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Landlord refusing security deposit

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JR8
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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby JR8 » Mon, 15 Jun 2015 2:47 pm

x9200 wrote:
JR8 wrote:Tenancy law here is based directly on UK Statutes.
How would you define Fair Wear and Tear, in SG, in 'local terms', if not in the way the above links do?

No idea, but I was talking about the inventory list. From my experience it is something done typically in a very lousy manner without any proper attention to the conditions of the items. It is more like 0 or 1 relation of movables inside of the apartment. A ceiling lamp in the BR3, is it there? yes, then tick the box ... etc.
Is it what the Inventory is about in the UK?


Ah, I see.
By coincidence I have just been discussing this this lunchtime with my wife. I.e. the standards of condition and cleanliness we will held to when we check out.
She suggested we have to have a 'Professional Clean'... But as I just replied to her:
--------------
'That is not specifically stated in the TA. The clause that applies is:
‘r) At the expiration of the tenancy to peaceably and quietly deliver unto the landlord the said premises in like condition as if the same were delivered to the Tenant at the commencement of the Agreement, fair wear and tear and Acts of God excepted.’

The receipts attached onto our TA are for a) painting b) dry cleaning of curtains c) final service of air-con. There is no proof of a ‘professional clean’ having taken place prior to us moving in.

So maybe once the furniture is out all we need is floors/walls currently blocked by furniture done. Glass in the showers, sinks and loos. And that might be about it?

Something curious is that the inventory lists contents, but not condition or cleanliness. So, just say, [our weekly cleaner] / A. N. Other cleaner didn’t come back after our removals, and say, I just ran a cloth over a few floors for dust etc., then what benchmark has the LL got to say it’s scruffier than the condition in which received? None that I can see.'

--------------

And that's the curious thing. In the UK an inventory is an inventory of 'Contents and condition' and it goes into almost painful detail, paint colours, chips in plaster on the walls, scuff marks, cleanliness; here it seems more 'fixtures, fittings, (and furnishings - if it comes with any)', and that's it. Our inventory here which was done by one of the main agencies mentions nothing about condition at all. It doesn't even state what colour the walls are painted. Seems strange to me.
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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby martincymru » Wed, 17 Jun 2015 2:52 pm

If the Landlord is playing dirty tricks then for sure he has "history".
(= He has been down this road many times before).
You are just a number in a long line.

I've said before on this Forum, it really depends on how far up the escalation pole you are prepared to climb. Unfortunately, being a foreigner here you walk on thin ice every day so the risk may not be worth taking.

Arguing over an inventory will get you nowhere. The Landlord knows that hence why he is stringing you out.

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby chetan84 » Wed, 17 Jun 2015 5:07 pm

Hi all,

I've tried to read most of the posts on this thread to see if there's a solution to my problem, but haven't seen one yet (apologies if I've missed it). I'm in a similar situation as many of you who've posted above, in that the landlord has withheld my deposit and it's now been a month since the handover. He (actually his agent) has found a 'crack' on the kitchen counter top after the handover, for which he wants to deduct a large part of my deposit.

The unusual situation (or maybe not so unusual) I find myself in is that I've never directly spoken/met/written to the landlord since I don't have his contact details - all communication has gone through his agent. Even the handover was done by his agent. So after having followed up like crazy and sent many reminders/warnings, I finally went to the Small Claims Tribunal and filed a claim against the LL. Now the LL is a non-Singaporean, but holding a PR, and his NRIC number is the only detail I had about him. I used that to run a check on the DP database to find a registered address, but nothing turned up. My agent dug up the ownership deed of the unit I was renting, and in that the given address of the LL is the unit (that I rented) itself. Not having any other information I filed a claim putting down the only address I had, i.e. the rented unit. While filing the claim I was told (by the SCT staff) that I need to do a personal service by either posting the Notice of Consultation (registered post or courier) or by going over and sliding it under the door of the unit. Since the post options need an actual signature from the LL, I decided to go over and slide the notice under the door (and took a video of that as well). I turned up for my consultation today, and to my absolute shock, the registrar says that is not an acceptable mode for personal service and that I need the LL's acknowledgement for the proceeding to go ahead. He has given another date for consultation.

In this time, the landlord's agent (finally) contacted me 20+ days after the handover saying that the crack can't be repaired and that they'll deduct around $1000. A part of me wants to just settle and get it over with but it feels like I'm letting them get away with highway robbery! Any help or advice would be extremely appreciated!

