Harvey v Bamforth 8PA13344, HHJ Bullimore, Sheffield County Court, 8 Aug 2008
When we first commented on this case (here) we provoked quite a response. Thanks to to Mr Jones of Bury Walkers (who acted for Ms Harvey) we have now been provied with a transcript of the judgment. So – here is what it says.
Mr Bamforth was the assured shorthold tenant of a property owned by Ms Harvey. A deposit was paid to Ms Harvey via her letting agents. The deposit was lodged with TDS within 14 days of the start of the tenancy.
Rent arrears began to accumulate and, in January 2008 (the transcript says 2007, but I think that must be a typo) possession proceedings were issued. The proceedings were defended on the basis that the prescribed information (s.213(5) and (6), Housing Act 2004) had not been provided. It was accepted by the landlord that the prescribed information had not been provided within the time specified in s.213(5) and (6), but was said that it had been provided at a later date. However, it seems that the landlord withdrew the possession claim, leaving only a money claim for rent arrears.
Mr Bamforth then issued an application for the return of his deposit and for damages of three times the value of the deposit. His application was heard by a Deputy District Judge who ordered that the deposit to be returned pursuant to s.214(3)(b) HA 2004 and ordered damages of three times the value of the deposit pursuant to s.214(4) HA 2004. Both sums set off against agreed rent arrears. The DDJ granted permission to appeal.
Ms Harvey therefore appealed both the order for the return of the deposit and the damages award.
s.213 Housing Act 2004 provides (insofar as is material):
213 Requirements relating to tenancy deposits
(1) Any tenancy deposit paid to a person in connection with a shorthold tenancy must, as from the time when it is received, be dealt with in accordance with an authorised scheme.
(2) No person may require the payment of a tenancy deposit in connection with a shorthold tenancy which is not to be subject to the requirement in subsection (1).
(3) Where a landlord receives a tenancy deposit in connection with a shorthold tenancy, the initial requirements of an authorised scheme must be complied with by the landlord in relation to the deposit within the period of 14 days beginning with the date on which it is received.
(4) For the purposes of this section “the initial requirements” of an authorised scheme are such requirements imposed by the scheme as fall to be complied with by a landlord on receiving such a tenancy deposit.
(5) A landlord who has received such a tenancy deposit must give the tenant and any relevant person such information relating to—
(a) the authorised scheme applying to the deposit,
(b) compliance by the landlord with the initial requirements of the scheme in relation to the deposit, and
(c) the operation of provisions of this Chapter in relation to the deposit,
as may be prescribed.
(6) The information required by subsection (5) must be given to the tenant and any relevant person—
(a) in the prescribed form or in a form substantially to the same effect, and
(b) within the period of 14 days beginning with the date on which the deposit is received by the landlord.
Section 214 Housing Act 2004 provides (again, so far as it material):
214 Proceedings relating to tenancy deposits
(1) Where a tenancy deposit has been paid in connection with a shorthold tenancy, the tenant or any relevant person (as defined by section 213(10)) may make an application to a county court on the grounds—
(a) that the initial requirements of an authorised scheme (see section 213(4)) have not, or section 213(6)(a) has not, been complied with in relation to the deposit; or
(b) that he has been notified by the landlord that a particular authorised scheme applies to the deposit but has been unable to obtain confirmation from the scheme administrator that the deposit is being held in accordance with the scheme.
(2) Subsections (3) and (4) apply if on such an application the court—
(a) is satisfied that those requirements have not, or section 213(6)(a) has not, been complied with in relation to the deposit, or
(b) is not satisfied that the deposit is being held in accordance with an authorised scheme,
as the case may be.
(3) The court must, as it thinks fit, either—
(a) order the person who appears to the court to be holding the deposit to repay it to the applicant, or
(b) order that person to pay the deposit into the designated account held by the scheme administrator under an authorised custodial scheme,
within the period of 14 days beginning with the date of the making of the order.
(4) The court must also order the landlord to pay to the applicant a sum of money equal to three times the amount of the deposit within the period of 14 days beginning with the date of the making of the order.
Ms Harvey contended that the power to order the return of a deposit and damaged pursuant to s.214(3) and (4) only arose if the court was satisfied that s.213(6)(a) had not been satisfied and that compliance with s.213(6)(b) was irrelevant for these purposes. So – the power to order the return of the deposit and damages only arises if the landlord has failed to provide the prescribed information in the prescribed form (or one in similar effect). It is irrelevant, for the purposes of s.214(3) and (4) when that information is provided.
HHJ Bullimore accepted this argument. In his judgment:
[t]he failure on the landlord’s part was not that ‘the prescribed information was not given’ but that it was not given within the fourteen days. The district judge… took the view that [s.213(6)(a) and s.213(6)(b)] were so closely connected that they only made sense if they were read together but I think that was an error. I think that the draftsman in dealing with proceedings relating to tenancy deposits in Section 214 was very clear in differentiating between the requirements of giving information and giving the information after a specified period.
There were, to his mind, sound policy arguments for this conclusion:
… they are very serious powers to be exercised against a landlord… one can well see that in the minds of the legislators, it was one thing to deal with a landlord who had not provided the prescribed information at all and to deal with it in that way with a landlord who had provided the prescribed information but had not done it within that short period laid down by the Act.
Accordingly, as the information had been given before the tenant made his application, the application should have failed. The appeal was allowed and the order for the return of the deposit and the damages was overturned.
A final word of caution. This was only a decision of a county court and one that was only argued on one side (Mr Bamforth didn’t appear at the appeal). It is not a binding decision and other judges are perfectly free to come to other conclusions. As to whether or not it is right – I’ll leave that to you all to comment on!
[For all tenancy deposit case posts click here]