Here is a question to the blog clinic from Belinda (not her real name):
I live in a 6 bed house in London.
When I moved in, I paid my deposit to the girl moving out of my room. This is what she had done and this is how deposits havebeen regained by everyone who has lived Iin the house; we think for around 10 years.
I and one other are not on the contract for the house, though 4 of my housemates are.
Our landlady is now keen to have the house valued and we’re all concerned that we may shortly be asked to move out but may not necessarily be handed back our deposits.
We’re not sure what our rights are… or indeed if we have any!
I would be enormously grateful for your advice.
When I do training talks I generally refer to this situation as ‘disorganised comings and goings’. It is difficult to work out what rights occupiers have and this will depend very much on the circumstances.
How the property is let
For example if the property is let on a room by room basis, you would almost certainly have a tenancy, simply because you were living there and paying rent to the landlord. Under the Law of Property Act 1925 (s54.2) it is not necessary to have a written tenancy agreement to create a tenancy under 3 years.
However if the whole of the property is already let out on a ‘joint and several’ tenancy to some of the people living there, then the landlord cannot let one of the room to you.
Because the property is no longer hers to let. It is subject to the existing tenancy.
So then what is your status? So far as I can see it can only be as a lodger or guest or the existing tenants.
In which case you will not have the rights of a tenant (and can be evicted without a court order), and any deposit you pay does not have to be protected in a scheme.
Recovering the deposit
How then can you get it back? You cannot claim it from the landlord as you did not pay it to her – you paid it to the outgoing occupier.
The only way I can see of recovering this money is by deducting it from the ‘rent’ to the landlord before you go. The landlord will not be able to bring any claim against you through the courts – as you are not her tenant!
This is the sort of nonsense situation which arises when people do not complete the proper paperwork.
Or does anyone else have any interpretation of the legal rights and obligations in this (not uncommon) situation?