Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another tenancy deposit decision

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to


This is a report of a case kindly provided to me by Simon Parrott of Palmers Solicitors (Bedford).

I am writing following a recent hearing at Bedford County Court on 28th October, to let you know the result of my case. I act for the landlords.

The circumstances of the case were that the tenancy deposit had not been protected at the time that it was taken (1st June 2007). Then, approximately 13½ months later (mid July 2008), this was discovered by my clients after receiving a request from the Tenants for confirmation of the Deposit Protection Scheme. My Clients immediately took steps to protect the deposit with DPS that same day and then served the “prescribed” information upon the tenants. The tenants denied receipt of various letters and documents but they had received proof of the protection three times over by the end of July, and by the time they issued their proceedings claiming the penalty (mid August). We made an application to strike out the case under CPR24 and the hearing on 28th was our summary judgment application.

The Judge granted our application and struck out the claim on the ground that there was no real prospect of success. The essence of the judgement was that, considering the wording of Section 214 of the Housing Act, the Judge was satisfied that because we had paid the money into DPS we were able to satisfy the initial requirements of “an authorised scheme”. Having then served this information upon the tenants, the tenants were then able to obtain confirmation from the scheme administrator that the deposit was being held in accordance with the scheme. The tenants were therefore not able to get over the initial test of Section 214(1). The Judge also had quite considerable regard to the notes to the Housing Act, and in particular note 503, and was satisfied that the time for consideration of the Landlord’s rectification of his default was at the Court hearing.

One particular issue of the case was that my clients were unable to use any of the group insurance schemes available to them because by the time they discovered their mistake the tenancy had outlived its contractual term and was therefore a statutory periodic tenancy. Neither TDS nor MyDeposits would allow them to protect the deposit in those circumstances and my clients were, therefore, only able to protect the deposit by paying it into the statutory scheme (DPS). Whilst we were therefore unable to satisfy the initial requirements of Section 213(3), the Judge accepted my submission that by accepting payment of the deposit out of time the DPS scheme “initial requirements” allowed a late payment into the scheme which then enabled the Landlord to escape the penalty provisions of Section 214(4).

I am grateful to Richard Jones at Bury & Walkers for letting me have a copy of the Harvey v Bamforth report and whilst our District Judge was persuaded to read the report, he stressed that he didn’t feel himself bound by that as precedent.

This case makes it clear that, as things stand at present, tenants are unlikely to succeed if their landlord has protected the deposit before the issue of proceedings, and possibly if it is protected afterwards so long as this is before the hearing date.

I understand that these proceedings were issued by the Money Claim Online procedure. I recently came across this practice note here (you can also locate it by putting tenancy deposit in the search box on the Court Service web-site home page) which indicates that section 214 claims should really be made using the Part 8 procedure. It appears that in due course the CPR will be amended to provide for this.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two B&Bs and one Hotel – three book reviews in one

From time to time I do book reviews on the Landlord-Law site, and several of these have been for a publisher called How to Books. They specialise in publishing really nice self help books on a wide range of topics. Books reviewed for them in the past include Tony Booths excellent Buy to let Handbook and How to Invest in the UK Property Market by Gerry Fitzgerald.

The publishers recently sent me three books, two on running B & Bs (one in England and the other in France) and one on buying and running a hotel. As they are not really landlord and tenant books, I decided to review them on this blog instead of on Landlord-Law, and as they form a theme I thought it would be nice to review them together. I will review them in the order that I read them.

Running a B&B – a landlady’s guide by Christabel Milner
This is an absolute gem of a book, which I enjoyed reading very much. I expect we have all at some time or another thought about running a bed and breakfast. Ms Milner, who has been a landlady for 27 years, is very experienced and it shows in her book.

The book is very clear and precise as well as entertaining. She starts by telling us how she started in the business, and the properties she has developed and run as B&Bs. Part One then looks at what is involved in running a B&B, for example whether your home is suitable and how it can be adapted, and also considering whether there will be a market for your business locally. Part two then goes into the reality of running the B&B covering practical matters such as linen, keeping the room in readiness, bookings, taking payments, marketing, and of course the breakfasts. There is also an excellent chapter on personal safety.

Although I have no intention of running a B&B I found the book enchanting. How wonderful it must be to arrive at Ms Milners house on a cold and rainy day, to be ushered into a warm welcoming room, with its crisp clean linen and generous hospitality tray! With Ms Milner herself, there to assist if you need her, but discreetly withdrawing to her own quarters when you don’t. A touring holiday staying at B&Bs is one of the great ways to see Britain, and this book will help anyone who want to be a part of that. Highly recommended.

