OpenRent Community

Landlord withhold deposit

Hello,
I’m here asking for advice about my tenancy agreement, as I’m having a very hard time with my landlord. I’m not a UK citizen, I moved to London in December 2019 for a job. And my flat was in East London, My tenancy contract was a 6 month contract with the landlord, 1 month deposit was paid before moving in, with all the amenities and bills included in the amount.
After just 3 months and at the end of March, due the coronavirus, suddenly, my employer put me in unpaid leaves for indefinite time, this immediately discomforted me as I was alone in the UK and I didn’t have any support, and I called my landlord about my situation and told him about my willing to go back to my country in a few days, we agreed on phone that he will pause my rent and I won’t be charged for extra fee and he will return me the deposit in 2-3 months when I would have more certainty of my job. I thought that was very nice of him. He just asked me to leave the flat neat and return the key.

Unfortunately, the morning I had to leave the flat, I woke up with no water, and I found out the whole building was having the same problem, the problem hadn’t been solved by the time I had to leave, that means I couldn’t use water for about 4-5 hours, and I was in touch with my landlord the whole morning. I accidently left the shower tap slightly open, that was generally a more complicated tap, and I couldn’t turn it off correctly without water running. As soon as I started to worry about it, I told my landlord the next day by message to go into the flat and check the shower as soon as possible, because I wasn’t sure. He just replied to me with a thumb up.

After about 3 months, I was laid off from my company, and I called my landlord to tell him that I wouldn’t be able to go back and take over the flat. Then he mentioned to me that he asked a friend to go into the flat and there was actually a water leak from that shower tap. The problem is that they went to check after over 2 months after I left, he gave me all the faults and told me he will deduct the water bill from my deposit when he would get the water reading. A week later when he got the water meter, he found out the bill went up to 2000 pounds for that water leak, and that the leak damaged the floor and wall and he charged me for another 1000 pounds. I later on, explained to him that one damage was pre-existed before, and the other was just limescale. He told me he will withhold my entire deposit of about 900 pounds and that he will pay the remainder. When I asked him why he didn’t go to check immediately, He told me that It was too afraid and he said it was illegal to leave home at that time due the lockdown, even though he lives about 1 hour by walk away from there and that could be an emergency.
I’ve sent him a long email with all reason I think that’s not my entire responsibility and that he could’ve avoided it, and asking him for more actual evidence, as I warned him immediately and I left the flat and I returned the key.
He has never replied to me since then. And I know he never protected my deposit in one of the deposit protection schemes, I innocently didn’t even know about that when I transferred him the money, otherwise I would ask advice to the protection scheme.

Do you think he has the right to withhold my whole deposit? And can you give me some advice on how to solve this problem in the best way? Can he dispute for the 30 days notice I wasn’t able to give even if he agreed not to charge anything for that as the situation of the pandemic was very serious and unpredictable at the time?
Thank you so much!

In truth. It sounds as if you were bound by a contract and the landlord hasn’t chased you for the rent. Instead, he was ok with you leaving the country, he held your flat for you and gave you the option to move back in when the pandemic had calmed down. Not many landlords would do that. How much does the rent total? He still has his mortgage to pay on the property. He hasn’t asked you for the rent arrears. Did he check the flat immediately? Who knows. If you want to take him to court, request photographic evidence and a copy of all the bills. Your costs for £900 wouldn’t be worth it. His costs to take you to court for not ever catching up on what you owe on rent and leaving the premises with full knowledge that a water tap wasn’t secured (this is a breach of your legal duty to the property - read your contract) would be a worthwhile exercise for him. There is a saying, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” In other words when things are going your way but have the potential to go terribly wrong, be grateful for what you have… and walk away. He after all, is much more out of pocket than you.

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From what you wrote here, I just feel sorry for your landlord. I would write an email to him and thank him for being such a good landlord.

Hmm. The 1-month notice might still apply in the lockdown
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