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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I am a private tenant 5 months into a 12 AST. We are having

Customer Question

I am a private tenant 5 months into a 12 AST. We are having serious issues with both our landlord and letting agent regarding sorting serious maintenance issues out at the property that have been on-going since the tenancy commenced in May 2013.

Also, I discovered last weekend that the maintenance man that he has sent to diagnose and work on the gas central heating boiler is not Gas Safe registered.

I have documented our concerns to our managing agents (Mann & Co) and they came to the property last Saturday however I have heard nothing since then from them despite promises to get things rectified.

My family and I have been living in a house that we have not been able to move into properly for almost 6 months now and the emotional strain on us has become very serious.

I have always maintained the rent payments to the agent so as not to be in any breach of my contract.

We wish to explore legal avenues now against Mann & Co or the landlord. We want to move out of the house ideally however I would like to know what chance I have of suing for damages for: 1. Not being able to enjoy the right of usage of the property 2. Un-qualified persons being allowed to work on gas appliances. 3. The emotional heartache this has caused on my family and I.

I do have supporting documents detailing our case to date.

Kindest regards,

John Palmer
07917 536425
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.

Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

What are the maintenance issues please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dear Jo C,


 


Thank you for assisting me. I have copied a section of an email I sent to the branch manager of Mann & Co in Ashford Kent last Friday to which I had no response. I had togo to the office last Saturday morning to have the issues addressed. In fairness, the manager (Jan) seemed to be very helpful and visited our property - admitting failings in Mann & Co's management. She promised to get the issues addressed however I have heard nothing from them in a week.


 


We were already at breaking point but this really has pushed us over the edge. We are totally distraught with the situation and need help!


 


Copy Below:


 


25 Viburnum Close, Ashford, Kent, TN23 3LB


 


 


Move In Day:


 


Our concerns started from as early as our move in an your Ashford Branch. We arrived at the office at the agreed time to sign our AST, other related paperwork including inventory and to pick up keys and this is what actually happened:-


 



  • We were told that the keys were not available:


 


The key issue didn’t seem too much of a problem as a member of staff had been sent to Folkestone to pick them up from the landlord and that by the time we had finished signing our paperwork they should be at the house to greet us.


 



  • No inventory had been prepared on the property:


 


The inventory not being prepared in advance of the move was an issue as it meant we had to reschedule our day to accommodate this being carried out prior to us moving our belongings in.


 



  • We were informed that we had to pay for landlords contents insurance:



We had, at no juncture been informed about this prior to move in and this was dealt with in a very negative manor by the member of staff (Jenny) that had met my wife at the property for the viewing.


 



  • We were not given a breakdown of Mann & Co’s fee structure.


 



  • The manor of staff:


 


The attitude of Jenny (Mann & Co.) was truculent and quite confrontational especially towards my wife as she claimed she had told her about the insurance at the property. My wife was and is absolutely sure that this was not the case.


 


 


Our excitement of moving into our new home by now was gone completely and we both felt that there was almost an attitude of smiles and courtesy right up until we had signed on the dotted line and paid the funds over.


 


We arrived at the property and met the branch manager of Mann & Co who I have to say both my wife and myself found to be extremely apologetic and helpful to us both and was a stark contrast to the treatment received at the office. She offered us a free re-let as a gesture of good faith, which was very graciously accepted.


 


Issues that were promised to be rectified for us or that we had to deal with:


 


There were at the time of move in some outstanding jobs that needed to be corrected in the house by the landlord such as:


 



  • Decorating the newly fitted coving in various rooms


(Promised completion – 2 weeks from move in date)


 



  • Window latches needed replacing in certain rooms – an attempt was made to repair them but they still do not work properly and my wife is unable to open and close certain ones herself.


 



  • The decking to the rear was rotting in places and unsafe – this was to be either repaired or replaced.


(Promised completion – 2 weeks from move in date)


 



  • The family bathroom tap was dripping and needed to be replaced.


 



  • The stair case banister was loose and not safe – especially for children (Promised completion – 2 weeks from move in date)


 



  • The walls were to be cleaned where the coving had been put up - the lounge wallpaper was particularly marked


(Promised completion – 2 weeks from move in date)


 



  • We were told that the landlord couldn’t find the keys for the sheds so if we wanted them to be secure we would have to put our own locks on


 



  • As there were no curtain poles in two of the rooms we asked if the landlord would provide these and he said no. When the handyman visited he contradicted that by saying that we shouldn’t have brought them as the landlord had one for us!


