Here is a question to the blog clinic from Ernie (not his real name), who is a landlord and has a problem regarding the tenancy deposit.
Our former tenants left the flat dirty, with damage to furniture and a missing item of furniture that was expensive. The Check-out report clearly noted all this was the tenants’ responsibility.
However, we, the landlords, were charged £330 for subsequently cleaning the flat (noted as Tenant’s responsibility in the check-out report). Now 6 weeks later we have still received no reimbursement from the deposit for this and the other things from the Managing Agent and no other information from them about it.
How long is the agent allowed to withhold reimbursements of this kind from the landlord?
It sounds as if you feel that your agents are favouring the tenants rather than you!
The rules about what your agents can do are set out in your agency agreement which presumably you signed when you first employed them. So in any dispute with agents, the first thing you need to do is read your agency agreement and see what it says.
Bearing in mind that so far as the relationship between you and your agent is concerned, most landlords are treated as a ‘consumer’. So the unfair terms rules (now part of the Consumer Rights Act 2015) will apply.
Although note that if your agents do something (for example, in negotiations with the tenant regarding the deposit) which is contrary to the terms of their agency agreement, you will be bound by it.
This is because the tenant will not know the terms of your agency agreement and so is entitled to assume that your agents are acting within their authority. I explain this in more detail in my post on agency law here.
Courses of action available to you against your agents
So what can you do if your agents are not acting in your best interests? Ultimately there are three possible courses of action. You can
- Bring a complaint to the agent’s Property Redress Scheme
- Seek to dismiss them for being in breach of contract (assuming that they are), and perhaps
- Bring a claim for compensation in the County Court
Although you are not limited to just doing one of these – some landlords have done all three!
However, before doing anything, you need to find out what is going on.
Find out what is going on first about the tenancy deposit
For example, you need to know
- Why have your agents asked you to fund the cleaning when this is clearly something that should come from the deposit?
- Are the negotiations with the tenants regarding deductions from the deposit still ongoing? If not, what was agreed with them?
- What is the cause of the delay? Is there a dispute which is going to adjudication?
As your agents (and remember, you are, after all, paying for their service), you are entitled to answers to these questions from them. If they are not forthcoming, this is in itself a clause for complaint. You are entitled to be kept informed. You employ THEM, not the other way around.
What you should do next
You need to find out what is going on. So the first thing is to write to the agents putting the questions I suggest above.
What you do next will depend on what response they give. There may be a reasonable reason for the delay. Or the agents may have done something they shouldn’t and be trying to cover it up.
If you don’t get a proper response, then I think threatening to complain to their Property Redress Scheme is probably the way to go. At least initially.
Once you know what your agents are doing, you will be in a position to decide whether they have acted properly and in your best interests. Or whether they haven’t. In which case, you may want to consider moving to a different agency or maybe taking over the management yourself. And claiming compensation.
“How long is the agent allowed to withhold reimbursements of this kind from the landlord?”
The answer is that this is something governed by the terms of your letting agreement. If your agreement is silent on this, or if you don’t have a written agreement, then the Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that contracts between a trader and a consumer must be performed “with reasonable care and skill”.
So if a Court were considering this issue, the Judge would want to know what is the normal time frame for payments to be refunded to landlords where they have a valid claim against the deposit?
So, dear Reader, if you do this work – what is your experience? Is six weeks an unreasonably long period of time for a landlord to be left out of pocket and without any information from his agents? Please let us know in the comments below.
And if you have a problem with YOUR agents, note that we have a special guide on my Landlord Law service to help landlords, which you can read about here.