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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 26069
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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Hello, I took out a tenancy on a property on 29th March

Resolved Question:

Hello,

I took out a tenancy on a property on 29th March 2014. It is a ground floor flat, beside a public park with 6 outside patio doors. Each patio door is fitted with a 4 point locking mechanism.

However, on closer inspection on Monday 31st March, I found that only one of the six doors has all four of the locking latches in place. On two doors, two latches are missing and the other three doors have one latch missing.

As an example, on one of the reception room doors both the lower middle and bottom latches are missing. As a result, despite their being no handles on the outside, I can easily pull the bottom of the door open by two inches from the outside with just one hand and have no doubt that if I were to use both hands (and I'm not a strong person) I could spring the door open, without even using a crowbar.

The inventory only identified one of the doors as requiring repair but described it as quote, "safe". I emailed the landlord and letting agent immediately on Tuesday and the landlord replied with quote:

"I know the terrace doors are an issue and I have tried with several contractors to get someone to fix them - still waiting for a quote from the one who thought he could do it."

Now my current tenancy is due to end on 24th April so time is of the essence. Given the landlord can't provide me with a date by which the doors will be repaired I've had to investigate taking tenancy of a different property. However, when I enquired with the agent about being released from this tenancy, they replied with quote:

"The ‘Tenant’ wishes to vacate the property on the agreement to pay commission fee’s to source a new tenants. The ‘Landlord’ has agreed to this subject to finding a suitable passed referenced tenant paying him £500 per week.

If the amount offered is less than the £500 per week the difference can or will be compensated by the tenant for the duration of the contract.

is still contractually liable for the rent until a new tenant is found and moved into the apartment.

If in agreement will begin to market the property on both your instruction."

The agent is requesting £1500 + VAT to remarket the property. The landlord, agent and I are due to meet at the property tomorrow (April 5th) evening to discuss and I would like to know my legal position on this.

In particular, would this security risk deem the property uninhabitable and would the AST even be binding given the doors were in this condition at the start of the tenancy and both the landlord and agent had been aware of the problem?

If necessary I can get a locksmith to inspect the patio doors and provide their professional opinion of their security.

Many thanks,
Neal
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 3 years ago.

Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I clarify that your tenancy is due to expire on 24 April 2015 as opposed to 24 April 2014 (i.e. this month please)?

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Sorry, I was referring to the tenancy at my old property which has ran from July 25th 2012 and will end on April 24th 2014, i.e. in three weeks' time. My old landlord has sold the property which is why I have to vacate it. Therefore I took out another tenancy on this new property which began on 29th March 2014 and will end on 28th March 2015, i.e. in 12 months' time. The problem with the patio doors is with regard the this new property/tenancy.

Joshua :

Oh I see. Thank you for clarifying.

Joshua :

For the avoidance of doubt from what you say you have not yet moved in. Is this correct?

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Correct. I picked up the keys on 29th March but have not resided in the property or moved any of my possessions in.

Joshua :

Thanks. You have a wide range of rights in relation to the above issue. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 places an implied term in every tenancy that the landlord must keep in repair the structure, sanitary installations and exterior of the property which means he must maintain and repair doors to the property. Landlords can be held liable if they have failed to provide a safe and healthy environment for their tenants.

Joshua :

It is unlikely on these facts that the property would be held to be uninhabitable however this does not mean you are required to wait patiently whilst the landlord gets around to repairing the same. In terms of how you may decide to proceed...

Joshua :

There is a raft of legislation and regulations to protect tenants in respect of landlords repair obligations. The landlord provides for duties under statutory legislation. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides that the Landlord has a duty of care to provide adequate and safe conditions in their properties and the Housing Act 2004 introduced the Housing Health and Safety Rating System which shifted assessment towards health and safety impact. Each council is responsible for developing its own policy but most have a substantive list of requirements that address mould, damp structure and so on. There is a useful guide to the same here from which you will see obligations are wide ranging:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/9425/150940.pdf

Joshua :

You could consider therefore using or threatening to use the HHSRS inspection system and ask the environmental department at the local council to carry out a health and safety assessment of the property. They have the power to serve improvement notices on the landlord to remedy any areas which do not come up to standard under the Housing Act.

