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  • FIRST POST
    • triple_eggs
    • By triple_eggs 16th Apr 19, 6:40 PM
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    triple_eggs
    [Help!] Do I have enough evidence to take my live-in landlord to small claims court?
    • #1
    • 16th Apr 19, 6:40 PM
    [Help!] Do I have enough evidence to take my live-in landlord to small claims court? 16th Apr 19 at 6:40 PM
    I am Joe's lodger. I have a signed contract.
    Joe is Dave's tenant. I don't know what their contract is.



    My landlord is refusing to return my deposit and continues to argue that I should pay 1/2 of all fees, which I disagree with. I have offered to pay 1/7 of all charges as I lived there for 4 months (round up to 6) and he has lived there for 36 (3 years) since he last renewed his contract.

    I did not take photos as I knew my landlord well and did not think he would do this to me, especially since I left my room and shared areas in a better condition than I found them.



    I had previously lived with my parents while I renovated a dilapidated house nearby, however my dad suddenly died and my mum went through a dark stage where she got frequently and irrationally angry with me, so I decided it would be best for both of us if I moved out as a lodger with a colleague (Joe), who, with his landlord's (Dave) permission sublet a room to me. I moved back home to find a (much!) better job, but my wife still lives in the city because she hasn't found a job here yet.


    I moved in on the 18th of September 2018, and paid a deposit of £355. The contract stated that all bills were included in my rent, which I have paid promptly and in full. I moved out on the last day of February, 2019. Joe asked to keep my deposit until he moved out, a month after me, so that he could charge me my fair share of any fees the landlord charged.


    Joe asked me to go to Dave's inspection for him because he had a bad back. During the inspection, Dave said he was unhappy with the condition of the house with respect to how it was three years ago, when Joe renewed his contract, but did not think it had degraded any further in the 6 months I was there, and that my personal space was the cleanest area in the house. He has sent me written confirmation of this and stated that in his opinion, Joe should return my full deposit. I have Dave's full name, personal address, and phone number.



    I have had a continuing WhatsApp discussion with Joe where he keeps refusing to itemise the charges, but comes up with weird new charges such as 'TV License' (??? not in contract) and to pay bills after I moved out (???). Joe refuses to provide me with a forwarding address.



    Do I have enough to win a small claims case? I have worked so hard to build a house for my wife and (future) kids, I have exhausted my savings and need that deposit back to finish the work.
    Last edited by triple_eggs; 16-04-2019 at 8:59 PM. Reason: More detail
Page 1
    • G_M
    • By G_M 16th Apr 19, 7:16 PM
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    G_M
    • #2
    • 16th Apr 19, 7:16 PM
    • #2
    • 16th Apr 19, 7:16 PM
    Am I right that 'Joe' rents the property under an AST from 'Dave'?
    Joe is Dave's tenant?
    Joe has been a tenant there for 6 years.
    You moved in as Joe's lodger 4 months ago?

    By 'fees' I assume you are referring to deductions Dave (Joe's landlord) is proposing to make from Joe's deposit to cover..... cleaning? damage? unspecified issues?

    1) Clearly you are not responsible for the deterioration from 6 years ago to today. Tht is Joe's liability.
    2) But you are responsible for issues arising in the 4 months you lived there.
    3) If you do not have a clear breakdown of 2) above, you are not liable
    4) if the issues listed to you are the same as those listed by Dave to Joe (ad assuming they are valid), then there is an argument for saying you should contribute a proportion (6 years = 72 months, so 4/72s or 1/18th of the total.
    5) but 4) above assumes the issues occurred in a steady way spread over the 72 months- if, say, damage was done in the first year, you would not be liable for that. And if, as you say, you have evidence "that my personal space was the cleanest area" then again, your liability is reduced.

    So yes, on the face of it, it seems you have a fair case. I say 'fair' as opposed to 'good' because to sue Joe, you need to
    6) know where he is, and
    7) be able to produce sufficient evidence to counter anything he says to justify his deductions


    Having said that, you simply make the claim - he has to justify his deductions, and from what you've said, he has not come close to that as yet. Though he might if /when court papers appear.

