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LondonlawyerJ
LondonlawyerJ, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 814
Experience:  Solicitor with over 15 years experience.
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I will be moving to London this Summer for 3 months

Resolved Question:

I am a student and will be moving to London this Summer for 3 months. The landlord has agreed to short let his apartment. However, he wants me to pay 1month rent and the deposit in advance once the contract is signed (end of March) which I agreed to and then pay the remaining 2months once I move-in in June. However, he also said that I should be satisfied with the condition upon signing the contract and I should be held accountable for whatever happens from the date the contract is signed (i.e. even before my contract begins). Is that allowed? The landlord also told me that if I don't agree to his conditions then he will not rent the flat to me. As I really would like to rent the place what should I do?

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 3 years ago.

LondonlawyerJ :

Hello I am a lawyer with over 15 years experience. I will try to help you with this.

Customer:

Great thank you

LondonlawyerJ :

That does sound like an odd clause. Do you have the exact wording of the clause that puts that responsibility onto you before your tenancy commences?

Customer:

Well I do not have the contract with me as I will only get it end of March but we spoke on the phone and I sent him an email asking the following: "Will it be mentioned in the contract that I am not responsible for what happens to the property prior to the 12th of June?" and he replied "No you should satisfy yourself prior to our meeting (end of March) that the schedule of condition/inventory (you can get a copy from the outgoing tenant) reflects the current situation at the flat and if not raise it with me and the others in advance of the meeting"

LondonlawyerJ :

Ok, that doesn't seem to say anything about being accountable for any problems that arise before the tenancy commences. I read that to mean that you are checking the condition of the flat in advance of the start of the tenancy just a bit earlier than usual.

Customer:

But if for example one of the current tenants breaks something worth 500pounds or more after I have signed the contract, how am I sure that it will not be taken from my deposit?

LondonlawyerJ :

I would suggest that when you take up possession you carefully inspect the property to make sure that the condition of the property is the same as when you approved it in advance. If not you should bring it to the landlord's attention immediately as you should not be held responsible for deterioration in the flat before you move in.

Customer:

Assuming something happens and I report it, would he be legally allowed to take the amount out of my deposit?

LondonlawyerJ :

If I have misunderstood something here please let me know but it seems to me that what you describe is unobjectionable. It might be a good idea to ask for a copy of the draft contract.

Customer:

sorry, but what do you mean by "what you describe is unobjectionable"?

Customer:

Just to provide you with a bit more colour on this. The apartment which I will be renting this summer is a 3bedroom. As 1 of the tenants will be leaving in June I will be taking over her

Customer:

so we created a new contract for 3months with 2 of the current tenants and me

LondonlawyerJ :

By unobjectionable I mean that it sounds OK.

Customer:

what sounds ok...what he wrote?

Customer:

I don't disagree with what he says and happy to sign it as long as I am sure that legally he will not be able to take any money from my deposit for something which happened before I moved in.

Customer:

And I am scared that if I do sign it saying that I am happy with the current conditions then I could be liable for something that happened before I arrived because the contract said I was happy

LondonlawyerJ :

I think that your question to him has made things unclear. You cannot be responsible for damage caused before you move in. I don't think that is what he is saying to you.

Customer:

and how can I prove that a damage happened before my arrival?

LondonlawyerJ :

You cannot be held responsible for damage caused before your tenancy commences. I hope this answers your question but please feel free to ask follow up questions.

LondonlawyerJ :

You can prove that by inspecting the property, ideally in company with the landlord or his agent, and noting any defects.

Customer:

but there's no agent and I personally feel the landlord won't come back to inspect anything (as he made it very clear over the phone that I have to be satisfied upon signing).

Customer:

I understand that you said I cannot be reliable but unfortunately my questions haven't been answered yet: 1)I still don't see how I can prove something happened before I arrived if there isn't any agency involved and the landlord is unwilling to come back? 2)What do I do if I do manage to prove something happened before my arrival and the landlord still takes money out of my deposit?

Customer:

3) why would the landlord not be allowed to take money out of my deposit if I signed that I approved the current conditions in March

Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 3 years ago.
1 All you can do is inspect the property on the 2 occasions and note the difference between the 2 inspections. To be particularly careful you can take photographs on the first inspection and then if there is a difference second time around take further photos.

2 If the landlord takes money our of your deposit unjustly then you will have a dispute with your landlord. If your tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (which it probably is) then the deposit must be held in a deposit guarantee scheme which will have a dispute resolution process. If he doesn't put it in a scheme when he should the there he can be fined. This link may be helpful

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/private_renting/costs_of_renting/rent_deposit_and_bond_schemes

If it isn't in a scheme and he wrongly witholds some or all of it your remedy is to bring a claim in the small claims court against him.

I would strongly suggest that you ask for a copy of the contract in advance so you can read it carefully before you need to decide whether to sign it.
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