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Tenants: Run for your life but don’t forget the paperwork

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

When a tenant vacates a property, it is essential that they make sure the necessary paperwork is complete and correct, no matter what the circumstances.

This is the message delivered by the court following a recent shorthold tenancy dispute in which a tenant sought the return of her deposit after numerous requests to do so had been ignored by her landlord. The tenancy was entered into in 2006, so predated the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme.

The tenant fled the bed-sit premises in fear of her life, owing to the violent behaviour of another tenant who lived opposite her. She claimed that she slipped a handwritten letter giving notice to quit under the door of her landlord. He denied having received it.

The landlord, who admitted that there was no written tenancy agreement (despite having claimed in his witness statement that there was), denied all knowledge of the events and claimed that two telephone conversations during this period, which it was admitted had taken place, did not deal with the matter of the tenancy at all. The claimant contended that the conversations were to appraise the landlord of her situation and then to advise him that she had found a new flat and of the date on which she would remove her possessions. A further payment of rent had already been made so that the tenant’s possessions could be kept at the property until she found a new place to live.

The tenant duly returned in the company of a friend and moved her possessions to a new flat in a different area.

The judge was extremely critical of the tenant, a law student, on the ground that she should have known that it was important to retain a copy of the notice she had given to the landlord. He dismissed the claim on the basis that a monthly tenancy had been established by custom and that no proof was provided that written notice to terminate the tenancy had been given.

The lesson is that if you are in a similar situation, it is still important to get the procedures right, no matter what your state of mind at the time.

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