Monday, May 3, 2010

Lessons Learned

Lunch: Cheesy Pigs In A Blanket and Chips
Dinner: Brunswick Stew and Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

I hate getting duped, and I really hate that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when someone you believed to be a generally nice person turns out to be a complete scumbag. And boy did both happen in abundance this weekend. I may have mentioned that we moved… right? Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned that our lease was not up on the old house. It is not technically up until the end of this month. We were alright with that. We figured we would give the landlord plenty of time (60 days notice) to find someone else, and that we would have plenty of time to move our stuff (and save money by not renting a moving van). Well, he had a few people go through the house and a relative of our neighbors decided to rent the house. The landlord called us Thursday afternoon and asked if we could get the rest of our stuff out by the 1st of May. Ok… no problem. Friday night while loading up our stuff at the old house, the new tenants stopped over to look at some things around the house. While they were looking at things we chatted, and they mentioned that they had already signed the lease and it went into effect on the first. Well, Tyler and I thought that was excellent because it should have meant that we would not owe any rent for May and that we should be getting back our deposit. We called the landlord Saturday morning… he informed us we would not be getting back anything because we broke the lease…


I tried to argue that we didn’t break the lease, that I’d never told him we had any intention of breaking the lease, and that I had specifically said that we would see the lease through until the end of this month. I even pointed out that he had the place rented already (and had a lease signed that went into effect before our lease was up). He started to talk in circles about how I hadn’t given him any notice and whether or not he had a new tenant was none of my concern, but that I broke the lease and would not be receiving any of our $800. I was completely flabbergasted. The man went from what I thought was a nice old man to a completely sketchy jerk. He was actually laughing! I hung up on him and called my dad. I love my dad; he’s a great guy. He always seems to know what to do when I get into a situation where I’m in over my head (or if I can’t get the weed eater started). In true protective father style, dad wanted to get on the phone with this guy. I gave him the number and a little while later, I got a call back. “Kid, I think you’re hosed. This guy is a real jerk” (although I think dad might have used a moniker a little stronger than jerk). After much conversation and much enraged pacing, we decided that this was most likely going to have to go to small claims court and that it would be a toss-up as to whether or not I would win. The problem, this guy wanted to fight dirty. He accused us of not keeping up the yard, of not telling him about our pets, of giving him no notice before moving etc etc. All of which were not true, but hard to prove. It would have been an enormous case of he-said/she-said. Though, in my mind, the cold hard facts were he broke the lease by signing a new lease that started a month before ours ended and he had not given us the required (by law) 30 days notice nor did he have anything from us stating an intention to leave early.

Well, just about the time that Tyler and I were getting all fired up to take this guy’s butt to court (ok, maybe more me than Tyler), the guy called my dad back. I guess he realized that this could end very badly for him. While Tyler and I stood to lose a possible $800, he could lose much more. He’s a real estate agent. His career could be hurt by losing a case in court like this not to mention the potential of having his name dragged in the mud. Hey, there are advantages to having a husband who works at the local newspaper. He said he would be willing to offer us $400 in exchange for a letter stating that we forfeited the rest of the deposit because we “broke the lease”. Well, here’s the classic double or nothing scenario, or as Tyler called it, the Cash Cab choice. We could either walk with $400 or we could go to court and get either $800 or nothing. I really didn’t want to have to deal with the anger and the pain in the butt it would be to taking this jerk to court, and Tyler decided some money in hand was better than none and a uncontrollably angry wife (a potential outcome). Here’s the catch, I have to hand deliver the letter. Which means that this afternoon, I’m going to have to be face to face with this (insert expletive here). I’m terrified he’s going to bully me or go back on his word and say there was no such arrangement or what have you. I couldn’t sleep last night and my stomach has been all in knots today. I can deal with confrontation, but I don’t like it. I’m not a nasty person and I don’t like dealing with nasty people, and I most certainly don’t like the way nasty people make me want to act.

Oh… and if all that weren’t enough for one weekend, our car decided to overheat. So now we have to get it fixed. All I have to say is, I better win the lottery next weekend (or at the very least land a really good job this week). That’s about the only thing that can make up for the horrible weekend I had. So to recap, lessons learned for this weekend: 1. always always get everything in writing, even if it seems silly and trivial. 2. people that seem nice, even if they give you cookies for Christmas, might be really nasty jerks. and 3. my dad is great (and plays a mean saxaphone)

P.S. I promise I’ll post a recipe tomorrow, I’m just a little to keyed up to do it today.


    UK laws on protecting a tenant deposit changed for the good of the tenant in April 2007, when the Tenancy Deposit Protection regulations came into force.
    People taking an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) who 1) Pay a Deposit; and 2) whose Deposit can be used if the tenant falls into arrears or messes up the property are owed duties by the landlord (*provided that the annual rental is no more than £25,000 PA, though as of October 1st 2010, that amount will rise to £100,000 PA). They are that the Landlord must pay the deposit into one of the approved schemes and that the Landlord must also give the tenant specific information to his/ her deposit and the scheme into which it is placed. If this is not carried out within a given timeframe, then the tenant can take the Landlord to Court and the Landlord will be forced to pay a set amount of money under a Strict Liability court ruling.
    The Landlord may make defend the claim or even make a counter-claim if they believe that you have breached the terms of the AST, but this cannot be used as mitigation and has nothing to do with the tenant claim. Courts have usually ordered that the Landlord make a separate claim.
    The property that you rented must have been one that you occupied as you main home and one where the Landlord did not live at the property but lived elsewhere. If the Landlord lived at the property, they will not usually have to protect the deposit, although the rules are quite complicated (Paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 of the Housing Act 1988).
    The claim is always against the person who received the deposit, if it was the Landlord, then the claim is against them, if it was an Agent, then they are directly responsible for the deposit. The law says that the ‘Landlord’ includes anybody that is acting on their behalf and if in doubt, sue the Landlord. If there is more than one of them, make a claim against them all. Note that the address has to be in England or Wales. If you are unsure of who the responsible person is, make the claim against the Landlord.
    You can find out who the Landlord (registered proprietor) is by asking the person to whom you pay the rent. They have a duty to provide the information to you within 21 days, failure to do so is a Criminal Offence under UK law.
    The legislation is to protect tenants and not provide them with a windfall payment. However Courts do not take kindly to Landlords that wilfully ignore, or seem to wilfully ignore the basic and simple regulations.
    AUTHOR – Kenni James - FREE and professional legal advice for UK tenants
    0800 542 4886