Joshua :

The conditions you describe on the face of it would appear to breach the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Housing Act as above and there would if this is the case be grounds to claim a reduction in rent for the period you have suffered the issues for loss of amenity in the property. In addition you could consider serving your own notice on the landlord requiring that they attend to rectifying the security of the property within the next say 3-5 days or certainly before you move in failing which you reserve the right to appoint your own locksmith to rectify the issue and look to the landlord for the cost as a breach of contract under the above provisions.

Joshua :

In terms of getting out of the tenancy I do not think you should find it necessary given your above rights but if you prefer to pursue this then the agents can claim their reasonable fees for remarketing - the proposed fee appears to be unreasonable in the extreme and the landlord must accept a replacement tenant to replace you on the same terms.

Joshua :

Is there anything above I can clarify for you any further?

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Could you elaborate on the above? I am tending towards getting out the tenancy to avoid any further hassle.

Joshua :

Certainly. Which aspects would you like me to elaborate upon - getting out of the tenancy?

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Correct. And the agent's fee being unjustified. I was actually the first person to view to property and paid a holding fee immediately. It hadn't even been officially put on the market at that time.

Joshua :

Thanks. All of this is entirely subject to your above rights which are extensive as we have already discussed. Notwithstanding the above unfortunately a new tenancy agreement being signed constitutes a new minimum term and therefore you are bound by the minimum term of the tenancy. So is the landlord and the landlord cannot evict you until after the fixed period has expired. However this does not mean you are locked into the contract for the full term necessarily.

Joshua :

As above the starting point is that subject as follows you cannot unilaterally leave during the fixed tenancy period. However it is possible to escape early from the tenancy by asking the landlord to remarket the same. The landlord has a common law duty to mitigate his costs and as such must do his best to remarket the property. You would be liable for reasonable marketing costs together with any reasonable agency fees. However your liability would end on the earlier of the end of your existing term or a new tenant being sourced to replace you. Alternatively you could agree the fixed compensation proposal if this is preferable to you and agreeable to the landlord. The landlord cannot refuse to do anything at all or he will find that he is limited in the amount of continuing rent he can attempt to recover.

Joshua :

You can also seek a new tenant yourself if you wish. The landlord as above, must offer remainder of the existing tenancy on the same terms and rent to any potential new tenant you or he finds. He can as an optional alternative negotiate a new tenancy with that person but cannot insist on this.

Joshua :

Consider making any requests or confirming any other discussions you have with the agent by email so there is a record of what is discussed or agreed in case of a dispute at a later date.

Joshua :

The landlord via his agent must upon your request begin marketing the property immediately and there is no excuse for delaying until the end of the tenancy. Accordingly, consider making a written request by email to the agent to begin remarketing the property immediately in the hope that a new tenant will be sourced before the end of your tenancy period. You can ask the agent to confirm its normal charges for marketing a property to a new client. The charges should not exceed the normal terms of business for the agent.

Joshua :

I practice removing yourself from the tenancy will incur some fees on your part but the agents cannot make demands over and above their usual marketing terms for new business.

Is there anything else I can help you with?

Joshua :

Does the above answer all your questions or is there anything I can clarify or help with any further?

Joshua :

If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with though please reply back to me though.

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Sorry for the delay, I was delayed in meetings. Considering the other option..., that I continue with the tenancy, would it be reasonable for me to request that the rental payments be reduc

Joshua :

No problem.

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Sorry give me a moment

Joshua :

In my view if you otherwise still like the property it would be more cost effective to continue with the tenancy and exercise your considerable rights to get the door fixed.

Joshua :

If you can demonstrate that the door is not secure (a lock smith or police may confirm) then you have a basis for claiming that you cannot live in the property until it is fixed and accordingly demand a rebate of the rent for the pro rata period until it is fixed. If the doors are secure but not up to standard you may only be able to claim a very small abatement for the period.

