The landlord won his appeal because of ‘extenuating circumstances’. We were going back to court…
Nearly a year after the letter of doom from the landlord, we were going back to court. This time we knew he was going to turn up to the hearing, and we knew he was going to come back at us all guns blazing. We desperately needed legal help, but with our combined incomes we didn’t qualify for legal help and our measly salaries wouldn’t stretch to a solicitor.
We were so scared. How can we go up against this man?
We spent hours scouring the internet for advice, posting our woes on forums and tapping up any of our friends with a legal connection. We’re clever graduates who have done nothing wrong, I kept telling myself. But our confidence was drastically waning. We were stressed out and scared about what would happen next. How can we go up against this man?
A couple of weeks before the hearing we had to submit a ‘bundle’ to the court. The bundle of hell, as we called it, was a beast containing all of our evidence and arguments as to why we should win. The landlord also had to prepare a bundle, and we had to exchange said bundles before the court hearing.
And oh what an eye-opener his bundle was. He’d managed to amass a pile of receipts on work he’d said he needed to do to fix the house up. The most ludicrous was a purchase of a £200 table to replace the £10 Ikea one in our lounge. He had photographed every nook and cranny, and circled areas he found offensive such as ‘cobwebs behind the fridge.’ He’d upped his total claim to over £10K.
He launched into a tirade about what awful tenants we were.
The court date arrived. I had a little customary cry, chain-smoked, put my suit on, and went to court. Judge Judy (as I called her) was sitting there glaring and looking like she was about to spit flames. The outline for the afternoon was for us each to present our arguments, followed by a chance for us to exchange questions, followed by a decision. The landlord went first.
He launched into a tirade about what awful tenants we were. He made a stream of outrageous claims to imply we were all morally corrupt. He said he had no idea of we were moving out, even though he’d signed our notice letter. And finally that we’d intentionally caused a damp problem by shutting the bathroom doors and ‘collecting the steam’ just to slight him.
A highlight was when he whipped out a piece of floorboard apparently from the property, to show the damage. Judge Judy shot him down and made him put it away because it wasn’t permissible to waltz in with new evidence. I laughed until she shouted at me too.
The landlord rambled on for hours until it was our turn. I don’t really remember what happened or what we said, which is very odd…maybe my mind blocked it out, but I don’t think it went particularly well. We had a break for lunch, slumped to a coffee shop and gave ourselves a serious pep talk before going back in for questions and answers.
We’d prepared for this in detail, after reading that the questions should be structured so the respondent can only reply with a yes or no. I was the one asking the questions and I had them memorised by heart. However, the landlord had not prepared. He bumbled through a couple of vague questions and tied himself up in knots. We’ve got this I thought. I looked at him and thought of all the stress and upset he’d caused me and my best friends over the past two years, and all the adrenaline and rage lit up in me for some kick-ass questioning. Was there an inventory? Er, no. So how can you prove it was us? Well, I can’t but… You said you didn’t know we were moving out but you signed our notice didn’t you? Well yes. And so forth. With each of our questions his whole argument was shot to shit.
Then it was time for the verdict from Judge Judy. We held our breath and said a silent prayer. Judge Judy summarised both sides of the argument and delivered her views. She said it was his responsibility to do an inventory and in the absence of one he could not prove any damage was caused by us. She said she couldn’t see any damage that would prevent him from re-letting the property. And that the extra work he’d had done was excessive. That his claim was disproportionate and opportunistic. We had WON!
We got our deposit back, and we didn’t have to pay that man a penny more of our money. It was a horrible experience to go through, but, as always, right wins over wrong. Here’s what I want to pass on to any renter going through difficulty with their landlord.
- Get a signed inventory and take your own pictures of the smallest detail that you think could bite you in the bum afterwards.
- Make sure your deposit is in a tenancy deposit scheme.
- Get your landlord to acknowledge receipt of your notice in advance.
- If your landlord kicks off about damage, they’re only allowed to charge you for the proportion of what it would cost for a replacement.
- Don’t be afraid to take legal action if you need to. Ours is an extreme case, but we won in the end.
Most landlords are nice and want the best for their property and their tenants. But some are not, so do take care.