Tenant Withholding Rent

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    Tenant Withholding Rent

    Hi there, first time here! Just need some advice.

    I am a landlord and I rent out my one bed property with a managing agent as I am currently living overseas in NZ.

    Recently my managing agent contacted me to say my boiler wasn't working, I replied to them straight away to get it fixed immediately and they sent a plumber out. They then came back saying a new boiler was needed and again I replied straight away actioning them to fit a new boiler in the property. Given it is winter I wanted this to be done quickly as I have had a boiler break in a place I was renting a while ago and know what it is like.

    Then when it came for the tenant to pay rent just now she has deducted £200 without even discussing it with me or the managing agent for the days she didn't have a boiler.

    I heard about the boiler on 31st Jan actioned the works straight away and due to the plumber being busy on one day (not my fault my agents chose their contractors!) the boiler was up and running on 4th Feb. So it has taken 5 days to replace the boiler from when I heard about it which includes the plumber having to source a new boiler and install it. While I totally appreciate how rubbish it is to not have heating I feel I have completed my legal obligations as a landlord in getting this seen to straight away and she has to allow reasonable time for it to be fixed. Had it been a fault which could have been repaired immediately it would have been.

    I am a bit annoyed I am being penalised for this when I did what I should have done and have always been a landlord that gets repairs done straight away and doesn't sit on them. The whole reason I got the place managed was because I knew the time difference from UK to NZ was a nightmare and I needed someone in the UK to make sure if anything went wrong in the property it could be dealt with straight away. A boiler breaking down can happen at any time and I have gas safety certs and it has been serviced.

    Anyone got any thoughts? I have checked the tenancy agreement and as far as I can see she isn't allowed to do this.

    Thanks all!

    #2
    Not condoning anything, but when did the tenant first report the boiler to the agent?

    Comment


      #3
      She told them on 30th they sent a plumber to fix it but they concluded the boiler was beyond repair. The next day 31st contacted me filling me in on what had happened and I told them to go ahead and replace the boiler immediately. Thanks!

      Comment


        #4
        So, basically your tenant was without a working boiler for 5 days and they think this entitles them to £200 compensation?

        I think they are wrong for the following reasons:

        1. If they were entitled to compensation, then it must surely be only a proportion of the daily rent for the days affected, which I assume doesn't amount to £200. If we were to say a 30% deduction is reasonable for a lack of heating and hot water then the ceiling for the amount they should get back is 0.3x5 days rent, whatever that is, way under £200 I assume? Clearly they aren't entitled to a 100% deduction for the affected days because even if we accept part of the service they pay for (a habitable property) hasn't been available, clearly the bulk of it has been, less heating and/or hot water..... the roof still worked, so did the walls, the doors and the furniture, I assume?
        2. The tenant has no inherent right to deduct from rent re disrepair unless they have paid reasonable repair costs themselves in an emergency, or because the LL failed to do necessary works promptly, compensation after the fact is for the court to decide, not the tenant, and certainly not the tenant via unilateral rent deduction.
        3. LL's and tenants alike sometimes suffer a broken down boiler, it's part of life, and not something people would generally be compensated for. Given the LL in this case took all reasonable steps to quickly fix the situation the tenant has no real cause for complaint.

        If you agree with the above then the question becomes how to get back the £200, or most of it, if the tenant wont pay voluntarily, the options are as follows:

        1. Try to claim back from the deposit at end of tenancy.
        2. Issue Sec 8 under Ground 10/11 to rattle the tenants cage, don't start possession proceedings over it as it'll be a complete waste of money for £200 arrears because the court is incredibly unlikely to grant possession. If you want to evict use Sec 21.
        3. Take tenant to the small claims court for the money.

        So, if I were you, I'd politely explain to the tenant that they are being ridiculous and invite them to pay the unpaid rent, if they don't pick one from the above
        I'm not a lawyer, what I say is the truth as I understand it. I offer no guarantee except good intentions.

        Comment


          #5
          That's great thanks so much for this!

          I thought it was unreasonable. I am hoping they will understand and pay the rent! She has said that not having the boiler gave "health and safety issues" and saying the flat was "totally uninhabitable". While I totally understand it is winter and totally crap to have no hot water and heating like you say boilers break down! Had I not bothered to replace it then fair enough! And it was 5 days which while I think would have been great if it was quicker the plumber had to source the boiler and this was over a weekend.

          Comment


            #6
            How many days rent = £200?
            IMO T has little or no basis for compensation. 1 Judge is on record as saying ' no T can expect breakdown compensation for period it would take for av owner-occupier to repair in a timely manner.
            I assume there was alt method of heating water - gas hob, kettle?
            MA did a good job of attempting repair within 24 hr of T notification and asking for your instruction, which you gave by return.
            UK winter has been rel mild this year- not much snow but plenty of rain

            If T had said 'i am deducting £50 for 2 basic elec fan heaters I had to buy and here's the receipt' then fair does.
            As it is her rental account is £200 in debit, hopefully recoverable from deposit at end of T.

