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dangrv
31-10-2009, 22:31 PM
A little advice from someone more knowledgeable would be greatly appreciated as to how we might fairly proceed with the below.

We have been in our new house for 2 and half months and now have serious doubts about the competence and honesty of our landlord. We would like to break from our tenancy early as the landlord has stated that if he is required to spend any money on the house this will result in our tenancy not being renewed at the end of the assured period (our problem arising in that we do need repairs urgently now). Additionally repairs promised before we moved in have never been completed and are now being refused. Several other clauses of the tenancy have been violated by the landlord. The tenancy is joint and severally liable, and we have never been in arrears at any point.

The major concerns include the safety of the electrical supply (supposedly a new installation), which falls far short of current requirements (I have checked this with the NIC), was installed in contravention of Part P and features exposed cabling capable of delivering a shock (it almost did!). We were also promised an electrical safety certificate which we are told we are now not getting (too expensive we are told). The agreement to obtain a safety certificate was verbal, but there were witnesses.

The landlord has not protected our deposit in a deposit scheme and also took payment in cash for several weeks and then asked us to sign a tenancy stating that our rent began at a later date after this point (we were quoted this was for ease of billing and we foolishly believed this). No inventory has been taken at any point.

Our drains foul regularly and the landlord refuses to pay to have this rectified claiming it to be our responsibility (we now know this is not the case). The blockages appear to be due to old brickwork around the manhole cover falling in to the drain. We are forced at the moment to either pay for this or undertake the work ourselves. The blocked drains lead to flooding of the rear of the property with sewage. Drains are not shared with any other property.

Our tenancy agreement requires the landlord obtain house insurance, but he has not done so claiming the expense is too great. We suspect this may be due to the landlord having an incorrect mortgage. The landlord states he does not wish to be listed as a 'registered landlord' and we have a strong suspicion he is hiding this income (and possibly the house itself) from the tax authorities (he has suggested to this several times).

A large number of more minor repairs promised before we moved in have not been completed. We have now been told that these are not going to be undertaken at any point. In respect of all the above we feel it fair to consider our landlord dishonest and therefore do not wish to be bound by an agreement that was obtained through deception.

As we expect the above repairs (particularly the drains) to be costly and know the landlord has spent both our deposit and rent already (his own admission) we are unsure how to proceed. We don't think he actually has the means to rectify much of the above.

At present our approach is likely to be to withold rent, demand the more severe aspects are rectified within 7 days via recorded letter, and then ask for our tenancy agreement to be torn up if it is not. Would this be a reasonable way to proceed, and when it comes to ending the tenancy, how do we go about doing this legally. Does any of the above violations render the tenancy invalid already? Is the local council likely to be of any help?

Any help is gratefully received.

mind the gap
31-10-2009, 22:45 PM
It is quite difficult legally to end a tenancy on the grounds of disrepair alone, but you have several 'cards' you can play in an attempt to persuade your LL to agree an early surrender. You will stand more chance of success if you have kept a written record of the things you have been promised then refused, with dates.

One of the most important issues is the unhygienic state of the drains and the unsafe electrics. You can report your LL to the EHO at the council, who has the authority to require your LL to carry out repairs. If the disrepair is considered a danger to life or health, the EHO can (I believe) end the tenancy and prosecute the LL.

Your other strong card is the non-protection of your deposit. You can sue the Ll for its return and even for a penalty equivalent to 3x the deposit.

I suggest you write your LL a Letter Before Action advising him that you have serious concerns about his failure to effect repairs (summarise what he should have done, but has not);say that you believe he may be in breach of contract over the disrepair to the electricity supply and the sewerage, since LLs are statutorily obliged to keep these things in good, safe working order. Say that he is also breaking the law by not protecting your deposit and supplying you with the prescribed details. Tell him that in the circumstances, you feel that to agree an early surrender is the only appropriate course of action so that he may contact the EHO himself to get advice as to what he needs to do to make his property safe and fit for habitation. If he doesn't agree to an early surrender, he will leave you with no option but to contact the EH0 yourself and to sue him for the non-protection of your deposit.

Has your LL shown you the CP12 (gas safety certificate) for the property and the Energy Performance Certificate? If he hasn't got a CP12, he is committing a criminal offence.

Good luck - it sounds a highly worrying situation to be in.

dangrv
31-10-2009, 23:04 PM
Yes we have a gas certificate. We inquired about the energy efficiency certificate but have not received a reply. Is this also a requirement?

mind the gap
31-10-2009, 23:15 PM
Yes we have a gas certificate. We inquired about the energy efficiency certificate but have not received a reply. Is this also a requirement?

Yes, it should have been available for you to read when you first asked about the property. Its absence, in itself, is not however a reason to end the tenancy. Possible outcome if reported is a £200 fine.