 



  • There is a recess in bedroom two whereby someone had previously attempted to put up a wooded frame and just one shelf. This rendered the area useless for us and we asked the landlord himself when we met him if this could be taken away so that we would put a wardrobe there. He agreed, but when they took the frame down the walls were not made good and we had to buy the materials and do the works ourselves – it was just left!


(Promised completion – 2 weeks from move in date)


 



  • Some of the kitchen cupboards were dirty and some of the fittings loose. In fact one door hinge was and is still broken and it requires two hands to open it. One of the draw facia’s falls off when you open despite attempts by us to repair. The handyman told us that he had mentioned a replacement kitchen to the landlord but he didn’t want to spend the money.


 


 


A History of events and incidents since move in:


 


On the first night of being in the house I took a shower in the main bathroom (a power shower which was a real feature for me of the house). The shower made an incredible loud noise and I felt that this was not right at all.


 


On the second night of being in the house the hot water failed. This was reported to the agent and to the landlord’s handy man as instructed. The handyman came out the next night to attempt to assess the issue but said he would need to obtain a part and return the following day – which he did and duly repaired the issue. However, by this time we had been without hot water for three days – again not the best start to anyone’s new home.


 


At this juncture, the handyman (who said he was a friend of the landlord) was informed of our concerns towards the shower. He looked at it and agreed that something didn’t seem right about it and that he would speak to the landlord.


 


That weekend the handyman came back to the house and measured up for the decking fitted the new tap and fitted replacement kitchen blinds. He said he had mentioned the shower to the landlord but that he wouldn’t replace it as he had spent money on other things in the house such as a new tap that needed replacing anyway.


 


Still at this time, we had not been updated by Mann & Co, the landlord or his handyman as to when the coving was going to be decorated. As you can imagine, trying to unpack and arrange furniture only to have to move it again when painting works had been undertaken seemed a little pointless – so we really were not enjoying our first to weeks at the property.


 


I would also point out that we have two young children, our daughter was overseas with family however our baby son who was just six weeks old was with us and this disruption was an unacceptable environment for him.


 


Both my wife and I work full time and incredibly long hours. One of the advantages of using Mann & Co was the fact that we were told that they were fully managing the property and we didn’t expect to have to keep chasing such seemly simple arrangements!


 


After two weeks of living at the property my wife and son went abroad leaving me in the property alone - a perfect opportunity for the works to be carried out. However, I received a text from the handy man saying he had been in hospital and unwell – not his fault obviously but I had to accept that as an act of Force Majeure.


 


I then joined my wife and family abroad for a week’s break. I was called whilst away, to be told the rent hadn’t been received by Mann & Co. This was to my complete surprise as I had completed the necessary standing order mandate on move in date and that Mann & Co would send it to the bank.


 


On my return to the U.K – coincidently the next day, I made contact with my bank Barclays and they had no note of a standing order instruction being received therefore no reason to pay it.


 


To try to make the best of the situation I attempted an over the phone debit card payment to Mann & Co which mysteriously wouldn’t go through despite me checking on a number of occasions that there were sufficient funds in the account to honor the payment. After very reluctantly agreeing to give me the bank details of Mann & Co I made an immediate bacs payment into the account which cleared instantly.


 


This left me feeling awful as I honor my fiscal commitments and treat this area of life with paramount importance.


 


My wife didn’t return from overseas with me as she didn’t want to bring the children back to a house that wasn’t ready for habitation for them. So, a decision was made to keep the kids away until such time as the house was in a fit state.


 


This caused a great deal of emotional torment to all concerned. Our first marital home and dream was rapidly descending into a nightmare.


 


I was alone in the house from mid June to almost the end of July and still no sign of support from any of the parties that were supposed to have the interest of their paying tenants to heart.


 


At the end of July I left the UK for two weeks however due to unforeseen circumstances my trip was extended. I received a call from Stephanie after three weeks of being away. She started the call in a very condescending manor saying that she had received an alarming call from the neighbour who said we had abandoned the property! I explained the situation to her at which juncture she pointed out to me that if we were going to be away from the property for more than three weeks we had to let the agent know – which I took on board.


 


She said she was anxious to complete a landlords inspection but couldn’t as she had no management keys! I told her when I would return to the UK and that I would call her on getting back.


 


Co-incidentally on the morning of my return to the UK (On the date as discussed with Stephanie) I was called by Mann & Co – again with the same tone that Stephanie urgently needed to speak to me and that she had not been able to contact me – but she knew when I was due back and there were no emails or voicemails left - so I’m confused to say the least.


