Disrepair by landlord - withold rent?

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  • Disrepair by landlord - withold rent?

    I moved into my rented property in September on an AST. Within one week I discovered there were several major issues with the property which weren't apparent when I moved in. (1), the washing machine leaked. (2) A number of the radiators were blocked. (3) The oven didn't work. Also, there was pest infestation - myself and my son had bites all over us (4). I contacted the landlord regarding these matters - he was very disbelieving and unsympathetic but said he would send someone round to check issues 1-3. He flatly denied any responsibility for (4). I waited a week but at no time was contacted by the landlord regarding a time and date for the repairman to come round - when I phoned the landlord after one week he said that someone had called but I was out. To cut a long story short I paid for someone to repair washing machine, sort out the radiators. I kept the receipts. Landlord (after 3 weeks) replaced the oven (I used my own microwave meanwhile). I also arranged for Pest Control to come round and spray the place - they were appalled and had to remove the carpets and the bedding - I had to move out for three days - I did take photographic evidence. The landlord refused to supply and replacement carpeting and bedding. I bought my own beds but of course have not replaced the carpets.
    Since October I have been trying to contact the Landlord to sort out the receipts and other matters - for example there is no gas safety certificate and there are other repair issues that I have report to him in writing, provided quotes, and paid for myself.
    At no time has he replied to me. His 'agent' (his brother) phoned twice explaining that my Landlord was out of the country but he didn't believe that there was anything wrong with the property. He had a rather unpleasant tone and I explained to him that I would in future only communicate in writing - I subsequently heard nothing further from him.
    In January I got fed up with paying the rent into the L/Lord's a/c as my expenditure on repairs was running into the equivalent of two months' rent. I set aside the money in a separate account explaining and wrote to him explaining this. I also wrote saying that when the tenancy was up (in early March) I intended to leave.
    Last week I received an email from the L/lord explaining he was back in the country and wished to carry out a property inspection this weekend. I explained that I was going away, could we rearrange. He said he was coming round anyway and he had a right to enter my property.
    I have subsequently changed the locks (I'm at a friend's until tomorrow evening when I return). Am I within my rights? What should I do next? I wish to leave but should I pay him the rent when he has cost me the equivalent of at least the last two months if not more. This doesn't include the aggravation, upset and anxiety I have gone through.

  • #2
    Thanks to landlords like this bad landlord, the law is tough on landlords sometimes making life difficult for decent landlords with bad tenants. Report him having no gas safety certificate to the local authority.
    I think you have a strong case if this came to court to walk away from this tenancy without the landlord succeeding in gaining costs from you. Meantime withhold the rent until these things are remedied.
    Finally has he registered your deposit ?

    Comment


    • #3
      Yes, it's okay to replace the locks, so long as you reinstate the original locks (the LL's property) before the end of the tenancy. LL has no right of access without your consent or a court order.

      There is a procedure for arranging repairs yourself and deducting the cost from the rent (when LL fails to take action) - see link below. You mention sending quotes so it's possible you have inadvertently followed it. You could also have contacted the environmental health officer at the council regarding the lack of heating & pest infestation (though if it was bed bugs I believe this is a slightly contentious area).

      If you have evidence of everything you did (e.g. proof of posting letters to landlord or at least copies of the letters) and of the disrepair itself, then if this ended up before deposit scheme adjudication or a court, there's a good chance you wouldn't be held liable for the rent arrears. (Note that it's possible you are liable for repair of kitchen appliances under the terms of your tenancy agreement, so you need to check this).

      Request the gas safety certificate in writing and if LL fails to provide it, report to the Health & Safety Executive.

      Only withhold rent to the value of the money you've spent.

      http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_ad...n_private_lets
      And click header entitled "tenants doing repairs"

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks for that information - I intended to follow the Shelter procedure as indicated in the link.
        I also did contact the environmental health department back in October and probably should have pursued it more forcefully - basically the Officer cancelled an appointment to come round twice and eventually (after me phoning up loads of times)sent off a letter to the landlord (I have a copy). By that stage I had paid for the repairs myself and as I work was disheartened to think of staying in yet again when no-one turns up.
        Thanks for the suggestion of contacting the Health and Safety Executive regarding the gas safety certificate - I will certainly do that immediately.
        The landlord does have the money in a deposit scheme so I will bear that in mind.

