Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my deposit?

This letter serves as a formal complaint against my former landlord for refusal to refund my security deposit in full as per agreement of the lease agreement. After serving notice of thirty days in advance he stated he would deduct a total of P1200 from the security deposit of P2,500 leaving the balance at P1,300. His reasons being that the house needs to be re painted which was never stated in the lease agreement.

The house was cleaned and left in its original state. Therefore I am hoping you may kindly assist in solving this dispute.

This is such a common thing. We probably hear from someone having exactly the same problem every week and their question is almost always the same. Can the landlord keep some or all of the deposit the tenant gave them when they moved in? The answer is almost always the same.

It depends what it said in the lease. There’s a simple rule in law when it comes to written agreements such as leases. If an agreement is put in writing then that’s the entire agreement. Nothing else has been agreed. Nothing else that was said, discussed or even informally agreed over a handshake has any value or importance. To put it another way, your landlord can’t just make stuff up. He has no right to keep your money unless a court has ordered that he can do so.

I suggest that first of all you double check the lease agreement you signed. Make sure that it does NOT say that you had to repaint the house before you left. You should do this because most leases DO include a clause like this. It IS normal practice for the tenant to return the property in roughly the same condition as when they moved in and in many cases it will specifically mention that you need to repaint it.

Once you’ve checked I suggest you write your landlord a letter reminding him that the lease didn’t mention this and that as the property was returned in its original state he has 14 days to refund you completely. Tell him that if he doesn’t you’ll take legal action against him to recover the money. If he fails to refund you then take a trip to the Small Claims Court with all the paperwork and seek an order against him from them. Let me know how it goes!

Is the charger covered?

I’m asking for a poor old woman. She bought a brand new laptop for her son and within 8 days the charger stopped working. The shop say they can’t do anything about it and it’s her loss. Is this fair? What can be done to help her?

It certainly does NOT sound fair to me and I suspect everyone else will feel the same. Like the first case this week I think it depends what was agreed in writing.

EVERY component of a device like a laptop (or a cellphone, refrigerator, car or TV) is covered by the warranty unless the store has made it clear that a part, such as the power supply, is not covered. The Consumer Protection Regulations say this very clearly. Section 17 (1) (e) says that “disclaiming or limiting the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed” constitutes an act of “unfair business practice”. In other words if the power supply was excluded from the warranty then the customer needed to be told that very clearly when she bought the laptop. There should have been no doubt in her mind about that.

Section 17 (1) (f) of the Regulations goes further and says that the store can’t suggest that the customer has waived her rights to the complete warranty “unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”. She needs to have signed something confirming that she understood that the power supply was excluded.

I suggest that someone explains this to the store and sees if they can’t be a bit more helpful. If you send me the name of the store we can also get in touch and do a bit of free “store education” for them!

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