Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Decor Debt

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Decor Debt

Article excerpt

Byline: LIZ HODGKINSON

SEVEN years ago, Londoners Emma and Philip Childs and their two young daughters decided to rent a run- down cottage in Suffolk as a weekend retreat.

They grew to like country life and eventually relocated permanently, selling their London house and living in the rented place until they found somewhere to buy.

Last year, they found their dream house and gave notice on the cottage.

By then, they had been living in the rented place fulltime for four years.

"We put down a deposit of [pounds sterling]650, the same sum as the monthly rent," says Emma.

"The place was absolutely disgusting when we moved in, and equally shabby when we moved out. The contract did say that the flat had to be decorated, but as it had not been decorated for 25 years, we saw no reason to do this.

"We got the shock of our lives when the letting agents presented us with a bill for [pounds sterling]10,800 for new carpets and redecoration of the entire house. At first, we thought they must be joking, that it couldn't be real. But when my husband went to take pictures of the place to fight the case, he found it had already been redecorated.

"We couldn't believe we were in the wrong, and went to a very expensive lawyer. He informed us we didn't have a leg to stand on as we had agreed to keep the place in 'good decorative order'. That advice cost us [pounds sterling]3,000. The agents were threatening legal action, and we were advised to settle out of court."

In the end, after much argument, the Childses compromised at [pounds sterling]6,400 for the redecoration costs, not the new carpet. But legal fees meant they still ended up paying [pounds sterling]10,000 in total.

"It was a nasty legal loophole and we had never thought about it," says Emma. "We did not have an inventory for the place when we moved in, and it was all done by word of mouth.

We would have redecorated it ourselves if we had known that that is what we were meant to do, for a f r ac t ion of the cost. …

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