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Nov, 2014

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  1. #1

    Default Help! HHSRS - Category 1, Excess Cold

    Requiring some advice....

    My husband and I let out our home as he's in the Armed Forces (we are in Service Families Accomodation). Its a 2 bedroom terraced property, it doesnt have central heating, but does have a gas fire in the lounge and a gas wall mounted heaters in the kitchen and bedrooms. We never fitted central heating when were living there as for us, it never got that cold (we were there for 10 years).

    Our tenant moved in April 2012, a young single lady with a 2 year old and a 4 month old baby, she knew that the property didnt have central heating.

    Last week, I received a letter from the EH dept at the council advising that they were going into the property to inspect it due to a complaint from the tenant. I contacted my tenant, who tells me that both her girls had recently had colds, and her health visitor was concerned the house was too cold for her and her children, so recommended she get the council to check it over.

    I met with the council officer as I couldnt attend the visit, and he confirmed that any findings he would inform me, of which I now have the letter. (just an informal letter at this stage, no improvement notice as yet)

    There were a couple of category 2 hazards raised (mould in the front bedroom in one corner and drainage pipe from the washing machine needing replacing) but the main one is a category 1 hazard raised as excess cold, and the recommendation is 'the property requires a complete new heating system such as a gas central heating system with water filled radiators, and the seals around all of the windows (which are double glazed and fitted when we moved in 10 years ago)need replacing as there is a constant draft around the windows'

    I fully understand the councils recommendations, and know that I need to adhere to them and get them done, but we simply do not have the money to install a full central heating system.

    As my tenant is on income support, would we be able to apply for a grant to fit central heating and insulation as part of the 'Warmfront' scheme? (Edit - have since heard from the council this is coming to an and and wont be of help)

    If we cannot do this, then my fear is we will have to sell the property as at this time, we just dont have the finance to comply with their request for central heating. Once the council have issued this recommendation, would we still have to do it, even if we cant afford it, and therefore have to sell? Would the works still have to be done if the tenant moves out and we do sell? I need to understand the legal implications of this should we not be able to get a grant and pay for the works to be done.

    One other point to mention is the tenant didnt want to sign up for another 6 months in October and is now on a periodic tenancy as shes looking to move back to her parents in February next year.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    9,497

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    Issue S21 immediately anyway, if not sure of process & dates ask here again.., if not done so already & then evict - but council's request for CH etc will still remain.

    If T is willing to leave early I'd accept that, but get signed **deed** of surrender once she's out & keys returned...

    I suggest you do NOT refuse to install CH - putting tenant & councils backs up is unwise... At least it is not an improvement notice ...

    Others cleverer than me will hopefully
    I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    847

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    While I would debate that the problem of Excess Cold is not a category 1 hazard under HHSRS in your property, I get the impression you wouldnt want to get on the wrong side of the council.

    You maybe interested to note that the new Government scheme is called 'The Green Deal'

    If you applied for that now, there is no reason the council would pursue the matter with enforcement action, especially if you issue the sec21 as advised by Artful.

    HTH

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    3,343

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    As Red40 hints; whether it is a catagory 1 hazard is up for debate

    You do have the right to appeal any enforcement action, but you must do so within the time limit specified.

    The issue is whether the current heating sytem is capable of heating the home to a certain temperature level.
    If you have lived at the property then you may have an idea if it is adequate or not.
    The equipment will also need to be safe. If it's expensive to run, that will be another beef with the council; personally I don't think under the current law fuel economy should be relevant,but councils can skew things to fit their own agendas.

    If I were you, I would be asking to see exactly how they have made the caluculation of it being a cat 1 hazard. Post it here if you do.

    If this is your only rental property then you have nothing to loose longterm by "upsetting" the council by having the temerity to question their methods. They should not really have a problem with you politely asking them valid questions... but it depends on the people and personalities involved. I've never had problems with them but you do hear horror stories soemtimes.
    All posts in good faith, but do not rely on them

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Gloucestershire
    Posts
    5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bel View Post
    As Red40 hints; whether it is a catagory 1 hazard is up for debate.........personally I don't think under the current law fuel economy should be relevant,but councils can skew things to fit their own agendas.....They should not really have a problem with you politely asking them valid questions but it depends on the people and personalities involved.
    Sikalabrador - join a good landlord's association immediately and get some proper legal advice. Don't rely on vague comments. Nobody here has told you anything about the council's true legal powers, or your own legal obligations, and therefore you are fumbling around in amateur fashion - disaster is the usual result. The law is still the law. Councils don't make the law, they enforce it. Sometimes council officers act as though they have the right to make the law, but they don't have that right. I have been involved with property for 40 years and was a chartered surveyor for 20 years - council officers in my experience will say anything and often do anything they feel like up until the point where you can quote the exact Act or SI that regulates the matter, at which point they back off. But you MUST know what you are talking about, and know it thoroughly. So get some proper advice, not vague comments from a forum. Good luck.