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

So I were were to continue with the tenancy to its full term (28th March 2015) would it reasonable of me to request that the rental payments be reduced from the start of the term (29th March 2014) until such time as the patio doors are repaired? In their current condition it is in effect delaying when I can move in. I work in IT and have a lot of expensive computer equipment, not to mention my own personal safety.

Joshua :

Quite. Your best approach in these circumstances may be to ask a locksmith to quote on repair and confirm whether the doors are safe in the interim. If you have a report from a lock smith or the police indicating that the doors are not secure then the property cannot be insured for contents nor is it reasonable for you to live there and this would be a strong basis on which to demand a rebate of the rent as you cannot enjoy the amenity of the property until fixed.

Joshua :

You of course still have the above rights in terms of actually getting the repair done as we have discussed above.

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

And would that be a full rebate of the rent up until they are repaired as opposed to a reduction in the rental payments (which are £500 per week)?

Joshua :

If you can obtain a report that indicates the doors are not secure then this would be grounds for a full rebate of the rent if you cannot live there as a result.

Joshua :

Is there anything else I can help you with?

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Thank for your advice. I'll certainly provide you the 'Excellent Service' feedback but is it okay if I hold the chat open for now just in case I have a few minor questions to seek clarification on?

Joshua :

Yes of course. You can still return after providing a rating. The thread is saved and you are welcome to revert to me with any follow up questions at any time.

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Hello

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

Sorry for dropping off yesterday

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

I managed to find a locksmith yesterday afternoon and had to dash to meet him

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

He did indeed confirmed that the patio doors were insecure

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

So I'm planning to propose to the landlord that I will keep the apartment on condition that he rebates my rent in full from the start of the tenancy until such date as they are repaired

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

One final question, if my landlord still hasn't fixed them by the time the tenancy at my old property ends (24th April), would I have grounds that in addition to the rent rebate, he provides suitable and similar accomodation for me until they are repaired?

Joshua :

sorry for the delay in reverting to you-I've been on appointments this morning. Ideally, you will be able to obtain the above confirmation from the locksmith in writing as a verbal confirmation is of little use the event of a dispute. On the basis you can obtain information in writing, the property would be deemed uninhabitable on the basis that it is insecure and accordingly, you would have grounds for a rebate of the rent as you suggest

Joshua :

if the landlord to delays beyond the point you wish to me then, you cannot in addition to claiming a rent rebate as above claim further damages to pay for alternative accommodation. It is one or the other and landlords rarely have to pay for alternative accommodation. in addition, there is a requirement that you mitigate losses you claim for.

Joshua :

were you able to obtain a quotation from the locksmith for the repair of the doors? Can the locks be repaired or do the doors need to be replaced in their entirety? Could he do the work?

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

I have now received the locksmith's confirmation in writing. It is very brief but does indicate that the patio doors are insecure. Not ideal but the best I could manage given the very limited time I had (I'm due to meet the landland has the agent this eventing)

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

He said that they could be repaired and it wouldn't be a major job

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

But only to me personally when we were talking yesterday

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

I will of course though pass his details onto the landlord

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

And the locksmith did take a number of photos of the door frames

Joshua :

thank you. On that basis, most expedient approach would be for you to consider showing the landlord report you have obtained, brief as it may be together with a quote and advising that as the properties insecure, it is not habitable and accordingly require refund of rent until they are fixed and in any event, you require them fixed no less than say 3 to 4 days before you intend to move in the failing which you will arrange to have the doors repaired yourself and look to the landlord the cost together with a refund of the above rent. If you intend to have this discussion with the landlord verbally, do you take care to ensure that you follow up meeting as soon as possible with a written letter or email confirming what was discussed and agreed and ensuring you repeat the above

Joshua :

is there anything else I can help you with?

JACUSTOMER-y2hdyuys- :

No. Your advise has been extremely helpful.

Joshua and other Law Specialists are ready to help you