            Comment


              #7
              Shelter - http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_ad..._to_do_repairs

              A Tenant does not have the right to withhold rent even if they have gone and done the repairs needed themselves, at their own cost. One would assume that this scenario would arise only after a long 'battle' with a Landlord where the Landlord has repeatedly refused to do the repairs. Seems like your Tenant just sat on her arse and wants a windfall for something that can happen at any time and was resolved quickly. Things break. Boilers certainly break. It's just unfortunate they seem to break in the winter!

              Note point 7, that says "You may be able to claim a discount in your rent if the work to your home has been very disruptive." which sounds like builders trudging through the house for weeks on end, lack of privacy, dust and major inconvenience to me... but, as usual, this kind of thing becomes quite subjective. Maybe a token compensation amount might be something you'd consider - I'd certainly not recommend it, but I stand by the fact that good deals are where both parties feel they got something (but not all) they wanted - but beware of any precedent you set with her. She'll be asking for free living before long.

              One would assume the £200 is calculated by her, somehow. You can calculate an amount of compensation differently, if you desire, and reach a very happy compromise - but it seems she must be disabused of the notion that she is within her rights to unilaterally decide to withhold rent.

              Comment


                #8
                Hard to say what she is trying to claim for, maybe she has lived in a hotel for those five days? I would tend to say she would be entitled to be reimbursed for this then because without heating or hot water a property is unlikely to be useful.

                Maybe she has had to use expensive electric heating (oil radiators) for the time and is claiming for those?

                Maybe she is just trying it on.

                Simply ask her for an explanation of why she thinks she is entitled to this sum, bearing in mind it needs to correspond to her losses only (!)

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Hippogriff View Post
                  A Tenant does not have the right to withhold rent even if they have gone and done the repairs needed themselves, at their own cost.
                  I don't think this is correct. There's a common law remedy of recoupment which is actually explained in the link you gave.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Can you please point the relevant parts out to the thread, so we are all on the same page? It seems, to me, that withholding rent (offsetting against repairs) is only going to be possible in exceptional circumstances (which this is not, by the sounds of it)... is that about right?

                    What I was looking at was simply this... header "Do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent" answer "You do not have the right to withhold the rent, even if your landlord is refusing to do repairs."

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Hippogriff View Post
                      Can you please point the relevant parts out to the thread, so we are all on the same page? It seems, to me, that withholding rent (offsetting against repairs) is only going to be possible in exceptional circumstances (which this is not, by the sounds of it)... is that about right?

                      What I was looking at was simply this... header "Do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent" answer "You do not have the right to withhold the rent, even if your landlord is refusing to do repairs."
                      6 Do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent
                      You do not have the right to withhold the rent, even if your landlord is refusing to do repairs. If you don't pay your rent, the landlord might try to evict you.

                      However, in certain circumstances, and if you have strong tenancy rights (for example if you are an assured or regulated tenant) it may be possible for you to arrange for the repairs to be done and then deduct the cost from your rent.

                      If the landlord has failed to do the repairs that he's legally required to do, and as long as you follow the correct procedure, you can do the repair yourself and deduct the cost from rent payments. If you do not follow the correct procedure, you could be evicted and you will still be liable for the rent – you will also be responsible for putting right any repairs that are badly carried out.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Get the agent to serve a Sec 21 on this tenant immediately.
                        She has given you a taste of what she will be like in the future when problems inevitably occur.
                        Allow tenants to protect their own deposits. I want free money when they do it wrong

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Think it depends on the scenario. There would be very few circumstances (I imagine) where a tenant could justify getting in their own plumber to replace a boiler then deducting that from rent.

                          At the other end of the spectrum though, if they get home at 1am one morning to find the front door lock jammed and cant immediately get hold of the LL, I think they are justified in getting out a locksmith themselves, rather than, for example, sleeping in the car overnight and giving the landlord a ring in the morning. I'd deduct the cost of the locksmith from my rent in that situation anyway, seems perfectly reasonable.
                          I'm not a lawyer, what I say is the truth as I understand it. I offer no guarantee except good intentions.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            It's all very clearly laid out in http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_ad..._doing_repairs regarding statutory tenancies.

                            However, there's also the common law remedy of recoupment as per Lee-Parker v Izzet which goes for any tenancy - not sure why Shelter doesn't say anything about this (and rather, says that any tenancies not under the statutory provisions do not have this right).

                            Comment


                              #15
                              "not sure why Shelter doesn't say anything about this "

                              Probably because it's so subjective. What the tenant deems necessary work the LL may not deem so.

                              I'd imagine shelter didn't want to encourage tenants to start touching up chips in the paintwork then billing the LL for that.

                              Lee-Parker v Izzet is relatively narrow in scope, it refers to repairs required under S11 LL & T Act 1985, AIUI, not any old repair the tenant feels it would be nice to have done. There is a reasonably strict procedure to follow too - giving LL written notice of intent, obtaining written estimates etc. It's not something tenants should be encouraged to do at the drop of a hat, and certainly not something tenant could use to justify buying their own boiler because the LL took 5 days to get a new one fitted, for example.
                              I'm not a lawyer, what I say is the truth as I understand it. I offer no guarantee except good intentions.

                              Comment

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