The students who sued their landlord and won
They won over a £1000 each
After a group of students were charged £372 off their deposit, they decided to take Southampton estate agents Homelife Lettings Ltd. to court, and won.
Housemates Phillip Davis, Clemmie Foulkes, Colm Corr, Giulia Guariento, Rob Branch and Roo Whittaker believed that the damages claimed by the company were not enough to warrant such a large portion of their deposit being kept.
They were charged for matters such as a “very light wipe over basin”, a “light dust to window sill” and “bin lids not shut”.
The group decided to call them out on this, asking for proof that the charges were necessary and that the ‘damages’ had been fixed. This claim was refused, and the students were instead directed towards the myDeposit scheme, which requires the students send proof that the damage claims aren’t fair, and then sorts out a new figure with the landlord which the students have to pay.
It was then that Phillip Davis, a second year Aeronautical Engineer student, decided to take the company to small claims court. Whilst preparing for this, his father, a property owner, discovered that Homelife had never signed the myDeposit certificate, nor had they provided any information on it. This is an offence that requires the landlord to return the deposit, on top of paying a fine between 1 and 3 times the value of the deposit to the renters. Discovering this, they then decided to take the case up to the county court.
Homelife repeatedly ignored the issue. Davis decided to press them, first offering a deal- which eventually ended up as the same amount paid in compensation- which would involve not going to court. After this was rejected by Homelife, Davis filed an application to court for compensation that would have been three times the deposit.
This led to the company returning the deposits as a gesture of ‘goodwill’, but the students decided to keep pressing in small court, angry that if Homelife had gone under, they would have lost their entire deposit through no fault of their own. Then Homelife began calling the students individually to protest their innocence. They eventually called Davis himself, although this descended into “them trying to undermine me and eventually started to insult me, essentially. They never tried to negotiate or make an offer over the phone”, according to Davis.
Nonetheless, the case went to court and was settled with a fine twice the size of the original deposit. This meant that the students were given over a thousand pounds each in damages, including the original deposits. Homelife also had to pay the court costs for the group as it was they who had rejected the original deal.
The Soton Tab spoke to Davis about the whole situation, and he recommends doing “a bit of research into your rights as a tenant as you have a lot more power than the landlords would have you believe.
“Keep all your paperwork and be sure to read the T&C’s, as things in there may even benefit you! Stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to put your neck out. The law is a lot more accessible than you think.
“The life goal of the people in the agencies isn’t to get you your dream house and a free pizza. Sometimes, saying ‘no, that’s unacceptable’ has to be said more often.
“The onus to take companies to court is on the tenant. Nothing will ever change unless students are made aware of the law. Most deem it not worth the time or effort, or the cost of a solicitor, and then the incentive for agencies effectively doesn’t exist.
“If every student were to hold their company accountable then maybe the bar at which the companies set how shit they can all be may just go up.”