MP controversially names landlord and My Deposits in Parliament as ‘partners in crime’

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.”

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28 Comments

  1. JamesB

    What he is really after is a deposit scheme that will return to tenants no matter what !

    He should be sacked for his comments but in today’s landlord bashing world he will probably get promoted

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    1. Mark Connelly

      He is an MP and since they just stuck two fingers up to 17.4 million people, I shouldn’t think he cares much.

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      1. pat123-

        Yeah you can bring the 17.4 million significantly down now.

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        1. Scottish_Mist42

          I’ve called every election and referendum correct for the past 20+ years (even Trump after being in the US 3 weeks before the election) and I would not bet on that.

          Despite calling leave I did vote remain.  However would now go leave after witnessing the complete arrogance of the EU and our MP’s.

          I wouldn’t underestimate ‘the silent majority’

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          1. pat123-

            Lets be honest, a massive majority of leavers thought leaving means immigrants go to. There’s a lot of closet racists in this country who influenced the voting. Either way i firmly believe if there were a second vote, which there should be, that it would be heavily in favour of remain.

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            1. Woodentop

              That second vote is a bone of contention with democracy. What is missing in the debate, is not just what the EU and May offer, it is what is in for us if we do stay. Seems everyone has forgotten that. The whole thing is a mess and I doubt that many of the public today know which is better, in or out and I put that down firmly on the behaviour of all politicians, no matter what party, who seem hell bent on doing what they want for themselves and not what the public said democratically.

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  2. ArthurHouse02

    Parliamentary Privilege is essential to allow MPs to go about their work unimpeded, but it is not there to allow MPs to pursue personal vendettas against companies. This MP should be ashamed of his actions, especially as in my opinion many MPs have very little understanding of how the lettings market actually works.

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    1. Benfield

      I agree, MPs as well as most Ministers comment without really knowing what they are actually talking about, it’s crazy really. How many Housing Ministers in the last 10 yrs have had any Industry experience.

      This is my neck of the woods, so both characters are known. The MP is a self-publicist to say the least. Acorn, the so called Renters Union, are nothing but a Rent a mob. I know of many Contractors that have been bumped by Baron Homes, not a nice person.

      That said, seems from a TDS point of view that the right decision was made, in the absence of proof of Early Surrender, rent due remains.

      A Custodial only scheme makes sense, but at today’s interest rates, I highly doubt it will pay for itself, so no hugh profits, they would have to start charging premiums.

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      1. pat123-

        They can’t charge fees for a custodial scheme, the whole point of custodial is that it’s free so no charges would ever come about.

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        1. AgentQ73

          You really believe that if there were only one scheme run by the government that was compulsory to use they wouldn’t charge ?!?!?!?

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          1. pat123-

            You can’t charge for a custodial scheme… 

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  3. jeremy1960

    The fact is that most tenants no matter how bad they are expect the deposit to be returned when they leave. It is only when faced with good solid evidence that they start to squirm and make a fuss,  despite, no doubt, having been given every opportunity to get things right before vacation. Once out and they realise that landlords mean business they then try and come up with spurious excuses , unconnected tales of woe and there own “evidence “. We have seen cleaning ‘quotes’  and ‘receipts  for cleaning’written on scraps of paper. The shame is that if things go to arbitration, the schemes look at these scraps to consider them!  Best we had was a tenant’s ‘quote’ for £55 to clean a 4 bedroom house including appliances and carpets whereas the real cost to the landlord exceeded £500; fortunately the arbitrator had some common sense and awarded to the landlord but the process took almost 4 months to complete, why?

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    1. JMK

      I can only speak from my own experience but I’m not sure I’d agree with the ‘most tenants’.  I do find that Eastern Europeans tend to leave properties much cleaner than English ones so I guess it depends on tenant profile.

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  4. Will2

    On leaving a court hearing recently where I was awarded possession and arrears and costs of circa £4000 the tenant asked how she gets her £1000 deposit back and seems quite surprised when I said YOU WON’T! It will go firstly on any cleaning/damages etc and then be offset against your arrears.  Perhaps she should become the next MP for Kempton and Peacehaven. After all she seems to have the appropriate qualifictaion!

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  5. WiltsAgent

    A clear example of the contempt politicians have for our industry and have consistently shown with their policies over the last 5 years.. Fortunately for us the whole country feels the same way about them.

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  6. Woodentop

    Politics in this country is a broken. They are out if touch with society and become an old boys/girls personal agenda club with no backbone. They all need kicking out. USA got so fed up with it, look who they ended up with as president out of the size of population they have.

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  7. MrsF

    When I tried to get my deposit back from a previous letting agent, the TDS said they can only release funds with the letting agents consent. Even though I had proof that I was to receive the whole amount due to the letting agent not registering the deposit within the 30 days.

