Q. My nephew and his two co-tenants paid a deposit of £2,100 on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement which ended in June last year. He tried to recover the deposit from the letting agent using
the alternative dispute resolution service offered by MyDeposits. The tenants had asked the letting agency for their deposit back after the end of the tenancy at the end of June 2009. They faced the usual hurdles – proofs of payment of council tax and utilities bills. In mid-September, the lettings agents mentioned that rent payments had been underpaid because the banks had deducted charges for international payments and then that some payments had not been made at all. The tenants asked for details of the missing amounts, but with the lettings agents sitting on the deposit and providing no information, my nephew took the dispute to MyDeposits in early December 2009. Three months later, MyDeposits announced its decision: £1,455.73 would be returned to the tenants and £644.27 would be awarded to the agent. The award was based on the lettings agent’s bank statements, but halfway through the tenancy, in January 2009, the landlord had asked the tenants to pay her direct, and two of the tenants had done so. It looked from the lettings agents’ bank statements as if the tenants had missed a payment, but they had not done so – and this is why they lost £505.55 in the settlement. Attempts to point this out have met a brick wall and My Deposits will not acknowledge any error. MS, London.
A. Mydeposits has been appointed by the Government to operate an insurance-based tenancy deposit protection scheme. The service is jointly owned by the National Landlords Association and Hamilton Fraser Insurance. Mydeposits argues that your nephew’s problem lies not with their service, but with his failure to present the evidence properly. A spokeswoman explains: “In the event of dispute, Mydeposits makes available free Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which is carried out externally, in order to remain impartial and fair. [The reader’s] nephew had the choice of taking his case to court, or using ADR. He chose ADR. Just as if he had taken the case to court, he agreed that the adjudicator’s decision was final and binding. In the adjudication process, both parties are responsible for ensuring the evidence they present to the adjudicator is as clear and detailed as possible. In [the reader’s nephew’s] case, a key part of the evidence provided was incomplete and, therefore, could not be assessed. Based on the useable evidence presented by both parties, the adjudicator made their decision which went against [the reader’s] nephew. Mydeposits cannot influence the adjudicator’s decision nor require the adjudicator to reopen the case. It is critical that ADR remains impartial and independent. [The reader’s nephew] is free to appeal this decision through the courts, just as he could appeal had he pursued his original dispute in the traditional way.”
Q. I am having difficult checking my credit status with credit reference agency Experian. There is one item on my record marked ‘default’, while the others are shown as ‘satisfactory’. There was a disputed bill with Tesco relating to a fraudulent transaction, which is now resolved. But Experian is marking up the problem as being with Egg, which is why the matter is not shown as resolved. I have already sent Experian a letter from Tesco to confirm that this disputed item has been cleared and requested that it be removed from, or corrected in, my credit report. I also want to end my subscription of £5.99 per month for a credit report, which I don’t need other than to correct this error which should not take almost three months to do. SB, by email.
A. Experian says that it contacted Tesco early in April to confirm your explanation and Tesco “replied within a few days asking us to amend the account”. Spokesman James Jones explains: “This has been actioned and now the account is marked as settled with a perfect payment record.” Experian adds that while it has cancelled your CreditExpert membership, you did not need to join its service in order to check or correct your credit status report. “The law gives consumers the right to have errors rectified on any credit report they have received from us and there is certainly no obligation to continue monitoring your credit report just because data on it has been disputed,” says Jones.
Q. My parents have just moved into a static mobile home. They pay ground rent, but do not own the land on the site. The value is £150,000. Is it true that this type of home is classed as a chattel and therefore would not need to be sold in order to pay for any care home charges if they ever became unable to carry on independent living? PS, by email.
A. Philip Spiers, acting chief executive of First Stop Advice, which specialises in advising on arrangements for care for the elderly, says: “Your parent’s static mobile home may be a chattel, but it has a value which the local authority would treat as capital in the means test for care – as do HM Revenue & Customs for Capital Gains Tax purposes. However, because the static mobile home is your parents’ ‘dwelling’ it would benefit from the usual property disregards.” A factsheet, ‘Treatment of Property’, is available from the FirstStop Advice Line on 0800 377 70 70.
Q. I was unable to travel by Ryanair when my wife fell ill. I tried to recover the taxes for the flight, but Ryanair declines to repay the taxes saying that its administration charge to do so is greater than the taxes charged. MB, by email.
A. Ryanair directs you to the conditions on its website, which state that ‘Government tax refunds are subject to a reasonable administration fee. If the refund amount is less than the applicable refund administration charge then no refund will be made.’