You have employed a couple to work for you in the domestic and household staff capacity and as part of the employment package, they live in a property rented by you to them.
Over a period of time, it becomes obvious that things just aren’t going to work out, and suddenly the couple up and leave. You have advanced them money against their salary which they will not repay, Additionally, on inspection of the property, you discover that some damage has been done, which appears to be deliberate.
How do you proceed and what are the options open to you?
The following is a resume of legal advice, with thanks to Hine Legal Ltd.
Your first course of action is to check the couple’s contracts of employment. (you do have these of course…?)
If there is a clause relating to the deduction of wages in the event of outstanding money being owed to the employer, you can withhold any salary owed. However, if you do not owe them any salary, you basically have just two options:
One: Sue them using either the Small Claims track or County/High Courts (depending on the sums involved). However, if the couple cannot be traced or have no means of paying, this may essentially be pointless. Breach of contract is possibly another route, but will require additional advice.
Two: Check it the tenancy agreement included a protected deposit scheme and if such a deposit was indeed lodged. If so, you could withhold the deposit against property damage. If not, again you could proceed through a court action, but the same proviso remains, if they are not there or don’t have the resources, it will be pointless.
A solicitors’ letter is an easy cheaper option in the first instance, but with the same provisos.
So now you are feeling angry, unable to proceed with any real chance of reclaiming anything, but what if in the future, someone approaches you for a reference?
A negative report may well leave you open to legal action if you go beyond the facts, Alternatively, you could refuse to give a reference at all, and let the parties involved draw their own conclusions from this.
The above may well not satisfy you, but at least you know your options.