How to Buy and Run your Own Hotel by Mark Lloyd
We all think we could run a B&B, but what about a hotel? Mark Lloyd had worked for years in the hospitality industry organising events, but had always wanted to run a hotel. This is the story of how he and his wife, together with their two young children, took the plunge and bought a hotel in Chipping Sodbury in the Cotswolds (in fact this hotel here).

Although this book gives a very good description of what is takes to buy and run a small ten roomed hotel, it is very uneven and I felt could have done with a lot of tidying up. Reading it from cover to cover, I found I was continually reading the same stories and the same points (good ones admittedly) over again. For example a detailed description of the day they took over the hotel is given twice – once in chapter 5 and then again at the end of the book. As a book it seemed to be at one time looking at things chronologically and at other times by topic, which was a bit confusing. However there are some great stories and Mr Lloyd is an entertaining writer.

The book paints a very clear picture of what it is like to take over a hotel, and the amount of work involved. In fact so busy are they that I am surprised that Mr Lloyd found the time to write a book at all. At the time of writing the book Mr Lloyd and his family had been there some 18 months. It was rather a shock to discover towards the end of the book, that fairly shortly after taking over, he had had a serious accident and had been hospitalised for several months. What a nightmare that must have been for him and his family!

For all its organisational inconsistencies, this book really is essential reading for anyone considering buying and running a hotel. I now know for sure that it is not something I want to do!

How to start and run a B&B in France
Do you sometimes tire of dreary old England with its constant rain and cold? Why not up sticks, buy a run down property in La Belle France and run it as a B&B? This is what Deborah Hunt and her husband did, and this book tells you how to do it.

This is a very well organised book and an excellent guide. Mrs Hunt and her husband are both architects and not surprisingly the whole process of renovating French property is gone into very thoroughly. In fact I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering buying and doing up property in France, irrespective of whether they intend renting out rooms. Mrs Hunt is also very clear about the different system in France and the process of buying French property and running a business.

If you are intending moving to France, obviously you will need to speak French. The book helpfully gives many lists of suitable words ands phrases, and every chapter ends with a hint on how you can improve your French (e.g. watch the TV news in French and read a French newspaper).

The book is very helpful on the different culture in France and the differences in what you will be expected to do as a B&B landlady in France as opposed to England. The author also looks at the different characteristics and expectations of different nationalities. Shamingly, English children are the worst behaved.

One charming feature of this book is that it is illustrated by Deborah Hunt’s own line drawings, which show different types of property and features. I also liked the cover illustrations (Susie Home -

At the end of the book, Mrs Hunt recorded interviews with five other English proprietors of French chambers d’hotes. These were fascinating and served to give a more rounded view of what can be done. All in all I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone considering moving to France.

It has been fun reading these three books end to end and I have thoroughly enjoyed them all. They are all far more informative that I can describe here, and are all good reads in their own right, whether or not you are considering becoming a B&B landlady or hotelier.

Happily however they have not convinced me to change my job or to uproot and move to France. I enjoy running my legal and internet business too much, and however pretty France may be, I have no desire to always be a foreigner, plus I am dreadful at languages! But for a short period I lived the dream vicariously through these books, and that was enough for me.

NB If you want to buy any of the books, you will find them in the Amazon box in the right hand column of this blog.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Deposit Protection Service – problems answered

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to

Since the tenancy deposit protection regulations came into force in April 2007 I have done quite a few blog entries on this subject, and there have been many comments from landlords and tenants. Some of these have been highly critical of the company running the custodial scheme, The Deposit Protection Service (DPS). In view of this, I thought it was only fair that I should contact them to give them an opportunity to respond to the criticisms which have been made about their service.

The DPS do not think it appropriate that they respond directly in this blog. However from what they have said to me, it appears that most of the problems complained of can be answered as follows:

  • It is essential that the information inputted when registering the deposit is correct. For example, if incorrect bank details are given then the claim cannot be progressed. If this happens the DPS will write to the landlord telling them that the information inputted is invalid and inviting them to deal with this so that their claim can be progressed.
  • When making a claim to have the deposit repaid, it is essential that the correct repayment ID is given otherwise the claim will be rejected.
  • The DPS also need to hear from both the landlord and the tenant before the deposit money can be repaid. It is up to the party seeking repayment to chase the other party. The DPS will not do this for you.
  • If the other party refuses to co-operate, then the single claim process can be followed. This may end in Adjudication if the other party does respond, otherwise the claim will be settled without the other party. Alternatively, if both parties are contactable and cooperating then the adjudication process can be used. In both these instances the party wanting to claim the money will have to apply to the DPS for the necessary forms.
  • The DPS do not deliberately delay payments to accrue more interest, they cannot do this even if they wanted to - they can only claim their agreed fees. They also point out that the Government have no access to these funds and do not make any financial gains from this scheme

For more information about the DPS service, you can visit their web-site at, and there is a telephone helpline 0870 7071 707.

