A tenant organising with Brighton Solidarity Federation has had £450 of her deposit returned following erroneous deductions by The Property Shop. After a long and arduous process, the Deposit Protection Service (MyDeposits) found in favour of the tenant and demanded that a portion of her deposit, which had been withheld by the agency, be returned.
The tenant had moved out of her flat in mid-August 2018, on a date previously agreed with the agency, after finding somewhere else to stay. However, on doing so, she was told that she would be being charged a full month’s rent for August (rather than being charged for the period of time she’d been living in the flat), and being charged £875 to replace the carpets in the property and for other other administrative costs. This came to a total deduction of £1,750. The tenant accepted the rent deduction, but wished to dispute £750 of the deductions from the £1,250 deposit.
The Property Shop was unwilling to provide any invoices for the replacement of the carpets, which the tenant suggested needed to be replaced because of various old pieces of furniture left in the flat by the landlord, which she’d asked to be removed several times and then eventually (on the advice of the agency) removed herself.
Because of the tenant’s situation with work and family, a direct action campaign did not seem feasible here, and was not something they were willing to commit to. Given this and given the agency’s apparent lack of interest in documenting their actions or in proving the tenant’s liability for these costs, the tenant and SolFed decided that pursuing the claim through the DPS would be an effective means of getting some of the money back.
We collectively undertook to do so, not helped by the unwieldy MyDeposits interface, and sent the tenant’s extensive evidence of communications with the agency to My Deposits in October 2018. In November 2018, MyDeposits responded, telling the tenant that the property’s landlord had 20 days to make their own response to the process; in December, the tenant was told that the landlord had supplied their own proof, which she wasn’t allowed to see or access, and that resolution of the dispute could take a further three months.
Eventually, on the 18th of January 2019, the tenant was told that the resolution had found in her favour and that a portion of the deduction made from her deposit would be returned.
This represents a victory for the tenant, and shows that agencies often fail to understand the legal environment they’re working in and the processes they subject tenants to. From our point of view, it shows that it’s possible to negotiate these processes for the good of tenants when neccesary.
On the other hand, it also shows why agencies are often so eager to resolve disputes via the DPS rather than via direct action – in total, it took this tenant almost five months to make a successful claim, which is obviously of no use to tenants who need the money as quickly as possible. So, when an agency says the DPS procedure only takes one month, it's not really the case; they respond to you within one month, but the entire process itself takes around four months. Direct action remains a faster way of fighting for better conditions.