I am glad you have at least been shown a gas safety certificate, as this has much more serious implications for your health and safety.

dangrv
31-10-2009, 23:41 PM
Thankyou most kindly for your advice, much appreciated :)

Yeah, I doubt we'd be willing to live here at all without the gas certificate. LL had the certificate made out with all the gas appliances marked as belonging to us (they of course are his), I assume to skirt any responsibility for replacing them if they fail. I assume this is more of a case of sly behavior rather than criminal? I do actually believe the gas appliances are safe, that's not a concern at the moment.

The whole situation is very frustrating. Never had a landlord behave this badly towards us before.

quarterday
01-11-2009, 05:35 AM
when i read horror stories like yours it helps me to understand why at the other extreme when everything is done to comply with statute and to maintain excellent goodwill\; with tenanted property being maintained to the same standard as owner -occupied, a tenant would stay in the same flat, with the same landlord for a decade and a half.

We dont want rogue landlords, we want exemplars!

1 Get the EHO ROUND FIRST THING NEXT WEEK. They are British Jobsworths at their best!! They have the authority to contact the landlord and say we are going to serve you with a "Minded to serve" Repairs Notice; if the Landlord doesn't do the work within a comparatively short period this will turn into a Notice to carry out repairs; and this legal procedure is fairly serious and entitles the council to generally sharpen their claws, raise charges against the landlord and generally be a pain you know where.

2 Definitely shop the bastards over failing to follow the tenancy deposit rules. These are a complete overkill for respectable and responsible operators such as yours truly but swingeing penalties in the tenants favour follow for those who dont comply. And do something about it now - or be a possible victim - when he refuses to refund your deposit for all the hassle you are about to put him to!

3 Get down to your local friendly CAB once you have the schedule of work the local authority has itemised in (1) above, and ask them to help you find a lawyer to put in a claim for damages on the basis of the landlords failure to keep in repair - Assuming of course that the local authority finds the extent of disrepair significant enough to get involved.

4 Keep smiling. I am sure your landlord will be delighted to say TTFN as soon as the above gets underway!

westminster
01-11-2009, 18:59 PM
We have been in our new house for 2 and half months and now have serious doubts about the competence and honesty of our landlord. We would like to break from our tenancy early as the landlord has stated that if he is required to spend any money on the house this will result in our tenancy not being renewed at the end of the assured period (our problem arising in that we do need repairs urgently now). Additionally repairs promised before we moved in have never been completed and are now being refused.
Always get promises in writing.


The major concerns include the safety of the electrical supply (supposedly a new installation), which falls far short of current requirements (I have checked this with the NIC), was installed in contravention of Part P and features exposed cabling capable of delivering a shock (it almost did!). We were also promised an electrical safety certificate which we are told we are now not getting (too expensive we are told). The agreement to obtain a safety certificate was verbal, but there were witnesses.
Contact the environmental health officer at the council, who can demand LL remedy this (and perhaps also call building control if any of the 'new' electrical installation is in the bathroom/kitchen as such works should be approved by them). Note that, while LL is obliged to ensure the electrics are safe, he is not legally obliged to provide a certificate (as with gas).


The landlord has not protected our deposit in a deposit scheme and also took payment in cash for several weeks
As other members have suggested, you can pursue LL for failing to comply with deposit protection. The penalty is 3x the deposit. However, it can be expensive in terms of court fees and if LL complies late this may sometimes defeat the claim. So, best to initially advise LL of his duty and consequences for failure to comply. Also note that LL cannot use s.21 to evict you if the deposit is not protected (but can still evict on grounds such as arrears). Even if you do not sue for non-compliance, you can still recover your deposit via small claims track, which costs very little.



No inventory has been taken at any point. Which means it is very unlikely LL could ever prove you caused damage to the property entitling him to make deductions from the deposit.


Our drains foul regularly and the landlord refuses to pay to have this rectified claiming it to be our responsibility (we now know this is not the case). The blockages appear to be due to old brickwork around the manhole cover falling in to the drain. We are forced at the moment to either pay for this or undertake the work ourselves. The blocked drains lead to flooding of the rear of the property with sewage. Drains are not shared with any other property.
There is a procedure whereby you can organize repairs which fall under LL's statutory obligations (not minor repairs which were verbally promised, as you cannot prove LL's obligation) and then deduct the cost from your rent, however, you MUST follow procedure to the letter or you expose yourself to eviction for rent arrears. As follows:


give the landlord notice of the disrepair and a reasonable time to remedy it; then
inform the landlord (preferably in writing) that s/he will do the repair her/himself unless the landlord complies with her/his obligations; then
allow a further reasonable period for the landlord to do the work; then
obtain three estimates for the cost of the work from reputable builders; then
write to the landlord again, enclosing copies of the estimates and reminding her/him of her/his obligation to do the work, giving a further reasonable period to carry it out. The letter should warn that, otherwise, the tenant will do the work her/himself and deduct the cost from rent; then, if there is no response
arrange for the contractor who gave the lowest estimate to do the work, and obtain (and send to the landlord) receipts, with a request for payment; then
if the landlord does not pay, the tenant may deduct the cost from the rent (but not other charges such as service charges), then send the landlord a breakdown of the amount and period of the rent to be withheld.



