We got our deposit back today.
For anyone in a similar situation, this is what we did:
1. Sent an informal letter of demand via email to the LL's agent:
- We outlined the key terms they have agreed to in the LOI and provided them a timeline of events as to our communications and their responses, and explained how their responses and actions breached the LOI.
- We also requested LL agent's and LL's details to send future legal correspondence with. Thanks for the wording JR8!
2. Received a response from the LL's agents the next day: They offered to "return 50% of the deposit out of goodwill", and the LL agents' will "bear the cost of 25%". I.e. they were going to return 75%.
Note: this was their 3rd amended offer - previously they were going to hold the full deposit and we responded it was not in line with LOI. They then offered to return 50% of the deposit "out of goodwill" - this is when we sent them the email detailed in step 1 noted above.
3. Sent back and email clarifying our position. Our key points:
- Already detailed they had no legal basis for retaining our deposit and explained to them that the deposit is not the LL's or the LL agent's money.
- Outlined that we will be seeking not only the return of 100% of our deposit, but also for any losses we have incurred as result of their breach of the LOI and any legal costs incurred by us to rectify the situation.
- If the issue would not be resolved by Thursday, informal communication will cease and legal action will be taken.
- For the relisting of the property
without our prior knowledge and during a time which the property was not available for rent, we would report them to the CEA for breach of the Estate Agents Code of Conduct - namely failure of duties in respect of advertisements (advertising a property whilst holding deposit in place and not informing tenant for a number of days) and failure to act with honesty & integrity in respect of LOI and holding deposit.
4. Received a response within 1 hour that the deposit will be returned in full "instantly".
I think it is important that any communications with LL and LL agents remain in writing and you are able to back up everything you say.
The responses we got from the agents clearly showed that they were not well educated, and I think using professional language and keeping to the facts definitely helps your position.
At the end of the day, it's a little bit like a poker game. It's a matter of whether you have a good enough hand to go all in, and whether your opponent has a good enough hand to call you on it.
In our case, the potential of losing their licenses and thus their livelihoods were not worth trying to retain the booking deposit.
JR8 and x9200 - you guys were on the money when you mentioned that the target is potentially the ll's agents.
A big thanks to everyone who has offered advice, as that knowledge made a huge difference.
Hopefully my post will be helpful for any others who find themselves in such a situation.