AleisterCrowley wrote:Probably moot as the deposit is now proven to be protected, although I rather feel my position would have been marginally better if the S21 had been invalid, given a sale has been agreed.
Wood for trees? You are, in practice, in a strong position - and without having to be seen as calling on strict application of the law to establish that.
The landlord has a buyer going through the process. Selling a property can be stressful and the vendor wants things to run smoothly and not risk losing the buyer that's on the hook. There's a heck of a lot of loot at stake.
Fortunately, the letting agent seems to have some sort of clue regarding correct procedures. If they are also acting as selling agent then so much the better as they can advise/steer the landlord with fuller information to hand - and they really, really want this sale to go through so as to collect their cut asap. You also want it to go through to avoid further viewings while you're still there and other disruptions.
Exchange typically commits the vendor to complete on a specified date with vacant possession. A landlord would be daft to exchange without having already achieved vacant possession as that would be creating a potentially very expensive nightmare. Some tenants have been paid a significant bounty (and given good references) in return for moving out before completion where the landlord has foolishly taken the risk but the tenant hasn't obligingly chosen to move out when the LL had hoped.
A rational landlord and even a semi-competent agent don't want to risk the deal falling through for the sake of a few hundred quid. The agent is aware of the condition of the property and would very strongly 'suggest' that the vendor/LL not attempt to claim any deduction from the deposit: remember that it's for him to justify a deduction rather than for you to fight for its return. The length of tenancy makes it inordinately difficult for him to meet the requirements in order for a deduction to be approved. Don't lose sight of the fact that LL and agent want this to all go smoothly and as swiftly as possible and would prefer to maintain your goodwill. Considering what's at stake for them, they could start to get nervous if the perception arose that you were becoming difficult. Nobody needs that: things get so much more complicated and stressful all round if folk start getting nervous.
In your position and if I still had the same concern then I would most definitely continue to pay the rent per the agreement and probably email the agent (who, after all, has been conducting periodic inspections and perhaps even the recent viewings) to confirm that they know of no reason why I shouldn't receive the return of my deposit in full as I need that reassurance for personal budgeting purposes regarding my impending move within the area. Both may be mollified by my implied acceptance that I'll be moving out and the agent may even see in that wording the opportunity to let another local property to me and that may prompt them further to suppress any irrational inclination on the part of the LL to claim on the deposit (financial self-interest usually being an agent's sole motivation).
Just as an aside in response to something you wrote much earlier, there has never been any requirement for a landlord to spend deductions from deposits on rectification of specified damages. The general idea is to put the landlord back in the position they had in financial terms at the start of the tenancy BUT subject to fair wear & tear, etc. Given such a lengthy tenancy period there'd need to be impressive proof that you'd recklessly or negligently trashed things pretty badly as significant dilapidations would reasonably be expected with the passage of time - and the letting agent has had plenty of opportunities over the years to bring to your attention any 'problems' that they felt could be attributed to you. All things considered, I would commend to you Alfred E. Neuman's maxim: "Quid, me anxius sum?"