        Comment


        • #5
          I have just received a letter from my Landlord - all very apologetic - saying that he didn't know about the repairs etc. etc. that he had been out of the country etc. and could he meet at my convenience.

          Obviously I am willing to meet because I want this sorted out. I am hoping to come to a reasonable agreement with him and propose to do the following:

          1. Write to him with a range of suitable times and dates for him to come round and carry out a property inspection.
          2. Have a witness at the property with me.
          3. Have the paperwork - a list of what was not working and when, plus copies of all my attempts to contact him (these were by email and went unanswered for months) plus the schedule of repairs I carried out at my own expense.
          4. In this letter I will also request (once again!) that he provides proof of the gas safety certificate.

          Is there anything else I should add? How can I show that I put the two months rent aside in my bank account? (should I print off my bank statement - it's not something I particularly want him to be privy to).

          The main thing is - I don't want to be out of pocket here. I can probably show that I have spent in excess of two months' rent from various repair receipts. Although I roughly followed the Shelter procedures I did not do this for every single repair (for example the pest control) but I want my deposit back and do not wish him to feel that he has a chance to sue me for the unpaid rent after I leave. (NB AST 5th March. Haven't got a notice yet but I certainly wish to leave)

          Does anyone have any further advice or tips? Anything would be appreciated!

          Comment


          • #6
            Can anyone advise me on this please?

            I have written to my landlord (as in previous post) outlining my concerns and explaining I would like to meet with him - and indicating several possible dates.

            However, I have heard nothing back from him yet - it has been almost a week and I am getting concerned.

            My AST runs out on 05/03 and he hasn't issued me with a s.21 or other notice (on ground 8?) as I have two months unpaid rent now because of the disrepair. I have followed the shelter protocol as far as I could (provided quotes, and then had the work done by myself when I hadn't heard anything after about 2 weeks).

            I am getting a bit worried as to his intentions - I don't want to move out on the 5th as the place I am going to won't be ready until the end of the month. Any advice as to what I should/should not do?

            Comment


            • #7
              My landlord came round unexpectedly yesterday evening, and although I would have preferred to have had someone with me (as a witness) I agreed to let him in to carry out a property inspection.

              Basically, he accused me of causing damage to the property by removing the beds and carpet back in October when I had the place sprayed for pests: he said that I had brought the pests in with me when I moved in! The pest bites started the weekend after I moved into the property but I wasn’t able to get the place sprayed for a couple of weeks because I was trying to follow the correct ‘procedure’ by attempting to contact the landlord, waiting for a response etc.

              He also refused to acknowledge responsibility for the other repairs, again saying that I had caused the ‘damage’ (leaky washing machine, blocked radiators as well as some other minor repairs such as faulty wiring to a light ) despite this being towards the start of the tenancy. Although I had tried to contact him and received no reply he said I was being unreasonable by having work completed without his permission etc.

              He now says that if I withhold any money (equivalent roughly to two months rent) he will not only NOT return my deposit (which he said he won’t return anyway because I hadn’t replaced the carpets) but that he will also sue me for the two months ‘outstanding’ rent!

              I am really worried now but also really angry after all the upset I went through.

              What shld be my next move? Am wondering whether I should:

              (1) – pay the money and then attempt to get compensation through the courts? How would I do this? Small claims? - any likelihood of succeeding? - Or:

              (2) – not pay, stand firm, gather my evidence and claim for my deposit back plus compensation (would be just under 5k) in the small claims court?

              Also – I didn’t mention the issue of the gas safety certificate as I was waiting for him to provide it (I have requested it in writing several times) but he didn’t. Can I use this as added evidence?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Kittaycat View Post
                My landlord came round unexpectedly yesterday evening, and although I would have preferred to have had someone with me (as a witness) I agreed to let him in to carry out a property inspection.

                Basically, he accused me of causing damage to the property by removing the beds and carpet back in October when I had the place sprayed for pests: he said that I had brought the pests in with me when I moved in! The pest bites started the weekend after I moved into the property but I wasn’t able to get the place sprayed for a couple of weeks because I was trying to follow the correct ‘procedure’ by attempting to contact the landlord, waiting for a response etc.
                What particular pests were they? And why did the pest control take the carpets away?


