Difficulties with Landlord & Agent

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    Difficulties with Landlord & Agent

    Hi folks,

    I have created a bit of a difficult situation for myself and was hoping someone here might be able to let me know if I have anything left to stand on.

    Basically, last August I moved into a property as an assured shorthold tenant with rent due monthly. 3-4 weeks before move-in date, when I first viewed the property, there were a variety of repairs pending, including several safety issues. I was assured that these issues would be resolved.

    This was critical as I have a 2 year old son and 6 & 7 year old daughters.

    On move-in day, nothing had moved further. The inventory lady was so appalled at the condition of the property that she actually advised I not accept the keys. However, as I had recently moved into the country and needed to start getting the house setup for my family that was arriving a month later, I went ahead and proceeded.

    I DID have the landlord come over and review the issues with me. He verbally agreed to make all repairs before my family arrived a month later.

    Well, 6 weeks later when my family did arrive, despite several calls to him, nothing had been even started. Over the next several months, I called him repeatedly and requested the work to begin. We also discovered an electrical problem and dangerous problem with the oven.

    In my error, I did not document the need for repairs, etc, as I should via registered mail. As we had recently moved to the country, life was very much upside down and I just wasn't thinking at my best.

    Finally, out of frustration, I withheld 2/3rds of the November rent. Finally the landlord took notice and began repairs. Except rather then dealing with the safety issues, he did less important tasks like tiling a utility room floor. Despite our repeated requests for the important issues to be dealt with, he continued to show complete disregard to those issues.

    So I continued with my (apparently flawed method) and withheld Decembers rent, repeating the request for the safety issues to be fixed. He finally moved forward on one of the four safety issues as of mid December. However, nothing else.

    Then things sort of fell apart.

    I had an agreement with him to pay 2 months rent (January and 1 month of the past due amount) at the end of the first week of January as he was planning on dealing with the other three safety issues during that week.

    However... First, he didn't do anything. And second, both of the engines in my car and my wife's failed, and we (yes, bad, I know) spent the money instead toward beginning those repairs. At the same time, we had pretty much had it with him telling us he was going to fix things and then not, so had pretty much decided to move out as soon as possible.

    We did / do intend to repay the past due rent. However, we also feel that the landlord should make some concessions based on his breakage of the lease.

    Since then, we have been served an eviction notice (Section 8 or 21, maybe both, I don't remember). And then when we tried to get a rental setup at an alternative (not in disrepair) property, the landlord (and/or the letting agent) gave us a bad reference, which means they are going to ask for a guarantor or 3/6 months rent in advance.

    Of course, as new to the country, we don't have a guarantor. And with the car troubles, we spent what we had sitting aside.

    So the question is, do I have absolutely any ground to stand on?

    Now, I know I made some really stupid mistakes here, including....

    1. Withholding rent. This is legal where I come from, but apparently not here in the United Kingdom.
    2. Not documenting the issues with letters.

    And probably more.

    Now, the one piece of evidence I DO have is the inventory which specifically labels 2 out of 4 of the dangerous issues. One was taken care of mid December. The other is still outstanding.

    And just to mention, the issues were:

    1. In a kitchen closet, there was a very large hole in the concrete floor leading to underneath the house. This whole was apparently related to the replacement of the boiler and was large enough for children to fall through. This was identified in the inventory. This is the only issue that was repaired.

    2. In an upstairs closet, there were floor boards that were missing, also replacing to the boiler replacement. There were also nails protruding from the floor here. This was identified in the inventory.

    3. If you touch the kitchen sink and the dishwasher at the same time, you get electrically shocked. My wife is really concerned about this one as it is really hard to get a 2 year old boy to NOT put his fingers where they don't belong. This was discovered after move-in.

    4. While in use, the oven door will get hot enough to burn someone. I (fortunately) discovered this (didn't feel good, but better then a kiddo...). This was discovered after move-in.

    5. I have not PERSONALLY been as concerned about this, but my wife was really stressed. There is a hole in the downstairs bathroom floor where an old vent was (before the new heating system was installed). Around the edge of this is sharp sheet metal. For some reason, I keep forgetting about this one. But I guess it really could have been a problem - we do go barefoot most of the time...

    And other issues that I felt were serious enough to require compensation, though not exactly dangerous.

    1. The rear garden is filled with quite a bit of construction rubbish, including broken glass, metal pieces, etc. The landlord actually requested that I not attempt to clean this myself as he didn't want to be liable if I hurt myself. At first he claimed a plan to have someone clear this up. When it got cold, he said he'd do it when it warmed up.

    2. When I viewed the property, the letting agent informed me that the property included a garage in the block behind and to the west of the property. On move in day, I asked the landlord for the key to this and he claimed that he would get it to me after his one of his maintenance men cleared his stuff out. Later his answer shifted to, "I will try to get the garage for you". And now he tells me it was never part of the deal in the first place!

    3. It took him 4 1/2 months to get us a key to the front entryway inner door. During that time we entered the house through a door to the reception room at the front of the house, having to track through the grass and mud to get there. I am not sure exactly where this issue weighs in among the whole situation.

    And other issues include general issues with an unfinished floor in the main entryway & utility room, other general minor things, etc. But again, these are not the issues that were the problem, it was the more serious problems above.

    So, as I mentioned above, I'd love to know if I have any room to stand on. I know I screwed up royally in the way I handled this situation. Is there anything I can do about things now?

    Sorry for the lengthy post. Thanks for reading this far!

    #2
    Post is too long for my attention. From a quick browse, do I understand that you are expecting the landlord to write-off some of the arrears you have built up from spending your rent money on other things as a form of compensation for the poor quality of the accommodation?

    You will find Shelter has excellent information on how to report and escalate repairs and breaches of health and safety in properties. They give free expert advice to tenants on their housing rights and their site gives good info on the eviction process. Also, your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to assist with advice. Your local council should have an officer that deals with private tenant problems, perhaps located within their environmental health department.

    Comment


      #3
      captbunzo,

      Welcome to Britain. Unfortunately this is just what renting is like in this country. Landlords have an appalling attitude towards their tenants, and are reluctant to make any repairs to their own properties, even when there is a health and safety risk.

      Most landlords don't understand that letting property is more like a business than a pension - to make sure the business works you have to invest time and money, sadly they don't grasp this concept, instead thinking that all they have to do is collect the rent. Just like any other business, a landlord needs to treat their customers with respect, otherwise in the end the business will fail.

      As has already been mentioned, Shelter and the Citizens advice bureau can be very helpful for people in your situation. Just remember, the law is on YOUR side here, the story of the neglectful landlord is well known in this country so if you end up taking the matter to court, they will most likely sympathise with you.

      as for the withholding rent issue, yes this most likely does break the terms of your contract. However, since the landlord did not carry out the repairs, he has breached the contract first.

      I would certainly take this to court if I were you. The landlord would not be able to give you a bad reference if they have broken the contract, and you are likely to be granted compensation for the stress and expense caused by the landlords actions.

      Finally, don't take my word for it, or anyone else on this board for that matter, speak to Shelter, CAB or your local council as they will be able to give you full and impartial advice.

      Comment

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