Thanks!

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby JR8 » Wed, 17 Jun 2015 9:58 pm

Yet another saga with a tenant losing their deposit over questionable Grounds... [sigh]
Some initial and quick thoughts:

Was the worktop cracked when you moved in? Was it documented?
Was it there and noted at the inventory check-out? You say ‘after’ the check-out, this is important.
If it was identified as damage that you accepted had occurred during your tenancy then we have an agreed position to work off. Could the crack be repaired, or did it reasonably require that panel of worktop being replaced? How old was this piece of worktop? For example if it is a piece of say marble and it is routed to fit around the sink then yes it is likely quite expensive. If it is MDF/timber then it is likely a slightly fiddly but none too expensive job.
In the UK if you cannot serve Notice on the LL, then serving Notice on the LLs agent is the equivalent of serving Notice directly on the LL: Since the agent is presumed to be the channel to the LL, and duty-bound to forward all comms. So a question would be, if the LL is unknown/absentee is service of Notice of Claim or Action against the agent appropriate and binding?
IME when a tenant moves out the LL has a burden to return the deposit ASAP. It is not the LLs money, and the tenant what with moving is likely facing something of a short-term cash-flow crunch, this is a burden the LL mustn't forget. The LL needs to identify any damages (at the inventory check-out), and agree those with the tenant. A week to return the deposit in whole or agreed part would seem reasonable. BUT IME if it is required to get contractors quotes, for more complex repairs, the LL is duty-bound to act expeditiously; i.e. I’d expect the LL to be e-mailing me copies of estimates within 7-10days, any discussions happening, and the net depo being returned within say 2 weeks. That to me would be a ‘Reasonable’ time-frame.

So my questions would be:
Did you damage the worktop?
Was this agreed at the check-out?
Given the material of the worktop might this deduction be reasonable?
How do the SCT suggest you file a claim against a landlord, represented by an agent, when you only have your own/former home as the LLs address? Do you serve it on the agent?
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby chetan84 » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 9:37 am

Thanks for your reply. So, to give more details - the crack wasn't there when I took the unit, and neither was it there till the day of the handover. In fact, there were 2 handovers - the first time was the day after my contract expired. It was attended by me, my agent, the landlords agent and someone who was introduced to us just as the 'landlords friend' (I later found out that guy is an agent with the same company as the landlords agent). They checked everything like I've never seen anyone check before, pointing out small stains, marks and taking pictures. Bear in mind, the unit is fairly small (420 odd sq ft) so they really were thorough. After this check, the only thing they pointed to was the appliances which they said weren't sufficiently clean. Even though it seemed extremely nitpicky, I agreed and said I'll get them cleaned again. They agreed to that, and voluntarily gave me a set of keys to get it done, and we agreed to meet in 3 days.
At the end of 3 days, the agent said he's busy and can only do the final check a further 2 days later, and only during the day. As I'm working during the day, I asked my agent to represent me at this meeting, which she did. They met at the unit - the landlords agent checked the appliances and everything else again, but never mentioned anything about this crack on the counter top, and everything was handed over. My agent sent him a message thanking him for the handover, and forwarded my account details to him. It was only 2 days later that he sent my agent a message that he has found a crack.
Since that message, I've asked to go over and inspect personally, or meet the landlord in person to discuss - both of which have been declined. One of the clauses in the rental agreement states that the deposit must be returned within 14 days, a point which I raised to the LLs agent. However, he just brazenly defended it by saying the LL is busy, or overseas. I still have never personally seen the crack.

Unfortunately, the SCT will not accept the claim against the LLs agent, since I do not have any binding contract with him. The Registrar basically told me there's nothing he can do unless I can prove I served the notice to the LL. He just said I should get legal advice and gave me another date for consultation. I can try raising it with the Council of Estate Agents, which is what I'll do, but not sure if that'll help either.

At this point, I'm not sure how I can serve the notice, or whether I can enforce any rights to obtain the LL's address. OR file a claim against his agent (which I would absolutely love to do).

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby the lynx » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 9:57 am

Just throwing it out over there. What are the chances that the agents are pocketing the money themselves? Especially when the landlord seems to be out of the picture in all communication.

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby chetan84 » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 10:01 am

That could be true as well. I wouldn't put it past this agent.

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Re: RE: Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby ecureilx » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 11:55 am

the lynx wrote:Just throwing it out over there. What are the chances that the agents are pocketing the money themselves? Especially when the landlord seems to be out of the picture in all communication.

