Problems with landlord, property defects, etc.

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  • Problems with landlord, property defects, etc.

    Hi all, I'm hoping to get some advice on how to deal with our landlord.

    Firstly, the details of our house:
    • We are 4 professional sharers, thus, I believe an unlicensed HMO.
    • We moved in during October 2007, signing an 11 month contract. He said that he would insure our deposit, but only appears to have done so at my prompting - the deposit was eventually insured on 18 Feb.
    • He told us he preferred not to do an inventory, but we made one, signed and sent it to him regardless, asking him to sign and return it. He didn't.

    We have a few concerns that we feel he isn't addressing:
    • We think we have an infestation in the roof above the bay window on the ground floor; the landlord said he would come and take a look, but hasn't followed this up
    • There is a great deal of mould / damp in the (unventilated) bathroom. The LL painted over this at the beginning of the tenancy, but it has since reappeared
    • One of the girls complained of the cold and damp in her room, saying it was making her ill, and was met with the response that if she was cold, she should wear an extra jumper, and that the damp was normal as it is such an old house
    • I have asked him to replace my mattress, as it is very uncomfortable. He refuses to do so, saying it is only 2 years old.
    • The plastic handle on the washing machine has broken, which looks to be wear and tear (it certainly wasn't through misuse). After us asking him to have it fixed, he said that it wasn't under warranty, was only 2 years old, and couldn't have happened through normal usage, and that we should fix it asap
    • The bannister on the upper stairs is broken halfway along (it was in that condition when we moved in), which seems pretty dangerous - there's no way it would prevent someone from falling through it in its current state. We have asked him to fix/replace it on health and safety grounds, but he refuses.
    • Also, I read somewhere that the landlord is responsible for the council tax in an HMO. Is this true? We have been paying ours ourselves.

    Does anyone have any advice on how to proceed? Our landlord is very immature (he once threatened to break off communication because he felt I hadn't recognised all of the hard work that he was putting in), and seems adept at weaseling out of his responsibilities. Could anyone help with advice on how to proceed? None of us are particularly up to speed on tenancy law! Perhaps there's some technicality (e.g. him not insuring our deposit for 4.5 months) that we can use in our favour?

    Any advice would be warmly welcomed!

  • #2
    Note the distinction between being defined as a HMO (more than several unrelated sharers) and being an HMO that has to be licensed. Currently, it is only mandatory for properties of 3+ habitable storeys with 5+ (unrelated) tenants to have a licence though local authorities can and do bring in selective or additional licensing for smaller properties. You can check this out, plus the council tax payment hierarchy, on your local council website.

    This forum has debated the merits of having an inventory and though while there isn't a consensus, tends to believe the lack of one favours the tenants - if a deposit dispute reaches court through the small claims process, the judge tends to find that the landlord has no proof about the condition of the property and can't justify their deductions.
    Last edited by Beeber; 30-03-2008, 11:43 AM. Reason: add extra info


    • #3
      Go to environmental health about health concerns or your local authority tenancy relations officer.

      If work needs to be done, they can issue a notice which will force LL to get work done.

      Yes, LL should pay council tax but if you are all on a joint tenancy sometimes it happens that sharers pay it. You could argue the toss with him, but your contract may say you are responsible for paying it, so if you change it and he has to pay, he can still charge you back. So no point really.
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      • #4
        Thanks very much for the replies!

        Beeber - Yes, I realise that our house doesn't need to be licenced, sorry for being unclear on that. Our contract does state that we should pay the council tax, and our rent doesn't seem to be artificially raised to a level where one might think that it was included in the rent. Thanks very much for the anecdotal evidence about inventories - that is reassuring to hear!

        Bel - Thanks for the advice on who to contact re the health and safety issues. Thanks also for the reasoning about council tax. I have never known it to be included in the rent, so it was a little suprising when I read that it should be.

        Does anyone have advice on the washing machine? He is sticking to his guns that we should be the ones to pay for its repair, but surely if he supplies it, and it breaks through normal wear and tear, it's his responsibility...?


        • #5
          Landlords are obliged to keep the goods and furniture they supply in good repair and tenants are obliged to take responsibility for costs that arise through negligence or accident.

          Wear and tear is defined along the lines of 'Loss, damage, or depreciation resulting from ordinary use and exposure'. What is actually wrong with the handle?

          Also, unfortunately, whether all your requests are legitimate, landlords can and do evict tenants rather than deal with their responsibilities. You will find the Shelter website very helpful for advice on dealing with repairs.

          Also, while I raised the debate around the inventory/small claims court, all ASTs for England and Wales after 06 April 2007 should be protected in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. They have dispute resolution built into thos. Did your landlord do this and let you know within 14 days which scheme he lodged it in, as required?


          • #6
            Thanks for the assistance again, Beeber.

            Our landlord did lodge our deposit with an insurance scheme, but only some 5 months after we moved in and signed the lease, when I chased him up on it. I have a copy of the certificate, with our contract dated as starting in October and the insurance as starting in February.

            I am of the opinion that he would not have insured our deposit had I not chased him up on it. I assume that that may work in our favour if we went to a dispute, but I'm not sure if it's an offence in some way that he took so long getting it done. Any ideas there?

            The problem with the washing machine handle is that the plastic housing of the door hinge has broken, which means that the handle assembly won't stay onto the door itself, and so the door can't close and the machine is inoperable. As I said, there was no rough handling on our part. Is it just our word against his?

            Thanks for your advice!


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