Regular readers will remember the Court of Appeal decision in the case of Tiensia v Vision Enterprises Ltd (t/a Universal Estates). This drove a ‘coach and horses’ through the tenancy deposit legislation by saying that landlords could protect the deposit up to a day before the court hearing date.
However this case was in the context of a deposit which was protected during the tenancy. What is the situation if the deposit is still unprotected at the time the tenancy ends?
While we wait for the High Court and Court of Appeal to pronounce on this situation in the various cases which are waiting in the litigation queue, the County Court is having to sort things out on its own.
We saw one answer in the Soens-Hughes v. Lewis case. Here the landlord returned the deposit and was let off the hook. Now we have another, different decision.
Shepley v. Yassen
Tameside County Court, 13 January 2011. (Reported in LAG April 2011)
Here District Judge Stockton (following the decision of Woods v. Harrington), said that protection after the end of the tenancy was not acceptable. He made the award in favour of the tenant.
It seems a bit unfair that a landlord who withholds the deposit for damage should be in such a worse situation than the landlord who returns the deposit. Mind you, the tenant in the Shepley case is deprived (by virtue of the deposit being unprotected) of the opportunity to use the free adjudication service available with the tenancy deposit scheme. So that is a bad mark for the landlord. However some landlords might say that it is a case of a tenant who causes damage to the property being rewarded for it.
Landlords, particuarly those who have been on the wrong end of a court decision, are pretty fed up with all this.
“I was ordered to pay the penalty” one landlord said to me recently at a landlords forum meeting “and now it seems from the Tiensia case that I should have won. Can I get my money back?”
As the case was heard some years ago, the answer is “no” which did not please him, at all. What with this, the time it takes to get an order for possession, and on top of that the suggestion that they reduce their rents for housing benefit tenants, landlords could be justified in thinking that the system is against them.
On the other hand, they are mostly in quite a good place so far as the shortage of available property is concerned and the resultant increase in rents …