A FAMILY have been left “gobsmacked” after they tried to sue their former landlord but ended up paying her £3,500.

Zena and Derek Smith sued ex-landlord Choy Wong after they incurred huge heating bills because their privately rented home did not have sufficient heating.

But a judge found in the Basildon landlord's favour because the family could have left the sub-standard property at any time in order to save money.

Mr Smith, 50, said: “I am gobsmacked by what has happened.

“We have been told that we should have left the place, walked out and lost our deposit.

“We’re being penalised for trying to help ourselves as much as we can.

“Why would we do that? If we made ourselves homeless, we wouldn’t be entitled to any help.

“And to be frank, we couldn’t move out because we couldn’t afford to get another deposit together.”

Mr and Mrs Smith lived in the house, in Queensland Drive, Colchester, with son Kade, 14, between April 2010 and April 2013.

But District Judge Simon Mitchell said: “The contractual liability of the landlord only lasted until April 25, 2011.

“From that day, you were no longer obliged to be there - you did not have to give any notice to leave."

Mr Mitchell ordered a £900 deposit be returned to Mrs Wong and said Mr and Mrs Smith must pay £2,590 in unpaid rent.

The family, who now live in Greenstead, had hoped to claim £1,799.84, which they spent on heating the home using one electric fran heater during their time in the home.