When the LL is overseas .. mostly the agents hold the deposit in good faith. And spend it. Problem happens when the agent can't find a replacement tenant so the previous tenant's deposit can't be returned. Happens often.
Last edited by ecureilx on Thu, 18 Jun 2015 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby JR8 » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 1:06 pm

Ok, that makes it clearer. Without needing to go into the detail right now a simple question; what does your agent say?
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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby chetan84 » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 1:37 pm

My agent hasn't been very strong in this matter unfortunately. She helped me dig up the title deed for the unit, and has been the go-between for me to the LL's agent. Apart from that, she told me to use the SCT. I think the fact that it's taking a legal route has spooked her, and she's basically taking the stance of "my job was done at the handover". I'll continue to push her on this though.

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby x9200 » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 2:54 pm

One other possible route to go. How do you know the agent represents the LL? Have you ever seen any document confirming it?

BTW, I found it very strange that the signature of the LL is required to serve the notice. This is really hard to believe and make no practical sense at all. A registered mail with the note from the Post Office on the failure to deliver to the address should be sufficient.

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby chetan84 » Thu, 18 Jun 2015 3:15 pm

Although I don't have any document stating that the particular agent represents the LL, in the Tenancy Agreement it just states the name of his agency as the 'Agent in the transaction'. Apart from that I only have whatever communication I received from the agent on behalf of the landlord.

I also find it quite strange that I need the LL's personal acknowledgement for the service (why would he, except for fear of potential future legal action). The Registrar also doesn't accept that I put down the tenanted unit in the LL's address. Unfortunately, I don't have any other (neither from the DP check, nor from the title deed for the unit). I don't know how to: a)get the address OR b) prove the notice was served

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby JR8 » Fri, 19 Jun 2015 8:58 pm

I disagree; her job includes the negotiation and satisfactory return of the deposit. Although I would agree that this does not include directly coaching you through any 'legal action'.
What does your signed contract with this agent say re: her role and responsibilities?
You don't need LLs 'acknowledgement' as proof of service of notice. Let me give you a parallel example. In the UK if you post a letter First Class it is assumed to arrive next day. That is an adequate way to serve Notice. It is legally presumed as received, no signatures, nothing. If you want to gold-plate that then you go to the Post Office and get a 'Certificate of Posting' - It's free. It evidences you sent a letter from X to Y on Z day. In court that's a given a bullet-proof.

Read your contract re: engaging this agent. Hopefully it is clear re: the scope of her responsibilities.
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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby chetan84 » Mon, 22 Jun 2015 9:47 am

Thanks JR8. Over the last few days, I've pushed my agent more. Unfortunately, she seems a bit clueless herself, so I've asked her to speak around in her agency and find out the next best course of action.

I would have followed the method you suggested for serving the notice. However, in my case, the big issue is that I don't have the LL's address apart from the unit I was renting. That didn't seem satisfactory to the registrar.

As my next course of action, I've lodged a complaint at the LL's agency, and have asked them to mediate by either providing a reasonable settlement or the LL's contact details or setting up a meeting with him directly. If they don't comply with this, I've been advised by a lawyer I spoke with to raise a complaint with the CEA (Council of Estate Agents) against this agency on grounds of acting like a middle-man but being uncooperative.
Last edited by chetan84 on Mon, 22 Jun 2015 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Landlord refusing security deposit

Postby JR8 » Mon, 22 Jun 2015 3:05 pm

@Chetan
I think your approach is warranted at this stage, otherwise it appears you'll get nowhere.
Our home also shows the LLs address as our home's/this units address. Unless the LL has permanent mail forwarding in place I can't imagine how serving a Notice physically arrives in their hands (or in a backwards way maybe that is precisely their intention?? hmmm). I don't know how this matter was explained to us when we took up the unit... seems pretty odd to me. However, since we have the LLs agent's details if I ever need to serve Notice I'll send it to her, and that's the legal equivalent of serving it on the LL. [Note: at least it is under UK law]. But if you serve Notice on the agent re: say your future departure date, then AFAIK the agent is the party for any Notice. It's curious how you've been caught in a 'circular error'.
Is the agent clueless or simply avoiding doing what you require? Your final paragraph sounds like a wise approach. I.e. give the agent a chance to do what is required, spell out (politely) what you'll do if they don't comply, and if needed do what you said you would.
Good luck. Please keep us updated with how you get on.
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard


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