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Tenancy Deposit Protection – test case?

I have been contacted by a London tenant who is bringing a claim against his former landlords and their agents under the tenancy deposit protection legislation. He is looking for a local firm of solicitors to assist him with his claim (preferably on a pro bono or ‘no win no fee’ basis), which he hopes will be a ‘test case’. He tells me that the facts are briefly as follows:

- A well-established London based Estate Agency accepted a deposit to be held against a 1-year AST. The Agent registered the deposit with TDS over 5-months after the 14-day window allowed by UK Housing Law. The Agent never notified the Tenant of the deposit registration details despite repeated requests from the tenant.
- When the tenancy concluded, the Agent returned the deposit back to the tenant only after the tenant threatened legal action, and even then it was returned after a reasonable deadline was given by the tenant for its return without legal action.
- The tenant has filed a claim in West London County Court for 3x the deposit as per UK Housing Law. The Agent has stated that they will fight the claim and have retained the services of specialist housing solicitors.

Anyone interested in assisting can contact the tenant at

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Twitter update

I wrote a blog entry about twitter when I first signed up. However on reflection perhaps this was a bit negative. Having used twitter for a couple of weeks I feel it is time to give a more positive update.

I have found it really good. I am now putting notifications of all new developments on Landlord-Law onto twitter so anyone who want to know what I am doing can follow me and find out. I know that a few people have set up twitter accounts just so they can do that, which is nice.

However I have also found some good twitter accounts to follow. The most fun must be Stephen Fry. At the time of writing he is filming in Kenya, and us twitterers following get regular updates, including pictures. However perhaps the most interesting are the news accounts – I am now subscribing to the Guardian, Law Tweets, The Times Law, the Times Property, BBC breaking news, UK Parliament and Number 10 Downing Street.

Following twitterers is also a good way of letting them know that you exist, and often they in turn follow you. So, for example, my tweets are now being followed by Stephen Fry, No 10, and the UK Parliament to name but a few. This is initially very flattering until you realise that they are also following lots of others. Stephen Fry for example is following over 7,000 so I doubt whether he reads them all or he would do nothing else!

I have particularly enjoyed the news tweets, and it is nice when my husband tells me a news item to be able to say ‘I already knew that’. Smug but true.

As a lawyer it is also very interesting to be kept informed, on a day to day basis, of what is happening in Parliament. As a result of this I may check out more the development of housing related bills and read the online information in the excellent UK Parliament web-site.

So all in all I would recommend twitter. It allows me in easy way to keep people informed of new Landlord-Law content, and keeps me up to date. A good combination.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poverty is a state of mind. Discuss.

I read on the internet that yesterday was blog action day on poverty. I have rather missed the boat on that, but perhaps I can put in my tuppence ha’penny worth now. And be a bit controversial!

So. Poverty is a state of mind. Is it? If you live in somewhere like Africa during a time of famine, then no, it is real and there is not a lot you can do about it. However if you are lucky enough to live in the first world, then surely there is the opportunity for us all to escape poverty. I would suggest that one of the main thing which prevents this is your state of mind.

Everyone has in them the potential to do well. Everyone. I believe that the two great catalysts for this are belief in yourself and education. Assuming you live in the UK (this is a British blog) education is available to us all. There are evening classes, the open university, or just libraries where you can read books for free or use the internet. If you can’t read, there are classses where you can learn. With education will (hopefully) come belief in yourself and self worth.

Don’t believe negative things that people say about you. For example, many, many women have no ambition in life because they were told repeatedly when they were a child that they were stupid, only fit for marriage, and that their brothers were more important than them. But that’s not true! I believe that everyone has something they are good at or have the potential to be good at. If you think this isn’t true of you, then this just means you haven’t found out yet what that thing is.

Believing in yourself is very important. It carries you forward when other people might drop back. It propels you on to work at something when perhaps it might be easier not to. If you truly believe in yourself, work hard, and are not stupid, then you should eventually get somehwere. (Out of poverty at any rate)

Not being stupid is important though. I don’t think success depends on being very, very clever – just being sensible. And also I think, not being greedy. Many of the problems we have today are down to people being greedy. As we are now finding out.

An example of how important belief is. Two years ago everyone believed in the financial system, so loans were made, and everything ran well. Now people have lost their belief in the system to such an extent that the banks are not even lending money to each other. The difference is a collective state of mind.

