Can tenants withhold rent for lack of service?

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  • Can tenants withhold rent for lack of service?

    I'm a tentant paying rent to an agent in a 1 year by year contract.

    Our tentancy period runs from May to May each year. In April 2007 our boiler broke and was replaced by a tradesman provided by the managing agents. After replacing the boiler the tradesman left holes in the walls, ceilings and damage to the carpet.

    We took photo's can sent them to the agents and asked for the damage to be repaired. Over the following 11 months we repeated the requests and nothing was ever done.

    When our tenancy renewal came through in May 2008 with a rental increase we wrote to the agents saying "we agree to pay the increase and sign the new lease ONLY when the damage to the flat caused by the agents tradesman was complete".

    Eventually in June 2008 the damage was repaired and we signed the new lease and changed our standing orders to the agreed rental increase.

    The agent is now chasing us for the difference in rent from May 2008 to June 2008.

    Does the agent have a right to chase us for this money when we previously notified them that we were withholding the increased difference until the damage to the flat was fixed?

  • #2
    1. Remember that your AST is a contract between L and you. Agent is not a party.
    2. Did L (directly, or via Agent) accept your May letter re paying only when damage rectified?
    3. If not, you should now contact L direct (NOT via Agent) and request his/her confirmation re waiving the month's rent.
    JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
    1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
    2. Telephone advice: see
    3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
    4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).


    • #3
      Thanks for your response.

      We have tried to contact our landlady direct before but she has told us not to as she pays the agent to manage the property and thus she doesn't want to bothered by us.

      In this case our only contact to the landlady is via the agent and I would not know if this correspondance has been passed onto the landlady. I suspect it hasn't.

      I also suspect the landlady would be most unimpressed if she knew that tradesman provided by the agent had damaged her flat and it took 11 months plus a withholding of rent to get it fixed.

      Obviously the landlady is going to want her money as she probably has no idea of the situation and our thoughts are that the managing agents should take the hit for providing such a poor service and damaging the flat. But as we know agents never take a hit.

      Not sure where to go from here??


      • #4
        I think you should write to the landlady directly stating that it's you that has a contract with her and that as you are less than satisfied with the agent you have no alternative but to do so.

        Tell her what you know and tell her that you are not paying any extra rent until the matter is sorted out; I would say you don't have to pay any rent increase until the repairs were completed, and if the agent tries to force you to do so try the "see you in court then" type of response!
        The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.


        • #5
          Thanks again

          We only have a mobile phone number for the landlady. Are the agents required to give us the landlady's address if we request it in order to write to her?


          • #6
            Yes! And its a criminal offence if the agent doesn't comply within 21 days under S.1 Landlord & Tenant Act 1985. You MUST however make the request to the agent in writing, not orally.
            The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.


            • #7
              Great. Thanks guys. You've been a lot of help

              One quick question:

              When we hear of tenants withholding rent because something needs doing and there is no action, this is usually to encourage a speedy reponse to the tentant requests. Do the tenants usually have to repay any withheld rent or is this something that has to be mutally agreed and if not ends up in court?


              • #8
                The usual rules in cases like this are that tenant requests landlord to carry out repairs. If landlord does not comply within a reasonable time frame, then tenant repeats request giving landlord a specific time by which the repairs are to be completed. Tenant also submits quotations from contractors to complete the repairs, and if landlord again fails to effect these repairs, tenant does so using the lowest quotation and deducts this sum from the rent paid to the landlord.

                Any information given in this post is based on my personal experience as a landlord, what I have learned from this and other boards and elsewhere. It is not to be relied on. Definitive advice is only available from a Solicitor or other appropriately qualified person.


                • #9
                  Wow. That's a lot of work for a tenant paying rent. This appears to be a very grey area indeed. Ironically it was the agent who suggested, verbally, that we withhold rent in the first place. Very confused here.


                  • #10
                    The agent has no business in doing this as he acts for the landlord so to advise the tenant to withhold rent (even justifiably) could be prejudicial to his "duty of care" to his client.
                    The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.


                    • #11
                      It's not the agent's problem other than to advise their client they think they are being unreasonable but could suggest to a tenant they might like to take independent legal advice. Stories on such subjects are not likely to resolve anything other than asking agents to show their ignorance.
                      The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.


                      • #12
                        Request the L/L address from the agent in writing and if they dont give it to you within the correct timescale I believe you can leagally withhold the rent until they do.


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