Da Costa v Pinter Bromley County Court April 2008
With thanks to the November Legal Action housing updates. This was a tenancy deposit and 3 x deposit penalty claim. The rent was £1,950 a month. The tenancy agreement also stated ‘Payment required in advance of £4,200’. The invoice from the landlords agents said that of this, £2,250 was ‘a deposit’.
At the end of the tenancy, the deposit was requested by the tenant, but not returned. There was also no trace that the deposit had been protected in one of the schemes. The tenant brought a claim for deposit and the penalty. After the issue of proceedings, but before the hearing, the deposit was put into one of the schemes and details provided to the tenant.
DJ Burn ordered return of the deposit and the 3 x penalty. The DJ stated:
The purpose of the Act is to try to ensure that landlords secure tenancy deposits in a recognised deposit scheme at the start of the tenancy, so that the deposit can be returned to tenants quickly when the tenancy ends, and that disputes about the deposit can be resolved under the schemes’ procedures without the need for court proceedings.
Landlords who describe a deposit as something else, who do not secure it promptly in a deposit scheme as required by the Act, then fail to return the deposit when the tenant leaves (especially if this is without good cause, thereby forcing the tenant to start court proceedings to recover the money) but who then at the last minute after the tenant issues proceedings, pay the deposit into a scheme, are clearly flouting the spirit of the legislation and, on my interpretation, the letter also.
If the s213 and s214 remedies are not applied in a case such as the instant one, the Act would be rendered virtually toothless when landlords flout its provisions.
We are, of course, still in the land of the County Court lottery on the late compliance issue. None of these cases are binding on other courts. Harvey v Bamforth went one way and other cases, including this one, have gone the other. There does seem to be a distinct view on the spirit and purpose of the legislation emerging, through which the, to put it charitably, ambiguities of the Housing Act 2004 are viewed. But until we have a higher court judgment on the issue, there is no certainty.
[For all tenancy deposit case posts click here]