Questions Of Cash: Beat your landlord at his own game

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The Independent Online

Q. My son is in his third year in rented accommodation at university. To date, his landlords have refused to return his deposit, claiming very minor damage. Now at the end of his third year, my son is considering withholding his final month's rent on the grounds that his deposit will cover it. Does he run a legal risk by doing so? MR, by e-mail.

Q. My son is in his third year in rented accommodation at university. To date, his landlords have refused to return his deposit, claiming very minor damage. Now at the end of his third year, my son is considering withholding his final month's rent on the grounds that his deposit will cover it. Does he run a legal risk by doing so? MR, by e-mail.

A. He does open himself to a real risk of successful legal action against him by his landlord. Citizens Advice recommends that he take legal advice from his student union or one of its bureau on how to reduce the chances of losing his deposit. This problem is so common that Citizens Advice and charity Shelter have run a campaign for a compulsory tenancy deposit scheme to safeguard tenants' money, along with a fair dispute resolution procedure. This has led to a change in law, but it will not be in place until next year.

Q. For the past 10 years, I have paid £400 a month into an HSBC personal pension plan, plus some additional voluntary contributions. HSBC says the contributions totalled £50,511 at the end of February. But the total value was £53,884.69 - in other words, the total return on my investment over 10 years has been £3,373. In this same period, HSBC's charges have been £4,177.40. Is my experience common? GWJ, by e-mail.

A. Carl Melvin, an adviser at Pension Transfer Solutions, says: "The performance of your pension fund cannot be considered acceptable. But there is nothing you can do about past performance, nor can you claim compensation on this basis. You might seek independent advice to see whether you should continue to make regular pension contributions to this plan or transfer the management of your pension fund to another provider. Your case illustrates the need to regularly review pension arrangements."

Melvin adds that people should recognise the value of taking advice from an IFA, but understand that allowing advisers to have close relationships with favoured financial providers "will do nothing" to avoid cases such as yours.

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