    Long story short, it took 3 months, 2 visits to small claims court, 1 court order and a baliff to get my money back. And thankfully, I got all the deposit, plus compensation from the letting agent due to her competence.

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    1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

      Good morning MrsF,
      May I ask whether (following the cessation of the Tenancy you refer to above) any deductions from the deposit were proposed by the Landlord/Agent?
      Many thanks

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      1. MrsF

        She tried to keep the entire deposit, this was because I left the tenancy early due to the property being unsafe. In turn, I found out she did not register the deposit within the 30 day time frame and took her to court on that basis and won. So i recevied my entire deposit back plus 3x the amount in compensation, plus costs.

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        1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

          Thank you MrsF.  
           
          Yes, I am fully au fait with requirements in respect of Deposit registration (in fact, current guidance stipulates that a deposit linked to an AST be registered within 28 days of Tenancy commencement- I believe). Indeed, the 3x deposit amount is standard/default position for Courts, where a deposit requiring registration, is not registered within the stipulated time period.  
           
          Forgive my question, but what precisely was ‘unsafe’ about the property/ was this proven by a Council enforcement order/Court order?  
           
          Did you vacate the property in line with the Tenancy Agreement’s terms regarding notice?
           
          Is it correct to assume then that the Landlord was seeking to recover the enitre deposit to cover arrears due to the early vacation?  
           
          Were any specific proposals relating to damages caused during the course of the Tenancy?  
           
          Essentially (and please forgive my inquisitiveness!), I am trying to establish whether this was a deposit return, by default (I.e. the deposit was returned to you solely on the basis that the Agent had failed to register the deposit, in line with current requirements).    
           
          Many thanks

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          1. MrsF

            No, I did not vacate within the terms of the agreement. I asked for an early termination clause to be put in, she refused, so I left anyway. Yes she wanted to keep the deposit due to me vacating the property early.

            Illegal electrics, leaking shower which in turn came through the ceiling and vermin which she refused to address. I contacted the agent, the council and also an electrician who all agreed with me. Even the electrician she sent sided with me.

            After the issues, the landlord took back her property from the agent.

            In court however, the claim was purely based on the deposit not being registered. The other issues did not come in to it. I have enough industry knowledge and evidence that I won. Although I am not an agent (I would say I am a service provider), I knew enough to know that I would be successful.

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            1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

              Thank you for taking the time to respond. It is always interesting to delve a little deeper in seemingly straightforward matters surrounding Tenancies and particularly deposit disputes, as they often turn out to be far less ‘black and white’ than at first they may appear!

               

              Many thanks

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          2. jeremy1960

            With an ast  (1988 housing act tenancy ) deposit must be registered within 30 days of receipt, not tenancy starting. Had this deposit been correctly protected then the landlord would have been awarded on basis of lost rent as clearly tenant left during agreement if there was no vehicle such as a break clause to permit. The issues of property condition have nothing to do with the deposit in this case, the “penalty” is purely based on the fact that the deposit was not protected as per 2004 act.

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  8. Eyereaderturnedposter12

    A cheap shot, by a more or less unknown MP, to get his name ‘on the map’, in a cynical attempt to please his Marxist superior (and ironically, furthering the [Conservative’s] anti-Landlord, anti-agent, anti-business, anti-happiness, anti-growth agenda).
     
    Clearly, Mr Russel-Moyle has limited (if any) knowledge in respect of the subject he has sought to bring to Parliament’s attention and seemingly suffers from a severe ”Robin-Hood Complex”.
     
    We seem to be living in a world where the reality of any given situational dynamic/background/facts is now a secondary (if not tertiary) concern.
     
    ”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.”
     
    State-run…and offering an ”Independent” arbitration service. .But not impartial I take it? (of course not, why would it be!?)
     
    ”Highly Profitable”…Oh dear Mr Russel-Moyle, you seem to have metaphorically soiled yourself in public…Profit??? NO ONE IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE ANY MONEY OUT OF RENTING PROPERTY…You dirty man!  

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    1. Property Money Tree

      …love this! Haha

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  9. KByfield04

    As stated in the article and in comments above- any aggrieved party always has the fallback option of pursuing the matter through the courts if they do not agree with a dispute ruling but no landlord, agent or scheme should be expected to rule on evidence not presented. What is terrifying in his quotes is the throwaway comment that these events are ‘commonplace’- this is simply not true- especially when you consider that on a national level only around 1.3% of tenancies result in a dispute being filed- also these disputes are almost 50/50 between tenant and landlord/agent and the awards are also pretty much a 50/50 split.

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  10. KByfield04

    Tweeted the chap to see how he can justify using a single case to represent and criticise a sector housing millions- and also how with just 1.3% of deductions going to dispute this can ever be quantified as commonplace in any form of interpretation of that word.

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    1. JamesB

      Excellent

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