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Putting The “Mental” In “Rental”

, , , , , , | Legal | April 14, 2022

I’d been renting my flat for six years when this happened. I’d been stung by s***ty landlords in the past, so I was relieved to find that my current landlord was a stand-up guy. Because my landlord travelled a lot for business, he used a property management service to ensure stuff got done.

The letting agent he had been using for years shut down because the guy running it retired, so my landlord found another company. As part of taking over, an agent from the new company came to do an inspection. No biggie. I kept the house in tip-top condition, and I’d never had any issues before. 

The agent looked around and saw that my furniture was a little battered. Most of it was bought secondhand, and I’d had it for years, so naturally, there was wear and tear. 

The agent started listing the damage to the furniture. I thought that was odd.

Me: “Yeah, it’s not in the best condition, but it’s my furniture, so it’s not a problem.”

Agent: “You’re going to have to pay to replace it all.”

Me: “Why? It’s my furniture. The place was rented unfurnished. This is all my stuff. It doesn’t belong to the landlord.”

Agent: *Smiling smugly* “The moment you bring anything into the property, it becomes property of the landlord.”

Me: “That’s not how that works.”

The agent huffed and continued nitpicking everything he could before leaving. 

A few days later, I got a letter stating that they were going to take my entire deposit to pay for the damage to the furniture. My furniture.

As I said before, I had been royally screwed over in the past by scummy landlords, so I knew my rights as a tenant and where to look in my tenancy agreement, etc. I researched this, and naturally, none of what the agent was trying to do was remotely legal.

I sent them a letter, highlighting the relevant parts of the tenancy agreement and the law, including that my deposit was protected so they couldn’t touch it until I moved out. They then tried sending me a bill and threatened legal action if I didn’t pay, but again, I reiterated that this wasn’t legal and cited the relevant laws and regulations.

The agent was obviously determined to get at my deposit and so kept coming at me with a bunch of bogus claims to extort money from me.

  1. They claimed that they had evidence that I had a dog which my tenancy forbade. For one, my tenancy does not forbid them; I just have to ask my landlord’s permission before getting any pets. Also, I do not have a dog as I have allergies.
  2. They claimed that I was illegally sub-letting. I wasn’t.
  3. They tried to get me to pay for a fence that had been blown down during storm winds — claiming that had I ripped this fence out of the ground maliciously — a fence that the building freeholder was actually responsible for, not my landlord. So, even if I had damaged the fence, the letting agent wouldn’t be who I paid to fix the damage.
  4. They claimed that I had let the flat become mould damaged. Again, not true.

It went on and on with him trying to make bogus claims. Each time, I demanded to speak to the landlord, but the agent refused to give me any of his details, claiming the landlord knew about this and was sick of me “abusing his property.”

He’d try to bully me with threats of eviction for non-compliance, and I’d just hit him with the laws that said he couldn’t do that. I thought he would eventually get bored and stop when he saw I wouldn’t cave in. He didn’t. After months of constant harassment, constant fighting, and documenting everything — including taking photos of the state of my flat every single day out of paranoia — I was burnt out. Enough was enough.

I needed to contact my landlord directly, but I’d lost his number a few years ago when I got a new phone. I’d never had any issues before and so foolishly never thought to get the details again. The only thing I had to go by was my landlord’s full name on the tenancy agreement and the address of his place of work. It took me a while, but I eventually managed to get his work email address.

I emailed him and explained what was going on, including sending him scanned copies of the letters I was being sent. Less than an hour later, he called me saying he had no idea any of this was happening, and he assured me that he had not okayed ANY of it. He promised he would deal with it.

A few days later, my landlord called back and explained what had happened. It turns out that the agent who had been hassling me was actually the owner of the letting agents. He was also my landlord’s nephew. His nephew had opened his new business when my landlord was looking for a new letting agent, so he decided to help his nephew out by signing up for his property management services.

The problem was that his nephew knew nothing about property management. He told everyone he had been taking courses, but he hadn’t. While you don’t necessarily need to pass a course to open or work as a letting agent, you do need to know what you are doing, and his nephew didn’t know the first thing about property management, let alone rental laws.

The whole time his nephew had been hassling me, he kept his uncle in the dark, telling him everything was fine. No wonder he refused to give me any of his details. My guess is he was trying to siphon my deposit for himself.

My landlord apologised profusely and assured me that he would make this right. And he did, by immediately firing his nephew and hiring a new property management company. He gave me all his contact details and told me to call him if I ever had any problems. I made sure I saved those details in as many places as possible.

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