  6. #6

    Default

    All

    Thank you for your advise so far, I am in the process of seeking legal advise, and regarding the councils report I have a qualified buildings surveyor going into the house on Wednesday to make a full report, which I will share with the council.

    Its all escalated now, not from mine or the councils perspective but from the tenants side.

    We've sorted all of the items raised by the council bar the central heating and the insulation. They are more than happy with what we have done so far. However, the tenant is now saying that the mould in the front bedroom (its the size of a dinner plate) has made her 6 month old daughter so sick with a collapsed lung and bronchiolitis that shes been in hospital over the Christmas period. Its interesting to note that the tenant has been drying all her washing in the property, has been smoking in the property and also hasnt made any effort to every clear off the small patch of mould that is there (which I would do and have had to do in the past having lived in Armed Forces SFA's!)

    Her boyfriend (hes not on the tenancy agreement) has sent me an abusive text message saying that its not right that his partner, the mother of his children should have to rely on her benefits status to have the central heating/insulation fitted in our property and that we as the landlords should pay for it out of our pocket, especially as due to 'our lack or care and maintenance' has made their daughter sick.

    As you can imagine, this has really shocked and stunned me, as all I am trying to do it get this all sorted for them.

    I do wonder, if they are pushing this situation for me to give notice to them, so they can be officially homeless and therefore get the council to rehome them. The tenant is staying at her parents at the moment as she has been told by the consultant at the hospital not to return to the property as its unfit to live in. (hoping our surveyor will confirm this or not!)

    It also seems from the text message received that the boyfriend is indicating that he it living there as well which I had no idea about.

    This has all got so out of hand, I can understand as a parent of 2 small children myself what its like when children are sick, but the fact that the tenant is putting all this blame on me is unfair, and I'm hoping the surveyor/legal advise can assist me best as to where I stand.

    My husband is saying not to issue Section 21 as thats more than likely what she wants, (as she wont give notice to us), but I just want them out now - definately going to go back to private tenants (the 2 lots we had in the property before, 1 being a family too, never ever had any issues with the condition of the house, not did we when they were in there).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    3,343

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunseeker View Post
    Sikalabrador - join a good landlord's association immediately and get some proper legal advice.
    I agree with the sentiment of your post.

    Do landlords associations actually offer "proper" legal advice?
    What is a "good" landlord association? Perhaps you could be less vague by recommending one.

    I have received some dubious "legal" advice from landlords associations. They may have members own experience which is what LLZone also offers.

    "Proper" legal advice can only be offered by a solicitor. Many solicitors would not know that area of law very well so may also blunder.

    A chartered surveyor would be helpful in aiding and advising the OP about the building and acting as an intermediary with the council. But he cannot offer "legal" advice.
    All posts in good faith, but do not rely on them

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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Gloucestershire
    Posts
    5

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    @Bel: Do landlords associations actually offer "proper" legal advice? - Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. I meant use a local landlords association to find a local firm of solicitors who specialise in L&T and handle work for landlords, not just legal aided work for tenants.

    @Sikalabrador: The tenant is staying at her parents at the moment as she has been told by the consultant at the hospital not to return to the property as its unfit to live in. Is the property unoccupied? If so BEWARE - your insurance policy probably contains a limit on the number of days the property can be unoccupied and insurers definitely do instruct their loss adjusters to investigate occupancy when a loss occurs. I don't want to frighten you but if the property remains unoccupied in excess of the period your policy provides you will be uninsured. The tenancy agreement should impose an obligation on the tenant not to leave the property unoccupied for a set period which should be less than the limit imposed by your insurers. Also, if you do end doing work to the property (anything beyond minor routine repairs) it's usually worth writing to the insurance company (not the broker) to inform them. Don't telephone. Don't email. Write a letter, send it using Royal Mail's "signed for" (recorded delivery) service, and keep a copy.
    Last edited by Sunseeker; 08-01-2013 at 10:23 AM. Reason: typo

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    847

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    Quote Originally Posted by sikalabrador View Post
    Once the council have issued this recommendation, would we still have to do it, even if we cant afford it, and therefore have to sell? Would the works still have to be done if the tenant moves out and we do sell? I need to understand the legal implications of this should we not be able to get a grant and pay for the works to be done.
    To deal directly with your question on the councils recommendation of installing heating, they can issue an Improvement Notice (which you can be charged for) which would require you to carry out the works contained in it. You do have the right of appeal against the notice which would be made to the Residential Property Tribunal.