So, is poverty a state of mind? Perhaps not, but staying in poverty is, in many cases because of a state of mind. Change the mindset and you have a good chance of changing your life. My recipe for success therefore (moderate success that is, not becoming a millionaire) is education, self belief /self worth, hard work, not being stupid about things, and not being greedy. Try it and see!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Go to work on a poem

When my son Patrick was younger (he is now 12) we often read poetry together, but we hadn’t done any for quite a while. Quite by chance I was looking through a poetry anthology (looking for a reference) recently during that part of the morning before he goes to school, and suggested that we read a bit. I was thrilled when he actually switched off the cartoons and said, yes that would be nice. So this is our new routine.

I tend to be a bit of a re-reader of poetry (rather than reading new stuff), my all time favourites being Ozymandias (Shelley) and The Solitary Reaper (Wordsworth). I am also very fond of my Mothers favourite - Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening (Robert Frost). Patrick’s favourite poem seems to be The Snake (D H Lawrence).

I have started reading him the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Coleridge) which may take us a while.

What shall we read after that?

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Strutting my Stuff

I have had a few gratifying initiations to speak recently. Last month I spoke at London Landlords Day and also to the Lambeth Landlords forum, which were both very enjoyable.

This month I am due to speak to the CLT 11th Residential Landlord & Tenant Update Conference 2008 on 23 October, where I will be giving a possession proceedings update. CLT courses are always rather on the expensive side, however CLT have agreed to allow my annual members to attend this (and another conference I am doing in February) at subscriber rates, which means a discount of £100. Members can find out more about this in the Landlord-Law special offers section.

Nothing so far in November (I was invited to do the Landlord & Buy to Let Show in Birmingham, but couldn’t face the travel) but on 3 December I will be doing a presentation at the Residential Landlord and Tenant Update, organised by Professional Conferences, called Possession 'Claims For Private Landlords – A Formula For Success'. One of my co-speakers on this conference will be Jan Luba QC so I am quite excited about that. I have wanted to hear him speak for ages, but as I generally have more than enough CPD (and being a bit of a tightwad) I can never justify the cost of attending his courses.

Finally, I was really pleased to be invited to talk about Landlord-Law at the 2009 Legal IT Show on 4 February. My web designer Gill Bishop will be there with me, to answer all those tricky technical questions on things I don’t really understand. So if you are interested in how the site was developed and how it works, please do come along.

If you would like me to speak to your organisation please do get in touch. I always try to speak when invited if I can, but this is subject to my being able to travel to the venue – I live in Norwich and do not drive, so am dependent on the trains. You can find more about the talks that I can offer here.

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Amazon inflation

Having written a book review of Make Cash in a Property Market Crash by Mark Homer and Rob Moore, I went as I usually do, to put a link from my review page to the book on Amazon. I was amazed to see however that the book had a sale price of £105.75. However the book itself, on the desk before me, had a price on the back cover of £16.97.

Either something has gone very wrong, or this is an attempt by the boys (who self published) to ensure that all purchases of the book are via their web-site The boys appear to have few flies on them, so I suspect it is the latter. Needless to say, the web-site provides other (no doubt more expensive) services.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Energy Performance Certificates – have you got yours?

Today is the day that the regulations regarding Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) come into force.

If you are a landlord you now need to provide an EPC (or a copy of one) to everyone who asks for particulars of your properties, and/or all who view your properties, or at the very latest, by the time the tenancy agreement is signed.

If you are a prospective tenant, you should make sure your landlord gives you an EPC as soon as possible. In todays world of increasing energy prices, gas and electricity bills will be an important part of your outgoings. Properties which are energy efficient could save you a lot of money. It may even be cost effective to pay a bit more rent for them.

But what if the landlord refuses to give it to you, and just laughs at you for asking? Well he does not have to give you one if he thinks that you are not serious about renting the property, or if he has made his mind up not to rent to you (perhaps because he thinks you are a trouble maker for asking for an EPC …).

However if you think he is deliberately flouting the law, you can complain about him to your local Trading Standards Office. They will then contact the landlord, and if they think he is breaking the law they can serve a penalty charge notice, which carries a fine of £200. No doubt once this has happened to a landlord once, he will take care to see it does not happen again!

However there are a few defences available to landlords. One is if they have ordered an EPC at least 14 days ago and despite chasing it up, have not received it yet. The other is if the tenant is so desperate for accommodation that he cannot wait for an EPC to be obtained, provided the landlord serves it on him at the first opportunity.

The general hope, is that having to obtain and serve EPCs in relation to rented property will highlight their efficiency or otherwise (mostly otherwise I suspect for the majority of properties) in their use of energy. Hopefully this will prompt more landlords to do something about it, to make their property more attractive to tenants. Or that tenants will demand that something is done about their expensive to heat properties. Thus helping to improve the carbon footprint of the nation.

Lets hope it does. For more information about energy saving in general see the Energy Savings Trust web-site.

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