The Point of Good Communication!
I was recently approached by a landlord who had a real problem that in the main was none of his making. He had let a property out to a couple and as sometimes happens, they decided to split up part way through the initial tenancy, with the lady moving out and the gentleman staying in situ.
Unfortunately for all parties, this change of scenario was never confirmed in writing and the existing AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy) continued, even though one half of the party had left the property. In reality a new AST should have been drawn up just in his name (or at the very least her name taken off the original agreement and signed to that effect by all parties) and the deposit should also have been clarified and if necessary re-registered. Over the next months despite attempts to make contact, there was still no communication from her and during this time the gentleman passed away, leaving the property unlived in.
She came back on the scene, but had never confirmed if the property was going to be emptied, whilst at the same time still holding onto the key and preventing the landlord from having access. After a while of this ongoing impasse, she put a claim in for the deposit to be returned to her, stating that she had provided it at the beginning and it was due to be returned to her. The Landlord was somewhat perplexed – his costs exceeded the deposit, given there was the issue/cost of removing personal items (and safely storing them for three months) plus several months rent arrears. In addition, the landlord had been prevented from accessing the property and having the opportunity to re-let it, so he felt, understandably, that he would be justified in keeping the deposit.
The timeframe for this was over twelve months and the Deposit Scheme under which it was registered, eventually said they would no longer deal with it as the maximum time period had lapsed. Failing to get the result she wanted, which was her deposit back in full, she organized debt collectors to recover “her” money. With neither party wishing to back down and having lost the use of the Deposit Scheme adjudication service; it was suggested to both parties that they had at times, for whatever reasons, shown poor communication and as there was a distinct lack of usable evidence over what had taken place, it would be best to agree to split the deposit.
In reality the landlord had the right to keep the money as the AST still showed it to be a joint tenancy and she was therefor “jointly and severally” liable for outgoings on the property. It was suggested that the landlord`s lack of clarification and record taking from the original agreement, left him exposed to being seen to be negligent in his professional capacity. If he, and preferably both parties had sorted everything out when she had left the property, this would have been an open and shut case for the Landlord!
Communication and clearly documented evidence are paramount if a dispute is to be easily and simply resolved without having to seek legal help!