    8) Finally, even if you win, does Joe have money to pay you? A job/income? An owned property? Often courts allow payment spread over monthsyears, and often defendants simply vanish or don't pay, meaning you have o return with bailiffs etc......
    Last edited by G_M; 16-04-2019 at 7:20 PM.
    • triple_eggs
    • By triple_eggs 16th Apr 19, 8:12 PM
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    triple_eggs
    • #3
    • 16th Apr 19, 8:12 PM
    • #3
    • 16th Apr 19, 8:12 PM
    Cheers for the quick response. I appreciate it as I don't have any experience with the law.

    I moved in with Joe mid October 2018 and moved out at the end of February 2019.

    Joe has had his current contract for 3 years, which is 36 months. I don't know what Joe's contract with Dave is.

    Dave has already given Joe his deposit back; he deducted 33% last time the contract was renewed, and 33% this time. I understand Joe gave a deposit of £550, so he has walked away with £181.50. This time the deductions were for repairs to the house, and disposing of waste (I offered to take it all to the tip, but Joe said he would do it - really!).

    Joe has not provided a clear breakdown of my charges, he has tried to explain it two ways:
    1. Dave has charged Joe x, therefore I am liable for 50% of Dave's deductions
    2. Joe has had to pay bills since I moved out, therefore I am liable for 50% of those bills


    Joe and I work together for the same company, on the same site. I know he is paid £48k a year plus a bonus of around £4,000. I know he is capable of paying £355 back. This is in the far, barren north, so it's not as if his wage is subsumed by rent and a rail pass.

    He claims to be incapacitated with a herniated disc, and has returned to his home country for private treatment. I have asked him for a forwarding address so I can prepare the paperwork, and said I would only submit an application when he returns so that he will certainly be there when any post arrives through his door.

    He refuses to disclose his new address because he claims I have threatened him and he's concerned I'll smash his stuff up in his absence (really!). All I have done is tell him I will take him to court, and it will be much easier for us both if he takes me 1/7 offer.
    Last edited by triple_eggs; 16-04-2019 at 8:19 PM.
    • Wanderingpomm
    • By Wanderingpomm 16th Apr 19, 8:46 PM
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    Wanderingpomm
    • #4
    • 16th Apr 19, 8:46 PM
    • #4
    • 16th Apr 19, 8:46 PM
    It sounds like you are a lodger not a tenant
    • triple_eggs
    • By triple_eggs 16th Apr 19, 8:59 PM
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    triple_eggs
    • #5
    • 16th Apr 19, 8:59 PM
    • #5
    • 16th Apr 19, 8:59 PM
    It sounds like you are a lodger not a tenant
    Originally posted by Wanderingpomm

    You're right. Is there a significant difference?
    • macman
    • By macman 16th Apr 19, 11:38 PM
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    macman
    • #6
    • 16th Apr 19, 11:38 PM
    • #6
    • 16th Apr 19, 11:38 PM
    You're right. Is there a significant difference?
    Originally posted by triple_eggs
    Yes, a world of difference. Firstly, your contract is not a legal tenancy., and Joe is not your LL. You are just a lodger, and lodgers have next to no rights: you can be given notice at any time, without reason, and be asked to leave with minimal notice. None of the legal protection enjoyed by tenants apply to you.
    Re the utility bills, then if your name is also on those bills, you are jointly and severally liable for the whole bill, not just 50%. In the absence of Joe, the suppliers will pursue you alone for any arrears.
    No free lunch, and no free laptop
    • triple_eggs
    • By triple_eggs 17th Apr 19, 1:07 AM
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    triple_eggs
    • #7
    • 17th Apr 19, 1:07 AM
    • #7
    • 17th Apr 19, 1:07 AM
    So are you saying that because I'm a lodger, the contract I signed is completely worthless? Surely if it has both of our signatures, and Joe makes lots of references to it in our WhatsApp conversation, then it must be valid?

    My name is not on any bills, they are all entirely in Joe's name. My contract says all bills are included in the rent. The bills are electric, gas, and water. TV license isn't mentioned and I have never agreed to pay a TV license, let alone use a TV.
    • csgohan4
    • By csgohan4 17th Apr 19, 6:17 AM
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    csgohan4
    • #8
    • 17th Apr 19, 6:17 AM
    • #8
    • 17th Apr 19, 6:17 AM
    OP you need to read G_M's guide on lodger and then come here asking further questions


    https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showpost.php?p=67759939&postcount=9
    "It is prudent when shopping for something important, not to limit yourself to Pound land/Estate Agents"
    • triple_eggs
    • By triple_eggs 17th Apr 19, 6:37 AM
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    triple_eggs
    • #9
    • 17th Apr 19, 6:37 AM
    • #9
    • 17th Apr 19, 6:37 AM
    I have read it, I'm just confused by what some people in this topic are saying.

