As ever, the lovely Legal Action housing updates have some interesting County Court cases that hadn’t reached us. A couple in the August edition concern tenancy deposit cases. Nothing binding (and when will some of these cases reach a higher court?), but interesting.
Woods v Harrington, Haverfordwest County Court. 19 May 2009. Ms Woods had a 12 month AST from May 2008. The tenancy agreement stated that there was a £600 deposit ‘as security for the faithful performance of the terms of the lease’. The deposit was not paid into a scheme. During the 12 month term, Ms Harrington, the landlord agreed to accept notice to terminate the tenancy early and possession was given in March 2009. The deposit was not returned. After two weeks, Ms Woods issued proceedings for the return of the deposit, without warning. Ms Harrington counterclaimed for damage and paid the deposit into a scheme in April 2009. At trial, the DJ noted that the requirements of s.213 Housing Act 2004 had not been met during the life of the tenancy. The late payment was made in the hope of avoiding the repercussions of s.214. This was not only contrary to the letter of the law but its spirit and the public policy it embodied. Parliament could not have intended that a landlord could ignore the legislation then avoid its effects by late compliance after the end of the tenancy. Return of the deposit and 3 times deposit payment ordered and directions given on landlord’s counterclaim.
This is one of a number of cases now where the County Court judges have taken the view that late compliance is not sufficient, in this case specifically compliance after the end of the tenancy. It is still a lottery, of course.
Delicata v Sandberg, Central London County Court. 2 June 2009. Ms Sandberg was granted a 12 month AST in July 2007. The deposit was not protected until August 2007. The landlord had served a s.21 notice on the same day the tenancy agreement was signed. In April 2008, Ms Sandberg was sent to prison. She had notified the landlord in advance. While she was in prison and without warning to her, the landlord issued accelerated possession proceedings relying on the s.21 notice from July 2007. A possession order was obtained and then in April 2009 a warrant of possession, both while Ms Sandberg was in prison and without her having been served with papers there. She returned to the flat on her release in May 2009. The landlord applied for a warrant of restitution. At court, the DJ accepted that the possession order should be set aside. The landlord could not rely on a s.21 notice served while the deposit was not protected – s.215(1) Housing Act 2004 – as it was invalid.
This may be quite an extreme case, but confirms what we have always said. A s.21 notice served with the tenancy agreement is invalid unless the deposit has been received and protected beforehand, which is unusual.
[For all tenancy deposit posts, click here.]