Again, a nice return to the UK and our dream home!


 


My wife and I returned to the UK at the end of August – again leaving our kids overseas with family as the house wasn’t ready.


 


After two days of returning two pieces of coving in the lounge had fallen down and are still resting on the curtain poles. In addition, we experienced a couple of cold nights and wanted to use the heating however – the heating didn’t work!


 


This was reported to both Mann & Co and the handy man. The handy man came round (which was arranged between us – not through the managing agent). He could not repair the issue – leaving us without heat again and would go back to the landlord to take instruction.


 


Again, Stephanie called me the next day to book another property inspection however the time and date she elected was not suitable. I reported the heating issue and coving issue again. She said she would speak to the landlord.


 


I had no response throughout the day and to chase twice at the end of day. When Stephanie did speak to me she said that the landlord was going to take out a service agreement with British Gas and that they would repair the problem. At that point I told her that I didn’t think this was the solution as normally when you take a service / maintenance agreement out there is normally a breaking in period until you can claim off the policy – a little like joining the AA at the point you break down you can’t then ask for them to come out immediately – a point she seemly dismissed.


 


Predictably I got a call from Stephanie the next day confirming my fears and so I just liaised with the handyman and he arranged an engineer to come out the same day. The issue was resolved however we were without heating for 5 days.


 


Whilst the engineer was at the house my wife asked him to take a look at the shower that we had reported in May and he confirmed that it wasn’t right and potentially dangerous to use!


 


On the 20th September we had guests staying – actually, my wife’s Uncle, Aunt and young cousin. During the night a piece of coving from one of the bedrooms fell into the bed that they were sleeping in. The coving is incredibly heavy and thick and thank god there was no physical injury sustained – they were however incredibly shaken up and disturbed by the incident especially my wife’s Aunt who fortunately had missed being hit by the coving by a matter of seconds as she had moved position to attend to her son.


 


Obviously in the 21st we were on the phone to Mann & Co. I spoke to Jenny first to report the coving issue and again the shower. I spoke to her in a calm manor but she didn’t seem to recognize the gravity of the danger involved in falling coving - my wife took over the conversation as her tension was building seeing that I was not getting anywhere – I was only when my wife spoke to her in a more animated way that the penny seemed to drop!


 


That afternoon Jenny called me back to say that she still couldn’t get hold of the landlord but she had spoken to the handyman. A new shower had been ordered but as the coving had been put up by a third party, no immediate action was to be taken until that company had been contacted. I ask you to consider how you would feel about this – to stay in a house where a piece of coving could fall down at any time and we had pointed out that other cracks has started to appear in other areas, not pleasant treatment at best I’m sure you’ll agree.


 


The handy man texted me that the new shower would be installed on the 1st October by an engineer and that he would complete the decking work and strengthen the stair banister as it was loose.


 


The shower was duly installed on the 1st October – not a power shower which again is a frustration but we now have a whole in the wall to the right of the shower where pipes are exposed – a delightful sight when taking a shower.


 


My wife was told that the landlord would be coming round to place the tile himself! She was absolutely stunned that works could be left in this way – totally stunned in disbelief.


 


The decking to be fair has been replaced now, not stained – I’m not sure what the plan is for that, maybe we will find out in another five months!


 


Last week the landlord arranged for the long awaited “Coving Expert” to visit us only to find out that he wasn’t a coving expert he was I think a friend of the guy who put the coving up in the first place and his job was to take photos and report back.


 


He commented that he had never seen anything like this before and offered no excuses. We told him that we had no confidence in the abilities of the company to reapply the coving after viewing the results of the first attempt and that the safety of our children was paramount. Our request is to have the coving removed in its entirety so there is no potential health and safety risk.


 


We told him that there was an urgency to get the matter resolved as our children were returning to the UK on the 8th October 2013 as, after five long months of being apart we were going to try to be a family once more.


 


I received a voice mail two days later form him saying that the landlord didn’t want the coving taken down and that we would hear from the agent.


 


We of course didn’t hear from the agent and on Friday of last week, and in one last attempt to remain calm my wife called Mann & Co and spoke to a lady who was seemingly helpful and sympathetic about the coving, hole in the wall from the shower fitting etc.


 


My wife was told that this would be treated as a matter of urgency but almost one week to the day – still no response from any parties!

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks.

All I really need to know are what are the maintenance issues? Just one or two short sentences will be fine.

You seem to be referring to work done on the boiler but not explaining what the fault is?

Please don't put yourself to detail. Just an outline will be great.

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