    All I want to know is if I have sufficient evidence to go through small claims court.
    • GrumpyDil
    • By GrumpyDil 17th Apr 19, 6:43 AM
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    GrumpyDil
    Whether you have enough evidence is something for the court to decide.

    That said how much would your claim actually be for as for a small amount it really it probably is not worth the aggravation ofpursuing a claim.
    • brianposter
    • By brianposter 17th Apr 19, 5:51 PM
    • 381 Posts
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    brianposter
    I would suggest that you do have enough evidence, and that, if you are careful, there might only be a short period of bad relations.
    It might be even better to have Dave as a witness.
    • G_M
    • By G_M 17th Apr 19, 6:00 PM
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    G_M
    It sounds like you are a lodger not a tenant
    Originally posted by Wanderingpomm
    Yes.
    Yes, a world of difference. Firstly, your contract is not a legal tenancy.,
    correct. It is a legal 'Licence to Occupy'.

    and Joe is not your LL.
    Wrong. Joe IS your landlord. You are Joe's lodger

    You are just a lodger, and lodgers have next to no fewer rights: you can be given notice at any time, without reason, and be asked to leave with minimal notice.
    That depends on the contract between LL and lodger. If the contract (licence) specifies a 6 week notice period, for example, then the lodger is entitled under contract law, to 6 weeks notice.

    The distinction is that in addition to any rights under the relevant contract, a tenant also has statutory rights, ie rights granted by the law which cannor be taken away.

    None of the statutory legal protection enjoyed by tenants apply to you.
    Re the utility bills, then if your name is also on those bills, you are jointly and severally liable for the whole bill, not just 50%. In the absence of Joe, the suppliers will pursue you alone for any arrears.
    So far as the utility companies are concerned, yes, if your name is on the bill they can pursue you for payment. However, since you said
    The contract stated that all bills were included in my rent, which I have paid promptly and in full.
    so if you were forced to pay the utility cpmapnies, you could claim the cost back from Joe based on your contract.
    Quite why you agreed to have your name added to the utility accounts if bills were included in the rent is a mystery to me, but your contract seems clear.

    he has lived there for 36 (3 years) since he last renewed his contract.
    You have edited your first post, removing a reference to Joe living there for 6 years. Why? This is a significant fact and potentially doubles your (legal) liability!
    Last edited by G_M; 17-04-2019 at 6:04 PM.
    • triple_eggs
    • By triple_eggs 18th Apr 19, 11:11 AM
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    triple_eggs
    Cheers for the responses. I know it might seem like a fairly small problem compared to all of the injustices in the world, but I don't understand the legal side of all of this, so it's nice to have guidance from people who know more.


    My name is not on the bills, only Joe's name is on the bills. The contract with our names on it states that bills are included.


    The contract does state an 'average' monthly price for bills, and Joe claims that the bills were 'above average', and therefore I am liable?


    I'm not sure I did say that Joe had lived there for 6 years, I wrote '36' months, and then edited to add '3 years' after you mentioned 6 years the first time.


    My deposit to Joe was £355, his deposit to his landlord was £550.


    I have told many times over the past few weeks that I will accept £300 because I don't want the hassle. He is now refusing to pay me anything because I have 'threatened him' on WhatsApp by stating that I would take him to court if we couldn't settle it between ourselves, and asking for a forwarding address.


    He has decided to add the TV license to the deductions he is making, although there is no mention of this in our contract.


    I have also asked him for a schedule of deductions from my deposit, he hasn't provided me with one yet. He has said he would email me one, but won't give me a deadline.
    Last edited by triple_eggs; 18-04-2019 at 11:16 AM.
    • Honeylife
    • By Honeylife 19th Apr 19, 11:05 AM
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    Honeylife
    Others have explained the 'Lodger' difference and they are correct.

    I am not sure what you signed, whether it was a Licence Agreement or what?

    I will add; if the documentation says Bills are included then the TV Licence is included plus Water, Electric, Gas, Council Tax and these days the Wifi. If the documentation says Utilities are included then technically the TV licence is not included as it is not a Utility but an optional Bill but you should only be paying a portion for the time you were in residence.

