We discussed this. You have not protected my deposit. I do not have to prove anything because it doesn’t qualify as a deposit. Please release the funds.”

(This is the line that really got me:)

Letting Agency: “It was protected… just not in your name.”

Me: *through gritted teeth* “Do you understand how this works? They won’t speak to me about it. If I try to resolve it through them, I can’t go anywhere. I tried to talk to them, actually because I thought [Ex-Housemate] was messing me around, but I literally can’t. It’s an insurance based DPS, and they won’t pay out any insurance to someone not named on the file. My deposit was NOT protected.”

Letting Agency: “Um… My manager isn’t in, he needs to approve it.”

Me: “Well, you’re going to need to contact someone with authority, because if you haven’t sorted this by the end of the day, I’m going to start the process to claim compensation.”

(Luckily half an hour later, they call back to say they’ve gotten it approved. I think the matter is closed, but then… a few hours later the letting agency calls.)

Letting Agency: “It seems that your housemate is two months behind on rent. My manager is refusing the release the deposit until her rent is paid up.”

Me: *explodes* “My deposit is not protected! You have no right to withhold it for any reason! It is not my problem that [Ex-Housemate] is two months behind on rent, because you did not protect it.”

Letting Agency: “Sorry, but my manager is holding firm.”

Me: “Fine. I will be claiming compensation.”

(I texted my housemate, and unbelievably she owned up to not paying the rent, and paid it. The letting agency told me that they processed my deposit and to expect it within a week. Later that week, I received a cheque [so no idea why they asked for my bank details], for less than half of my deposit. They still seemed to have no idea that they couldn’t legally deduct anything from it, BECAUSE IT’S NOT A DEPOSIT! I was planning on claiming compensation, but according to my lawyer they normally cave in before it reaches court, but after you have to pay legal costs, so it’s not really worth it. SO MUCH ANGER.)