Our tenancy agreement requires the landlord obtain house insurance, but he has not done so claiming the expense is too great. We suspect this may be due to the landlord having an incorrect mortgage. The landlord states he does not wish to be listed as a 'registered landlord' and we have a strong suspicion he is hiding this income (and possibly the house itself) from the tax authorities (he has suggested to this several times).
There is no landlord registration in England & Wales. I don't know how you could enforce the insurance aspect - perhaps a court claim, if you can be bothered.


A large number of more minor repairs promised before we moved in have not been completed. We have now been told that these are not going to be undertaken at any point. In respect of all the above we feel it fair to consider our landlord dishonest and therefore do not wish to be bound by an agreement that was obtained through deception.
Very hard to prove if you do not have these promises in writing.



At present our approach is likely to be to withold rent, demand the more severe aspects are rectified within 7 days via recorded letter, and then ask for our tenancy agreement to be torn up if it is not. Would this be a reasonable way to proceed, and when it comes to ending the tenancy, how do we go about doing this legally. Does any of the above violations render the tenancy invalid already?
Withholding rent is inadvisable unless procedure is followed as specified above. I appreciate that you may be happy to be evicted, but you would be less happy to have a CCJ against you potentially affecting your credit rating, and future tenancies. As MTG says, disrepair is usually insufficient to allow you to end the tenancy, however, if the electrical installation is declared unsafe it will give you some ammunition. Approach EHO firstly, and start the letter writing procedure for the statutory repairs.

I strongly recommend you start keeping a detailed diary of events relating to the tenancy (and write up events to date), and file all correspondence. Send all letters to LL first class, keep a copy, and get a (free) certificate of posting from the post office (which is sufficient evidence to prove delivery). If you have any face to face meetings with LL, ensure a witness is present, then write a follow-up letter to LL confirming what was discussed.

I say this because it is quite possible, given the dishonesty of the LL, that he may make false allegations against you, such as rent arrears for the period when you paid cash, or deny receiving reports of disrepair, etc etc. A diary and copy correspondence with proof of postage will help protect you if this happens.

More info on Shelter website regarding disrepair
http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/repairs_and_bad_conditions/repairs_in_private_lets

And also s.11 of Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 which contains LL's statutory duties as regards repairs/maintenance
http://www.letlink.co.uk/letting-factsheets/factsheets/factsheet-11-landlords-repairing-obligations.html

Tenancy deposit law
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2004/ukpga_20040034_en_19#pt6-ch4

Emma1973
01-11-2009, 19:59 PM
There is no landlord registration in England & Wales

In some areas of E & W you do have to register, though more commonly known as being a licensed landlord, some parts of Manchester for example.

westminster
01-11-2009, 20:05 PM
In some areas of E & W you do have to register, though more commonly known as being a licensed landlord, some parts of Manchester for example.

Just for HMOs surely?

dangrv
01-11-2009, 23:03 PM
Contact the environmental health officer at the council, who can demand LL remedy this (and perhaps also call building control if any of the 'new' electrical installation is in the bathroom/kitchen as such works should be approved by them).


This might actually lead to a test certificate by default, as the work will definitely involve replacement of the consumer unit (for the second time), hopefully saving argument over the promise we had for a certificate. Am I correct in assuming that you must either contact building control prior to the work and they might inspect or you employ an electrician who can himself sign off?



There is a procedure whereby you can organize repairs which fall under LL's statutory obligations (not minor repairs which were verbally promised, as you cannot prove LL's obligation) and then deduct the cost from your rent, however, you MUST follow procedure to the letter or you expose yourself to eviction for rent arrears

I don't think we can afford the repair costs and rent concurrently. A lot of the minor repairs aren't urgent, its more the dishonesty that is upsetting, but some work however needs to be done soon. Given that we've already been told (verbally) that we can't have repairs done, and we can prove that we LL was made aware of the drainage problems some time ago, would it be acceptable to move straight to giving notice that we are going to start that work unless they now agree to do it, and then start the work as soon as we know the LL must have got our letter and had a chance to reply?



I strongly recommend you start keeping a detailed diary of events relating to the tenancy (and write up events to date), and file all correspondence.


We have quite a few pictures and stuff like invoices from when we haven't been able to clear the drains ourselves. We've been a little foolish in not wanting to write to the LL as he told us he wouldn't renew our tenancy if we asked for repairs. Will definitely make a start on this now though.



I say this because it is quite possible, given the dishonesty of the LL, that he may make false allegations against you, such as rent arrears for the period when you paid cash, or deny receiving reports of disrepair, etc etc. A diary and copy correspondence with proof of postage will help protect you if this happens.


The period we paid rent in cash isn't included on our tenancy agreement so I'm not sure how we could be held to owe money from then. I assume asking for a tenancy agreement with the correct dates to include all the time we have paid rent isn't allowed, or surely we could just refuse to sign the corrected copy. :o