No Win No fee deposit lawyers
“Ambulance chaser” is a term that has been around since 1881, when Edward Watkin of the South Eastern Railway (England) complained about lawyers who solicited business from passengers after train accidents.
All businesses have suffered one way or another from the pandemic; some have closed their doors for good, others have ‘got by’ others have quickly evolved to make the most of the change in society.
One business sector, in particular, has opted to jump on the Ambulance chaser bandwagon and hit cash strapped landlords where it hurts, with what can only be described as ‘bully tactics’
Over the last 12 months, I have seen more and more adverts from No Win No Fee solicitor firms flooding social media platforms with adverts such as: –
“Private tenants! Did you pay a deposit? If it wasn’t protected, you CAN claim COMPENSATION”
“Paid a deposit for your rental property? If your landlord didn’t protect it in 30 days, you WILL be ENTITLED to three times the deposit value”
“Did you sign a tenancy in the last 6 years? Pay a deposit? You can claim 3 times the deposit value in compensation for each tenancy the landlord failed to protect your deposit you could be owed THOUSANDS”
Now we ALL know that deposits MUST be protected, 30 days from them being received and Prescribed Information (PI) must be provided to the tenant within the time frame.
When a landlord or agent doesn’t do this, they have broken the law and the tenant is entitled to compensation, now I am not a judge nor a solicitor, but I do believe any compensation should fit the crime.
If a private landlord has taken a deposit in good faith, kept that money in a separate bank account, can show that they were not used for other purposes.
That there was no attempt at the end of the tenancy to secure the deposit amount for spurious reasons and all deductions were agreed with the Tenant at the end of the tenancy.
It is therefore obvious that there was never any intention on the landlords’ part to fail to return the deposit monies or to abscond with them or to deprive the tenants of their deposit.
There was no malice aforethought in failing to register the deposit and it was not a deliberate act, to withhold the tenants’ bond, but merely an oversight.
I believe that a 1 x the deposit money (less the deductions) would be appropriate.
Aggressive and threatening tenant deposit lawyers
Now, I have seen a number of the letters sent by these No Win No Fee firms and they are extremely aggressive and threatening and provides no breakdown of how they reach the overinflated compensation, letter 1 comes complete with the Part 36 offer and pre-action protocol letter before action.
One letter I saw demanded £3,050 to be paid to the tenant IMMEDIATELY.
Yet the deposit taken was £475, £200 of which was returned to the tenant when they vacated as deductions of £275 were agreed with the tenant.
Now I’m doubtful many lawyers could have reached the sum of £3,050.00 from an original deposit of £475 which had already agreed deductions.
I took on this particular case because the landlord was elderly, she had approached a local letting agent before renting the property who had advised that the property, an annexe, would make her a resident landlord as it was part of her own main house.
They advised that a deposit would not need to be protected due to this.
How to Defend a tenants deposit claim
I drafted a response to the solicitor, back in April, with copies of title deeds, the sales particulars, the council tax register, and information from the post office.
ALL confirming that the Annex was NOT a stand-alone property and was part of the main landlord home, it also shared all utilities, the occupants just paid rent, no bills in their own name.
So, this proves to me that these No win No fee solicitors take the tenants on their word and then in the vailed hope that their scary letter and threat of fire and brimstone will just make the landlord cough up.
So…. 4 months later… yes 4 months… the firm replies, thanking us for our letter, but still feel they are right because the tenants signed an AST.
Now, as we all know, it doesn’t matter what you call a document, the law will determine what contract is actually in place.
So, I have responded again….. this time requesting their complaints procedure……. We wait with bated breath.
I have dealt with over 25 of these letters and I have to say the lack of research by the firm before sending out their letter and seeming lack of knowledge surrounding housing law is frightening.
Out of those 25 letters, I have helped 22 landlords reduce their compensation from thousands of pounds to just a few hundred.
YES, absolutely the landlords did wrong.
YES, absolutely they deserve to pay compensation for their failings.
But unsubstantiated overinflated amounts, that would NOT be awarded if it went to court is just downright wrong and shows a level of desperation from these so-called professionals.
Landlords, Please protect your deposits within 30 days of receiving them NOT 30 days of the tenancy starting, make sure you issue prescribed information and PLEASE do not bow down to these bullies.
If you get a letter like this, please contact our team firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice.
Dr William Masih from the British Landlords Association said: “These No Win, No fee lawyers who have set up shop just dealing with suing landlords has grown and is still growing.”
“They are very aggressive in the way they deal with cases. Landlords often don’t realise they can make a counterclaim against any claim the tenant may make for a deposit breach. These can be like rent arrears, cleaning lock change etc.”
Author: Jules Ford (Guest Post) Date: 26th of August 2021
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