    Joe may disappear so if you do win your case, and you do have a good case, you may have to use court bailiffs to track him down to recover this relatively small sum. All of this takes time. Time is money. Do the maths! How many hours a day sending emails, whats apps, letters, conversations on MSE forum, letters to court, more than likely employing court bailiffs, again more calls, emails over several weeks, maybe months, as they try to find him. All those hours X £minimum wage! It just doesn't add up.

    I would suggest you send him a Letter Before Action simply stating that you will take him to the small claims court for recovery and the sum you expect to receive within 14 days of the receipt of the LBA. Sometimes that is an effective nudge.

    But from the sounds of it Joe doesn't have your money and Joe is no longer your friend.

    On the other hand, Joe maybe aware that it is a small sum and is actually hoping/expecting you to walk away. Looking at from the principle of the transaction, pursuing this through the small claims court, it could be lesson to him that he should honour his financial arrangements.

    You alone will have to decide if this is financially worth taking any further for a £300 refund.
    "... during that time you must never succumb to buying an extra piece of bread for the table or a toy for a child, no." the Pawnbroker 1964
    • G_M
    • By G_M 19th Apr 19, 5:13 PM
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    G_M
    My name is not on the bills, only Joe's name is on the bills. The contract with our names on it states that bills are included.
    then the utiliy companies cannot bill you.
    and based on your contract with Joe, noe can Joe


    The contract does state an 'average' monthly price for bills, and Joe claims that the bills were 'above average', and therefore I am liable?
    Does the contract define 'average'?
    Or have you been shown, say, 3 years of bills from before you moved in (ie to establish 'average)?
    If not 'average' is just a word with a subjective meaning.


    I'm not sure I did say that Joe had lived there for 6 years, I wrote '36' months, and then edited to add '3 years' after you mentioned 6 years the first time.
    my mistake. I guess I mis-read


    My deposit to Joe was £355, his deposit to his landlord was £550.

    I have told many times over the past few weeks that I will accept £300 because I don't want the hassle. He is now refusing to pay me anything because I have 'threatened him' on WhatsApp by stating that I would take him to court if we couldn't settle it between ourselves, and asking for a forwarding address.
    whatsApp is not an appropriate way to communicate.
    Either do it amicably face-to-face, or formally by letter.


    He has decided to add the TV license to the deductions he is making, although there is no mention of this in our contract.
    Does it menton 'bills' or 'utilities'?

    I have also asked him for a schedule of deductions from my deposit, he hasn't provided me with one yet. He has said he would email me one, but won't give me a deadline.
    Originally posted by triple_eggs
    Then send a 'Letter Before Action giving him a deadline.


    Then decide whether to follow up with court action or walk away.
    • Honeylife
    • By Honeylife 20th Apr 19, 5:41 AM
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    Honeylife

    My name is not on the bills, only Joe's name is on the bills. The contract with our names on it states that bills are included.


    The contract does state an 'average' monthly price for bills, and Joe claims that the bills were 'above average', and therefore I am liable?


    .
    Originally posted by triple_eggs
    Just to pick up on this again. Bills are included in your 'contract' but then there is a qualification of some sort on your 'contract' and you apparently had not seen the previous 12 months of bills to know what the 'average' usually is? Then Joe said they were 'above average'. Have you seen the past years bills anyhow? Think about it. Of course they would be 'above average' as on your moving in there were TWO people using utilities not ONE! Joe is blustering and talking absolute nonsense to get you to cover the most likely unpaid Bills (in his name only) from the accommodation.

    Ignore anything he says about Bills.

    Agree with G_M on Communicating by WhatsApp not appropriate, email or hard copy letter is the best way.
    "... during that time you must never succumb to buying an extra piece of bread for the table or a toy for a child, no." the Pawnbroker 1964
    • tlc678910
    • By tlc678910 21st Apr 19, 2:13 PM
    • 893 Posts
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    tlc678910
    Hi,
    Personally I would not bother to pursue this - if you decide to out of the principle then I admire your energy. I would think Joe is a **** but what goes around will come around. Bide your time and when he gets in a sticky situation or needs your help you will know what to say. Don't pretend even to yourself that such a small amount of money will cloud your future .. it won't. Do a few days overtime if you can get any. Move on.
    Tlc
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