If you ever lived in private rented accommodation throughout your student years, it’s almost guaranteed that you will have experienced some…unpleasant encounters with your landlord or estate agent. But in the midst of payment battles and deposit feuds, six UK students can be viewed as an inspiration to us all after achieving the seemingly impossible. Yep, that’s right – they took their landlord to court and, surprisingly, they won…
When £372 was taken off the cost of their deposit, housemates Phillip Davis, Clemmie Foulkes, Colm Corr, Giulia Guariento, Rob Branch and Roo Whittaker wholeheartedly believed the claims made by Homelife Lettings Ltd., a Southampton-based estate agent, were unwarranted and unjust.
Student publication The Tab reports that the group were charged for things like “bin lids not shut”, “very light wipe over basin” and a “light dust to the window sill”, and unwilling to agree that such trivial matters deserved such a large chunk of their money to be kept behind, the students decided their landlord should be summoned to court.
— TheRoomLink (@TheRoomLink) June 28, 2016
The team asked Homelife Lettings to provide evidence that the charges were necessary, but the claim was initially refused. This led them back to the myDeposit scheme, a necessary requirement for any UK letting. For this the students had to submit proof that the damage claims were unfair, and the scheme would then calculate a new figure that the tenants and the landlord would have to split between them.
But for Phillip Davis, an undergraduate engineering student, this was not enough, and he decided to take the company to small claims court. In preparation for this, Phillip and his father noticed that Homelife had never signed the myDeposit contract, nor had they provided the students with any relevant information.
“This is an offence that requires the landlord to return the deposit, on top of paying a fine between one and three times the value of the deposit to the renters,”
The Tab reports. The tenants decided they should stand up for what the law said was right – so they summoned to company to county court.
Actually knowing my rights as a tenant makes me angrier at the state of student accom. We’ve no choice but to ignore our rights for a roof
— Dee Campbell (@DeeCaam) May 15, 2016
Predictably, the Hampshire estate agent decided to ignore the issue, so Davis proposed a deal which meant they would avoid going to court. Of course, Homelife rejected the offer, so Davis submitted a court order application asking for compensation amounting to three-times the cost of the deposit!
Following the application, the agents decided to give back the deposit as a gesture of ‘goodwill’ (surprise surprise), but for the students it still wasn’t enough. After seeking the tenants out individually in a bid to protest their ‘innocence’, an encounter Davis found particularly insulting, the students decided they were not going to give in.
Consequently, the case went to court and the tenants left with a prize twice the size of the original deposit, meaning each student received compensation worth more than £1000 in damages. The company were also forced to cover all costs of the hearing, since they were the party who rejected any form of negotiation.
Are you a Student? Thinking of signing a lease during the school year? Read up on your rights as a tenanthttps://t.co/uU8QeOtqO0
— WRC Legal Services (@WatLegalClinic) March 3, 2016
“The life goal of the people in the agencies isn’t to get your dream house and a free pizza. Sometimes, saying ‘no, that’s unacceptable’ has to be said more often,” Davis told The Tab.
“The onus to take companies to court is on the tenant. Nothing will ever change unless students are made aware of the law. Most deem it not worth the time or effort, or the cost of a solicitor, and then the incentive for agencies effectively doesn’t exist,” Davis continues.
“Keep all your paperwork and be sure to read the T&C’s, as things in there may even benefit you! Stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to put your neck out…a bit of research into your rights as a tenant [will show] you have a lot more power than the landlords would have you believe.”
Image via The Tab.