Settled and Safe: a local case study

Angela and Howard are a married couple, with a young daughter at primary school.  For the purposes of this case study, we have changed their names, but the rest of the facts remain true.  We have published the details with their full permission.

Angela is originally from Yateley, and has lived in the area for many years.

young_family_heritageblue

In their current property, where they have been for two years, they have had a lot of problems with their letting agent, let’s call them ‘Agent X’.  Despite being subjected to a property inspection every six months, nothing which is highlighted as being wrong with the property is put right – even though it should have been done before they actually moved in.

They had no problem with their landlord, but since he lived abroad, that made things a little difficult.

After two years of no repairs, some of which had financial implications on themselves, Angela and Howard decided to moved.  The property agents, ‘Agent X’ were all too quick to want to get into the property, “to see what needed to be done before re-letting the property”.  Obviously, Angela and Howard’s response was, “And what about our repairs during the last two years?”

They decided to draw a line under the experience, and looked at properties in Frogmore, Blackwater, Hartley Wintney and Sandhurst.  They found a property they liked, and were asked to put down a deposit, to take the property off the market, and stop other viewings.  However, this letting agent, ‘Agent Y’, were “as useful as a chocolate teapot” according to the couple.

SafeAndSettled_Board

“When we wanted to liaise, no one would ever get back to us.  We had given notice on our original property, but they wouldn’t now give us a moving-in date, even though we had put down a deposit, and the agent had said it was available,” explains Angela.

“We would call with queries about what furniture was going to be included in the price, for example, and no one would get back to us,” she continues.

“Imagine our surprise when we then discovered the property we were currently living in, back on the market at a figure around £250 LESS per month!” 

 “It felt like a right kick in the teeth.  When we chatted to our landlord, he explained that he had never wanted us to go, and it seemed like a breakdown in communication on the part of the letting agent!  We had a good conversation, and decided to stay put, now with a reduced monthly rent.”

However, it is not a totally good news story for Angela and Howard.  ‘Agent Y’ was refusing to repay any of the deposit they had asked the couple to pay to take the property off the market – or the costs of the credit checks on the couple, even though the deal had not proceeded – and the cost of the rent on the new property they were going to move to was LESS than the property they were in (so it wasn’t clear why a credit check was needed anyway).

“Nowhere on their website did it say that the deposit was non-refundable.  When we had challenged them, they said it was normally paid into the deposit protection scheme, but since no contract had been signed, this was not the case here,” explains Angela.

keys_heritageblue

Angela sought advice from Citizens Advice Hart, and the couple stood their ground, since nowhere in the terms had it said that the deposit would be non-refundable.  Eventually, they got half of the deposit repaid, and are happy with the result, especially as they are now paying less rent in their original property, and don’t have the costs of moving to contend with too.  And their daughter can remain at the same school.

“Stick to you guns, read the small print, and if you feel uncertain, give Citizens Advice Hart a call,” said Angela. “They gave us greater confidence in dealing with the situation, and signposted lots more additional resources on their website.”

You can find more details on the full range of housing advice on the Citizens Advice website, click here.

You can find more details on our ‘Settled and Safe’ campaign for improving renter’s rights in the private rented sector, click here.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, and think Citizens Advice Hart can help, give us a call.