A reader, who has vacated her rented property, is struggling to retrieve her deposit and other monies from the rental agency.
Apart from the deposit, she has also paid unspecified additional sums to the rental agency, which is acting on behalf of the landlord.
According to her, the agency refuses to reimburse her for the money she is owed.
See the reader’s question here.
In instances like these, we need to look at the provisions of the Rental Housing Act.
If a landlord requires the tenant to pay a deposit, it should not exceed an agreed or recorded sum and the monies should be invested in an interest bearing account.
The interest accrued is for the benefit of the tenant and, subject to further provisions, must be repaid at the end of the lease period.
The tenant is entitled to proof of the deposit from the landlord on request.
Similarly, an estate agent should invest the money through their trust account in accordance with the provisions of the Estate Agency Affairs Act.
These provisions then tie up nicely when one considers the definition of “landlord” under the Act.
It means the owner of a dwelling that is leased and includes his or her duly authorised agent.
The agent is obliged to execute the duties of the landlord where he acts on his or her behalf.
The Act is very specific as to the manner in which the deposit can be used. Where the landlord is not entitled to make any deductions from the deposit, it must be repaid to the tenant within seven days.
It should be noted that the provisions differ where no inspection is held at the termination of the lease.
As an estate agent is involved, it is fairly likely that the agent conducted an inspection of the dwelling with the tenant subsequent to her vacating it.
Where no money is due by the tenant, the landlord must refund the deposit together with the accrued interest on the expiration of the lease.
Otherwise, the landlord may use the deposit and interest towards the payment of all amounts for which the tenant is liable.
This may include the reasonable cost of repairing damage to the dwelling during the lease period.
In such case, the balance of the deposit and interest must be refunded to the tenant within 14 days of the restoration and the landlord must make the relevant receipts available for inspection.
An easily accessible mechanism to resolve the situation may be for the reader to approach the Tribunal established under the Act.
The reader should also consider reporting the matter to the Estate Agency Affairs Board as it may constitute a form of misconduct.
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