Tenant hits out at rental deposit system

A first-time tenant said the Office of the Rent Commissioner admitted it could not help after her landlady backtracked on an agreement to return her deposit after she quit her apartment.

Yesterday, the woman, who asked not to be named, said the department had told her this month that the owner of her Devonshire apartment was “completely in the wrong”.

However, she added: “It turns out that the rent commissioner, due to recent restructuring, no longer deals with these matters, so I was on my own.”

The 25-year-old was $850 out of pocket after she vacated an apartment on Morning Glory Drive at the end of July. She said that withheld deposits appeared to be “the norm” in Bermuda.

She said: “This is an issue that a lot of people experience.”

The Royal Gazette has seen a document from her landlady that agreed to return the deposit after a satisfactory inspection of the premises on July 25.

The woman said: “I cleaned and painted the apartment as outlined by my lease and my landlady confirmed it as satisfactory.

“The inspection was quick with some minor items to improve.

“Once I resolved the items, I advised my landlady and she confirmed, in writing, that she would return my deposit once she replaced a set of blinds — so a maximum deduction of $30.”

She added: “I handed over my keys and figured that I had closed that chapter. How wrong I was.”

The Office of the Rent Commissioner, which deals with rent increases, unlawful rental charges and unlawful evictions, was merged with the consumer affairs department in 2015.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said that legislation did not allow for rent controllers to enforce payment at the end of a tenancy.

The spokeswoman added: “That is a matter for the courts.”

The former tenant said she had been e-mailed with complaints that became “more and more ridiculous” after the premises were inspected and approved.

Complaints continued from her landlady after a new tenant moved in.

The woman added: “On top of that, the apartment I had been living in had not been registered for at least three years, so she was facing potential fines.

“That made sense to me, as there were clear safety hazards in the apartment that I only noticed a few months into my lease.”

The woman said she felt she had “a pretty black-and-white case” when she took her correspondence and pictures of the apartment to the rent commissioner last week.

However, she added: “The system, as it currently stands, favours and encourages exploitative landlords and landladies.

“I have two options here — get a lawyer and pay higher fees than my deposit is worth, or depend on the goodwill of my landlady.

“So in other words, I am not going to get any money back.”

The woman said: “Is this really the best that we can do? Are we meant to simply accept this? Is there no way an enforcement agency can be formed to prevent and condemn this type of behaviour?

“In the end, I guess I only have myself to blame. I was told by a friend at the beginning of my lease that there was a high, if not 100 per cent, chance of me losing my deposit.

“Perhaps I should have done a better job of managing my expectations.”

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Published Aug 17, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 17, 2019 at 6:37 am)

Tenant hits out at rental deposit system

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