My Deposits and a landlord were both cited in Parliament yesterday afternoon by an MP who described them as ‘partners in crime’.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour MP for Kempton and Peacehaven, Brighton, was successfully introducing a ten minute Bill which seeks to reform current law by setting up a single, custodial, tenancy deposit scheme, replacing all other schemes.
However, both the landlord and the deposit scheme have questioned his version of events.
Speaking with full parliamentary privilege, which provides protection against slander, Russell-Moyle said that a constituent of his, Andy Smith, had been living in a private rented house.
In January 2018 he had been offered council accommodation which he accepted.
He obtained the agreement of the landlord, Baron Homes, to leave early.
But, Russell-Moyle said, Baron Homes – which he described as having a “woeful record of exploiting tenants in the city [Brighton]” – had held on to the entire £650 deposit.
This was despite proof, which the MP had seen, of damage at the property having pre-existed the tenancy, with some wear and tear.
In addition, the property was due to be gutted anyway, to be turned into separate units, the MP told the Commons.
The tenant was able to show proof to My Deposits of agreement to leave the tenancy agreement early, but My Deposits nevertheless upheld the landlord’s decision to keep the money.
Russell-Moyle had intervened. He alleged that it took months to get a reply from My Deposits and when he did, it was to be told that it offered no appeal and no right to a review.
Russell-Moyle said this kind of practice was “commonplace” and that the law needed to change to prevent the names of landlords and agents being synonymous with bad practice.
He told MPs that most deposits were held in insurance-backed schemes, which “have an incentive to keep landlords happy” as they pay the premiums.
He said that a single, custodial, tenancy deposit scheme would, via his Bill, be modelled on one in Australia which is State-run.
It is highly profitable, with money being used to improve the sector, and offers an independent arbitration service.
Russell-Moyle said that some of the money which his proposed single tenancy deposit scheme raised would go towards renters’ unions, such as Acorn.
His Bill was favourably received by MPs and now proceeds to a reading on March 22. Unusually, the introduction of the Bill was attended by prime minister Theresa May, as it was the last item of parliamentary business before the start of last night’s crucial ‘no deal’ Brexit debate.
Nazila Blencowe, director of Baron Homes, told EYE she was horrified and very upset at the allegations made in Parliament.
She said she could not understand why the MP was “behaving this way”. She said: “I have done nothing wrong.”
She said that the tenant had been on housing benefit, and had simply said that he would be leaving the tenancy, which still had seven months to run.
She said that the property was empty between February and May, when it was re-let. Baron Homes had made no attempt to go after the unpaid rent, although it could have done so.
She said that there had been damage to the property, which was photographically evidenced to My Deposits.
She also said that the tenant had wanted £500 of his deposit back. Baron Homes had retained this amount and, she said, My Deposits agreed.
Eddie Hooker, of My Deposits, told Eye last night: “This dispute goes back to August 2018. The tenant raised the dispute on the basis that the property was not in a fit state of habitation. He advised us that he had vacated the property early but provided no evidence that he had obtained permission from the landlord or that rent was up to date.
“The landlord claimed he had not been given permission.
“The legal position is that without specific permission this is a breach of his tenancy agreement, regardless of the issues with the property, and as such we would award the deposit to the landlord up to the full amount of the unpaid rent.
“There was no break clause in the tenancy agreement permitting the tenant to leave early without the permission of the landlord.
“A month later, we received the letter from the MP together with an email showing that the landlord had indeed agreed for the tenant to leave early although there was no express permission for the rent to remain unpaid. The email was silent on this issue.
“However, this was one month after the original decision and we do not have the powers to overturn an original decision unless it can be proven that we made an error based on the original information we received in order to make the decision. In this case the original information made no reference to this email and ultimately our decision was correct based on that original information.
“Therefore the only recourse for the tenant to overturn our decision is to go to court so again we were correct in this advice. We responded to the MP accordingly.
“It should be noted that if TDP schemes had to ‘re-adjudicate’ original decisions every time someone unearths new evidence – especially outside of the timescales both parties agreed to at the start of the process – it would be unfair to all parties.”