                What shld be my next move? Am wondering whether I should:

                (1) – pay the money and then attempt to get compensation through the courts? How would I do this? Small claims? - any likelihood of succeeding? - Or:

                (2) – not pay, stand firm, gather my evidence and claim for my deposit back plus compensation (would be just under 5k) in the small claims court?
                If by 'compensation' you mean the 3x deposit penalty for non-compliance with deposit protection, this is not a straightforward 'small claim' and it would be advisable to seek specialist legal advice. See
                http://painsmith.wordpress.com/2009/...or-tds-claims/
                Although some people have successfully pursued such claims as a litigant-in-person e.g.
                http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums...ad.php?t=22208
                it would be irresponsible to recommend it because of the potential risks (which should be apparent from both links).

                Note that, if the deposit is not protected, LL cannot serve you with a s.21 notice. It's the other sanction for non-compliance. LL can still serve you with a s.8 notice on grounds of 'unpaid rent' (but you appear to have the necessary evidence that it has been lawfully withheld).

                Assuming LL doesn't claim against you first, a safer option would be to issue a claim against LL for return of the deposit only (when the tenancy ends), plus possibly compensation for the disrepair if you think that would be appropriate. He will then counterclaim for damage and unpaid rent. You have evidence showing the valid reasons for the unpaid rent, your attempts to contact LL, failure by LL to carry out repairs (N.B. which may not include electrical appliances), pest control's report on the infestation etc.

                Yes, you can also mention in your witness statement that LL did not provide a gas safety certificate, but it's not grounds for any compensation as such when you haven't suffered any loss as a consequence (it's for HSE to prosecute LL if appropriate) but it does show that LL is irresponsible. You can also state that deposit wasn't protected. All adds up to a LL who isn't complying with his statutory duties; the court will not look favourably on such behaviour, and it will serve to undermine his credibility as a witness, if, say, he falsely claims he made lots of attempts to send people round to make repairs.

                I think you have a reasonably good chance of winning and getting the deposit back, assuming you have the necessary evidence to support your claim and defence.

                Also – I didn’t mention the issue of the gas safety certificate as I was waiting for him to provide it (I have requested it in writing several times) but he didn’t. Can I use this as added evidence?
                Report to HSE, as previously advised.

                Comment


                • #9
                  p.s.

                  The case law which established the procedure for writing to LL repeatedly, allowing reasonable time, providing quotes, etc before carrying out repairs yourself and withholding the sum from rent (as described on the Shelter website) is
                  Lee-Parker v Izzet (1971)
                  This is the case you should refer to when defending your actions.

                  BTW, did you, after carrying out the repairs, then write a final letter to landlord stating that repair cost £x and you would therefore be withholding £x rent?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Citation: Lee-Parker v. Izzet (No. 2) [1972] 2 All ER 800, [1972] 1 WLR 775, 23 P & CR 301, 116 Sol Jo 446,
                    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 http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                    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).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                      Citation: Lee-Parker v. Izzet (No. 2) [1972] 2 All ER 800, [1972] 1 WLR 775, 23 P & CR 301, 116 Sol Jo 446,
                      This one seems to be about a different issue? e.g. "In that case, there was an agreement for the sale of a house “subject to the purchaser obtaining a satisfactory mortgage”. Mr Justice Goulding held that this was a condition precedent to the existence of a binding contract and that it was void for uncertainty."

                      It's the 1971 case which is about withholding rent. See p77 of this Law Commission report, where it is cited.
                      http://www.official-documents.gov.uk.../6946/6946.pdf

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        OK. Try Lee-Parker v Izzet [1971] 1 WLR 1688.
                        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 http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                        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).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                          OK. Try Lee-Parker v Izzet [1971] 1 WLR 1688.
                          Which is what I said in the first place, in #9

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Westminster thank you for your advice.

                            The pest control people were from my local council - they had to remove the carpet because of extensive damage through bedbugs. They also had to remove the beds which I replaced at my own expense because the landlord did not reply and I couldn't be without beds for days on end.

                            I am thinking that I may pay the rent owing and issue a claim afterwards eg if I don't get the deposit back. Would I be able to claim for the stress of it all do you think?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by westminster View Post
                              Which is what I said in the first place, in #9.
                              Yes, without the citation.
                              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 http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                              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).

                              Comment

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