    If you appealed it, it would be 50/50 as to how the outcome would be, but as sunseeker says I would be consulting a legal rep way before that. Legally if you didnt appeal the notice, then, yes you would be required to do the works within a specific timescale. If you failed to carry out the works you can be prosecuted in the Mags Court upto level 5 fine (£5000).

    Also if you failed to do the works the council can carry out works in default of a notice and recover their costs plus expenses for doing the work. This is usually invoiced and placed as a land charge, i.e the cost of the works in default is placed on the property and stays there until such times as you pay the bill or you dispose of the property.

    Above is a brief guide to what can happen, although I would suspect it wouldn't go anywhere if you where to seek possession of the property. If you didnt seek possession and left the tenant in the property the council may consider there is still a hazard present.

    HTH

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sikalabrador View Post
    Its all escalated now, not from mine or the councils perspective but from the tenants side.
    Hmmm.

    A good LLs association means RLA (http://www.rla.org.uk/) or NLA (http://www.landlords.org.uk/) to me. I'm in the RLA, but both are fine - perhaps check which has a local group close to you.

    They will both have had a problem like yours multiple times every year, so the advice lines should be reliable.

    Cost will be about £75 to £100 a year.

    You need to think with your head, not your heart.

    As you can imagine, this has really shocked and stunned me, as all I am trying to do it get this all sorted for them.
    Yep. This is a time to gird your loins with a cast-iron jockstrap.

    I do wonder, if they are pushing this situation for me to give notice to them, so they can be officially homeless and therefore get the council to rehome them.
    That is not your problem (unless you are colluding with the T, which you are not). Ignore it.

    I am in the process of seeking legal advise, and regarding the councils report I have a qualified buildings surveyor going into the house on Wednesday to make a full report, which I will share with the council.
    That's probably wise, but if you let it ride by the time you are done all the reports and doodah could have cost you £500-1000 or more. Don't share the reports unless you have to or it is advantageous.

    My husband is saying not to issue Section 21 as thats more than likely what she wants, (as she wont give notice to us), but I just want them out now
    What they want is irrelevant to you in this situation. Ignore it. It is not worth the aggro for a sense of satisfaction or a feeling of winning.

    It also seems from the text message received that the boyfriend is indicating that he it living there as well which I had no idea about.
    That is irrelevant to you except to prove occupation for your insurance policy, when it comes to enforcing possession, or if he violates the agreement. T can have a partner to live with them the same as anybody else.

    Her boyfriend (hes not on the tenancy agreement) has sent me an abusive text message saying that its not right that his partner, the mother of his children should have to rely on her benefits status to have the central heating/insulation fitted in our property and that we as the landlords should pay for it out of our pocket, especially as due to 'our lack or care and maintenance' has made their daughter sick.
    That is pure bullying cum emotional blackmail. Ignore it, and don't react or show that you are upset. Perhaps it isn't fair that his girlfriend should have to rely on benefits rather than on him!

    Keep a record and copy (show it to a reliable independent witess and get them to make a dated note), however, should you need to prove it for a Court or should the bullying escalate.

    We've sorted all of the items raised by the council bar the central heating and the insulation. They are more than happy with what we have done so far.
    That's the way to do it.

    Remember that insulating well may obviate the need for Central Heating. Do hat first if you do it. It is easier to do under the Green Scheme when it is vacant.

    However, the tenant is now saying that the mould in the front bedroom (its the size of a dinner plate) has made her 6 month old daughter so sick with a collapsed lung and bronchiolitis that shes been in hospital over the Christmas period. Its interesting to note that the tenant has been drying all her washing in the property, has been smoking in the property and also hasn't made any effort to every clear off the small patch of mould that is there (which I would do and have had to do in the past having lived in Armed Forces SFA's!
    That's enough to cast doubt over who is causing the mould.

    Quick check: there is a washing line, isn't there?

    Note the smoking and lifestyle in case they are needed. You may want to remind them at some stage in writing if they are in breach of a no-smoking clause.

    In my view: cut your losses *now*.

    You need to:

    a - Decide what you will do.
    b - Focus purely on doing it as expeditiously as possible.

    Don't get run into the sand, and act for a resolution quickly.

    ML
    Refer Mad Regulators to Arkell vs Pressdram.

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