In October 2017, Brighton Solidarity Federation was organising with a tenant who was facing a £344 deduction from their deposit after moving out of a house administered by the lettings agency The Property Shop in Kemptown. The tenant approached Brighton SolFed for support to organise a public campaign against this, which concluded successfully with full replayment to the tenant after around one month of actions. Below, the tenant tells the story of their experience of this situation, as well as of the public campaign.
I requested my deposit back from The Property Shop after I moved out of my house. This was when they decided to charge me and my former housemate for the replacement of a broken shower and for unblocking a drain. The maintenance of sanitation facilities is the landlord’s responsibility under Section 11 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and the agency had no proof that we as tenants had caused these issues – the shower broke because it was old and rusted – so it was the landlord’s responsibility to pay for them. They sent one of their own staff members round to unblock the drain, and then tried to charge us £50 for it.
I was very stressed out by this charge, because I had no option of going through the Deposit Protection Scheme, as I was misinformed that I could leave requesting the return of my deposit as long as I needed to (which was longer than the DPS’s dispute resolution service was available). It was a scary situation to be in because I just wanted my money back. I tried to go through the Deposit Protection Scheme but I'd left it too late. This was in part due to the estate agents delaying dealing with my request for my deposit back, so it was out of the three-month bracket in which the protection scheme could be involved.
I contacted SolFed through a friend. It was really reassuring to find people willing to support me. They involved me in every step of the process, allowing me to make final decisions on everything. They supported me throughout. Having someone there from start to finish was very comforting.
We delivered a demand letter to The Property Shop, requesting the return of my deposit, explaining that the issues at the property were the landlord’s responsibility to pay for, and giving them time to respond, in late October 2017. At first, they did not enter into negotiations, insisting that myself and my former flatmate had to pay for the shower and drain, though they provided no clear evidence why. They were generally quite hostile throughout, but they soon began to panic when the public campaign started to escalate, which began with a picket of the agency in late October and which I was encouraged, but not pressured, to take part in.
When they first realised we weren’t going away, they responded by trying to pit me against my former housemate, by implying that I should indicate that all of the charges be taken out of their deposit. This was obviously an act of desperation – they were clearly rattled and wanted the campaign to be over as soon as possible, but we did not relent. They decided to pay after my landlord was contacted directly; after some negotiation, he instructed The Property Shop to give me back my full deposit. We also have written confirmation that my former housemate will not be charged for these problems when they move out.
I felt elated and relieved when they paid. Before I had the support of other tenants and those in solidarity with me via SolFed, I was alone with no chance of being able to hold my former estate agents accountable. With their solidarity, though, I was able to get my full deposit back.
Having trouble with your landlord or letting agency? Get in touch with SolFed by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by sending a text to 07427239960.