Rental property has rats - as tenants what is our recourse here

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    Rental property has rats - as tenants what is our recourse here

    Warning: This is absolutely disgusting. Read on if you aren't squeamish.

    We rent a cosmetically very nice, extremely well located, 2 bedroom ground floor flat in a nice area of west London, and pay £1700 per month for the privilege. When we first moved in a few years ago it turned out the place had rats. The problem was dealt with pretty quickly, so we continued to rent the flat and have renewed the lease a couple times now.

    It has recently been discovered that we have a pretty serious rat problem again and after a drain scan it was discovered that they're getting in directly from the sewer. The scan shows that there are big holes around the pipe that has the U bend where the house pipes meet the Thames water's mains pipes under the street. The rats are crawling through here and then run up the unused pipe which is completely uncapped under the floor. In the past month they have already chewed through a water pipe under the house, cutting off our water. As well they have chewed through the wiring under the floor in the kitchen leading to us having no power or hot water. Both of these were fixed quickly by the agency who manages our property, but the scope of the problem has now come to light.

    Now, I'm freaking out about the rats, but I'm seriously concerned about the sewer gas which is clearly filling our house through this uncapped pipe. Our bathroom (which is directly above this pipe) smells so bad your eyes water when you go in there, and the entire flat is starting to smell like a sewer. Our bedroom shares a wall with the bathroom, our heads are probably no more than a meter away from this when we're sleeping. I cant bear to think about what we're breathing in at the moment.

    I am concerned for our health that it isn't safe for us to live here for the next week or two until they come back to cap this pipe when hopefully all the rats have left. They have installed a one way door mechanism in the waste pipe with serrated blades all over it to keep them from crawling up from the sewer today, but this wont do much to stop the gas and they can't cap the pipe until the rats leave otherwise they'll all die under the floor and smell like hell.

    What should I, the tenant be doing in this situation? The agency has always been great at fixing things quickly so we cut them a lot of slack, but this flat has been nothing but major problems for years now (rats, sewer flooding our garden twice, major construction next door for over a year, damp walls and mold, constantly stuff breaking, etc) and I feel we are being way too forgiving about this and all of our friends are telling us we should be taking major steps for compensation. What's normal and reasonable to expect the landlord/agency to do here? Reduced rent? Putting us in a hotel? Nuke the house from orbit? Burn it down? What's the realistic risk to health here? I am skeptical that all of these rats are going to decide to leave in the next week and in the mean time my house is filling with gas from the sewer and there are rats the size of cats scurrying around under my house. How sick could this be making us?

    Help please. Even the exterminator said this was bad.

    Edit: Our house was also infested with fleas out of the blue a few weeks ago despite our cats never being allowed outside. In hindsight these probably crawled up through the floor boards from the rats. We had flea bites all over our legs. We are going to die from the bubonic plague at this rate.

    What you should do is move
    One of the huge advantages tenants have over home owners is the flexibility not to be stuck living in an unsuitable property.

    Your friends are looking at this from the wrong viewpoint - in order to be compensated, you have to have a crap time and be unhealthy.
    The amount you would be compensated isn't going to equal the value of your health and life.

    From a legal point of view, you would only be entitled to compensation if either the property was uninhabitable (which doesn't seem to actually be the case - in fact you seem to want to carry on living there) or someone had been negligent (which, again, doesn't seem to be the case).

    Anyway, find somewhere else to live.
    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


      Thanks jpkeates. This has definitely been the last straw for this place, and luckily I have convinced my husband that we need to move when our lease is up in July. That's several months from now though so I'm a bit worried about our health in the mean time. Is this something we could break the lease over? Even though the landlord is doing their best to deal with it?


        If landlord was sensible, they'd be relieved you want to go so they can dig up the bathroom floor. Have a chat IIWY.


          As above - I think talking to the landlord might be a sensible first step.

          The landlord seems to be doing everything they can (given the circumstances) and the last thing they'll want is environmental health to get involved (which would probably have to be the next step if you were looking to break the lease or get compensation).

          You can't really "break" a lease (unless the lease agreement has a mechanism)
          Either the property ceases to be available as a dwelling (so the council decides its uninhabitable - or it gets destroyed or something equally remote) or you and the landlord agree to end it.
          When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
          Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


            It hadn't even occurred to me that they might be willing, or even happy to end the lease early to carry our repairs.

            I have never met or spoken to the landlord (we deal exclusively through a letting agency that manages the property), but I'll ask our contact at the agency to ask for us. They usually approach us in early April asking about renewal so I was planning to tell them we didn't plan to renew anyways.

            I hope we can come to some agreement. I'm sick of feeling uncomfortable in my home


              Agree with above and it sounds like this may be an issue which the Landlord will need to contact Thames Water to assist in dealing with. As a LL who was subject to water seepage courtesy of Thames Water I know it sometimes takes time for them to acknowledge and rectify an issue and have been know to suddenly come out and sort the issue and say nothing. Hence I am sure that your LL would appreciate as much time as possible to start dealing with the issue. Perhaps write a letter and ask the agent to pass it on and for the LL to acknowledge receipt and very much stress that you are making them aware as you feel that it's an issue that they would be keen to know about.


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