I have just learned about this case decided at the end of June. Here Mrs Osborn was let down by her agents, Countrywide Residential Lettings who, despite having protected the deposit, had failed to serve notice on the tenants giving the prescribed information, or return the money within the proper period of time. As a result, an order was made that she should pay the ‘fine’ of three times the deposit amount.
The shocking thing about this case is that apparently the elderly landlord, suffering from dementia, had to be driven by her son from her care home in Norfolk to the court hearing in Portsmouth. Which not surprisingly she found completely baffling. This and the long journey seems to have been a pointless exercise and unnecessarily distressing to Mrs Osborn.
My initial thoughts were that it should have been possible to avoid this. For example solicitors could have arranged for representation at the hearing (there are professional companies which provide advocacy services). Mrs Osborn could have given evidence by way of an affidavit (presumably she would just say that she had left matters in the hands of her agents), and a medical certificate could have been obtained to excuse her non attendance. As the property was being managed by letting agents, they were the ones to give evidence, not her.
However as the whole problem was caused by the agents failing to deal properly, Mrs Osborn will have grounds to claim re-imbursement from them. In fact from the reports I have seen, it looks as if they accept this.
But this just goes to re-inforce the fact that landlords must protect tenancy deposits and serve notice with the prescribed information on the tenant. If both are not done the landlord is at risk.