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Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I have a contract law question, regarding the return of a deposit

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I have a contract law question, regarding the return of a deposit on a rented property. In 2008 I rented a property through an estate agent. I paid 6 months rent upfront along with a deposit. 2 months into the tenancy a new owner bought the property. Soon afterwards I was informed that the old landlord had not passed on the outstanding 4 months rent along with the deposit to the new landlord. I was pressured by the new landlord's agents to pay a new deposit & to put in a claim against the old landlord. This I did not do as I was advised it was an issue between the old & new landlords. In addition I found out that the old landlord had not protected my deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, even though I had a certificate from the old landlord's estate agents. The latter informed me that it was a mistake to issue me with such a certificate. I sought legal advice and I was told that the terms and conditions of the old contract stand, regardless of the fact that no monies were paid to the new & now current landlord. I have recently left the property and the current landlord has refused to return my deposit, citing his non receipt of it in the first place. I have looked into putting a claim against him in the Small claims Court, but I read that I can not do this if it is regarding a deposit issue. Will I have to put in a County Court Judgement? Furthermore can you advise me on what else I might do? Thank You.

Alex Watts : Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return You do not need to wait here as you will get an email when I reply.
Alex Watts : Did you ever sign a new tenancy with the new landlord?
Alex Watts : Do you have the address for the old landlord please?

I never signed a new contract with the new landlord. The contract I have is with the old landlord who I believe is a solicitor. I do have his Name and address

Alex Watts : Ok. In reality you need to sue the old landlord.
Alex Watts : The agents are wrong to tell you it's a matter between the new and old landlord.
Alex Watts : Unless you have this in writing you need to sue the old landlord.
Alex Watts : You only ever had a contract with the old landlord and he had the deposit.
Alex Watts : You need to write and set out your losses and request a refund within 14 days or say you will go to Court within 14 days. You should make sure you send this signed delivery and keep a copy.
Alex Watts : If they do not refund you then you can issue proceedings in the County Court. You can either do this online at: or by completing form N1 and take it to your local County Court.
Alex Watts : The Court will then issue a claim which a copy will be sent to the Defendant who will have a limited time to defend it, if not you can enter Judgment and enforce.
Alex Watts : If the matter is defended it will be set down for a trial. If the claim is for £10,000 or less it will be a small claim and you will not need representation.
Alex Watts : You could sue both the old and the new landlord at the same time, it does not cost any extra and the court can decide who is liable.
Alex Watts : Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

Alex - thanks for the message, though I'm now confused. The legal advice I received at the time of this dispute stressed that the new landlord is responsible for the tenancy agreement that I signed with his predecessor. His reluctance to return my deposit is understandable as he never received the 4 months outstanding rent along with the deposit. However surely this is irrelevant as I have been paying rent at the same time every month to the new landlord for 5 years, meaning that he de facto consented to the terms and conditions of the contract - regardless of the fact that he was not the owner at the time. As an analogy, if a car crashes into me from behind, I sue that driver, not the person who may have initiated the crash from behind them.

Alex Watts : You needed to sign a new agreement with the new landlord, unles it was agreed by all parties that the lease was assigned.
Alex Watts : If this was not agreed your old agreement technically ended.
Alex Watts : Therefore your old landlord would be liable.
Alex Watts : Butas I have suggested I would advise you sue both the new and old Landlodd.
Alex Watts : Thus is No additional cost and the court can decide who is liable.
Alex Watts : Does that help?

Really? I took advice at the time and I was told that if a new contract is not signed, then the old one including terms and conditions stand... are you saying that this was incorrect legal advice?

Alex Watts : It can only carry on if the old agreement allows for it,
Alex Watts : The new person can't be bound unless they agree.
Alex Watts : Imagine you were the new landlord, you would not like to be bound by something you didn't agree to.
Alex Watts : But it makes little difference, issue against them both.
Alex Watts : Same cost.
Alex Watts : The court can decide.
Alex Watts : Can I clarify anything else?
Alex Watts : As for your car crash analogy that is negligence, not contract law, different rules. But actually it is quite common to sue the person that caused the crash.
Alex Watts : But don't get side tracked, the one claim can have two defendants.
Alex Watts : It will be the same issue fee regardless of whether it is one or two defendants.
Alex Watts : does that help?

Ok - so I have the tenancy agreement in front of me and it was with the old landlord - true. My understanding is that the new landlord consented to it because he accepted rent off me, if he did not consent then the onus was on him to draw up a new contract, which he did not do therefore he is liable. Do you agree with this analysis?

Alex Watts : No,
Alex Watts : He can't be bound by the terms unless it was assigned, the agreement allowed for assignment and he consented.
Alex Watts : You hAve an implied tenancy at will.
Alex Watts : But again, don't get sidelined.
Alex Watts : Issue against them both.

I do take your point regarding suing both and letting the courts decide who is liable

Alex Watts : Yes indeed. It's no extra cost, let a judge decide and the landlords fight it out between themselves.
Alex Watts : Can I clarify anything else?

Yes a few more points

Alex Watts : Ok.
Alex Watts : i am on the train so may go offline

What does 'Assigned' 'agreement allowed for assignment' and 'tenancy at will mean' in this context?

Alex Watts : It means transferred
Alex Watts : From one person to another.

So I'm clear - does this means that for 5 years that I was paying rent to the current landlord, that I had no legal contract obliging me to do so? Plus he was not obliged to carry out his landlord duties during this time? All because the contract became defunct after he took ownership of the property and a new contract was not issued between myself and him?

Alex Watts : Well yes, it was implied. But you had no real security.
Alex Watts : It was implied so you had to everything as a tenant a d he landlord


Alex Watts : It is just the deposit issue,
Alex Watts : Does that clarify?

Alright - so next steps - I read that if the landlord has not protected my deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, then I can claim for x3 the amount & there was something about an 8% interest penalty that can be added... is this correct?

Alex Watts : Yes that is correct.
Alex Watts : Does that help?

So this would be the process: 1. Send x1 recorded letter to both old & new landlords asking for payment within 14 days. 2. If monies are not received, then put a claim against BOTH via the MCOL website. 3. The claim would include a x3 amount & 8% penalty on top of the deposit sum.


4. Await a judgement? What else can I do? What if one or both contest?


In addition will I need to scan / upload all of my papers / Emails etc to the claims website, or send hard copies to a postal address?

Alex Watts : If both contest it will be listed for a small claim hearing.
Alex Watts : You will need to send hard copies once allocated to the local court.
Alex Watts : Does that help?

Re the process, are points 1-4 the way to proceed?

Alex Watts : Yes they are and it reiterates the steps I stated.
Alex Watts : Can I help with anything else?

I think that more or less covers it unless you think there is anything else I should do / be aware of?

Alex Watts : No that's it.
Alex Watts : If this answers your question might I invite you to rate my service.
Alex Watts : If the system won't let you please do say,
Alex Watts : if you need more help please click reply

Ok thanks for your advice, I'll end the chat here and rate your service by clicking on one of the faces

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