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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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Some 2 months ago we rented a house in Herts for £1750 per

Resolved Question:

Some 2 months ago we rented a house in Herts for £1750 per month which is handled for the landlord by a local Estate agents.
Immediately we moved in, it was very clear that the house was grossly 'over-sold' on it's condition which is quite appalling and potentially dangerous in a number of ways.
The electrics over the ensuite shower spark and fail whenever we turn the light and fan switch on and much of the electrics throughout the house needs looking at and rectifying.
The ensuite shower began to collapse the ceiling beneath it, immediately we moved in and the ceiling is bulging, threatening to bring the shower above through the ceiling while we're in it.
The central heating does not work properly and radiator valves are stuck in many of the radiators, also 4 of the radiators leak water if we turn them on, so overall, we can't regulate the temperature in the house.
The floor boards throughout the house were very shoddily fitted and slide and leave large gaps which keep tripping up our disabled son-in-law who walks with a stick and 2 young grandchildren who all live with us... my son in law has already broken his toe at the bottom of the stairs since moving into the house a few months ago!
There are serious damp and mould conditions in a number of places in the house.
Overall, it is quite clear that a shoddy cosmetic decoration was made to the house before we moved in to hide many of the problems and the house and garden were advertised as being in 'exceptional' condition, when it is all far from true.
There are multiple other problems, all of which we have photographed from the very start and documented and have been communicating with the agents continuously sending detailed complaints and photos since we moved in, but apart from promise after promise to put things right, nothing has been put right, beyond the central heating boiler having had a new clock fitted; something which was done simply because it was under warranty and would not cost the landlord anything!
The whole house is a nightmare and yet we are still expected to continue paying the £1,750 per month for something totally unfit for use and certainly not worth that cost at the moment!
We were in our previous rented house for over 2 years until our landlords needed the house for themselves and in that time we never had cause to make a single complaint to those owners who do refer to us as their best tenants ever! So clearly we are not any sort of 'professional complainers'! All we want is the house which was advertised and a home fit for purpose where we're not worried about our safety and health every day!
So how can I get repairs done and how can I withhold rent until they are completed? Is it possible?
Many thanks in anticipation of your advice
Feel free to email me if you prefer.
Paul Stylianou
*****@******.***
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 1 year ago.
Joshua :

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

Joshua :

I am sorry to hear of your circumstances. I know you have complained to the lettings agents over the last two month period without success. For the avoidance of doubt, do I understand correctly you have an email trail of your various complaints or otherwise a record of your complaints made please?

Customer:

Yes I do... a full email trail, not only with details, but photographs as well

Joshua :

Thank you.

Joshua :

The position you describe is unlwful and you have a wide range of rights in relation to the above issues. 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 the boiler or hot water provision. this includes maintaining a boiler that functions reasonably efficiently. The Supply of Goods and Services Act and Electrical Safety Regulations provides that appliances the Landlord provides with the property must function adequately. Landlords can also be held liable if they have failed to provide a safe and healthy environment for their tenants. You could consider 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.

Customer:

Okay, I have read up about the HHSRS inspection system, but can I withhold rent in order to put extra pressure on the landlord?

Customer:

Or perhaps make my own arrangements for repairs and pay from the rent?

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:

Joshua :

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

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.

Joshua :

There may also be scope for a personal injury tortuous claim against the landlord if injury has resulted in his failure to maintain.

Customer:

I have copied and pasted your link into my browser, but it is not found.

Joshua :

The first step is may therefore be to be request an HHSRS inspection so that the council can take action in respect of issues that are unacceptable and in addition this will give you a report you can potentially use in respect of any claim for compensation. even if you decide to take action yourself, which is certainly possible, an inspection report can be useful as evidence in this respect.

Joshua :

Reference link - I have just tried it and it works for me. It is a pdf document - you may need to install a PDF viewer though most PCs already have this.

Joshua :

Here is another link to the same document:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hhsrs-operating-guidance-housing-act-2004-guidance-about-inspections-and-assessment-of-hazards-given-under-section-9

Customer:

I have a pdf viewer.... however, I'll try again later

Customer:

so can you tell me how I stand in relation to witholding the next rent?

Joshua :

an alternative or complementary approach is to prepare a schedule of disrepair either with or without the benefit of the above inspection report and notify the landlord by his agent that you expect all matters to be attended to within the next 10 days failing which you obtain quotes yourself, carry out the repairs detailed and looked the landlord to recover costs together with a claim for rent for loss of amenity in the property during the period in question as well as, if you decide to pursue it, a claim for injury

Joshua :

you should not withhold rent unilaterally as this is grounds for the landlord serving an eviction notice - albeit one which would likely fail - but safer would be for you to proceed as above, carry out repairs, funds permitting, and then look to the landlord for costs in the Small Claims Court or alternatively looking to the landlord for costs before repairs are carried out in the Small Claims Court. The difficulty with the latter is it can take two months or more to obtain judgement through the Small Claims Court. accordingly, many people prefer to conscript the local authority using the HHSRS regulations because the local authority has legal powers to serve improvement notices on the landlord which are legally enforceable through the magistrates court if ignored.

Customer:

again.... what about the witholding of rent?

Joshua :

I hope you are able to read my last post above on the issue of witholding rent?

Customer:

Yes, sorry.... we crossed ........but the small claims court will only allow claims up to 1,000 for repairs?

Joshua :

No problem - happens to me all the time.

Joshua :

Small claims court allows for claims up to £10K.

Joshua :

This would usually sufficient for all disrepair claims save for major structural issues

Customer:

okay.... 10k sounds better, but when I looked on the small claims courts site a few days ago, it said that claims for repairs in the cases of cases such as mine are restricted to 1k, not the normal 10k??

Joshua :

The county court is competent to handle repair claims up to £10K. If the repair claim exceeds £1K it will be allocated to the fast track of the county court.

Customer:

I've just looked it up again and yet another site specifies only 1k

Joshua :

However the above approach is likely to involve you incurring expenses yourself upfront which is probably less than ideal hence many people's preference for the HHSRS route

Customer:

Quote..... "You can only use the small claims court if you are asking the court to order your landlord to carry out the repairs, and the cost of those repairs and/or the compensation claimed are both less than £1,000."

Customer:

every site I look at says the above....

Joshua :

Disrepair claims over £1,000 are typically allocated to the County Court's fast track. They are still handled by the county court but are dealt with by the fast track rather than small claims track.

Customer:

okay..... I will contact HHSRS.....

Joshua :

For confirmation reference county court see civil procedure rule 26.6 (4) (link below)

Joshua :

http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part26

Customer:

Okay.... thank you

Joshua :

Generally a tenants best approach however will be to first involve an HHSRS inspection and depending on how quickly that is carried out consider taking their own complimentary action (funds permitting) to address urgent repair issues and then seek a claim for those costs through the county court.

Joshua :

many councils have of reason efficient housing officer service which supports tenants quickly and efficiently and can avoid the need for you to make upfront payments yourself. Unfortunately service can vary between councils but overall they offer a good service on average.

Customer:

Unfortunatly, funds are tight...... so although I don't mind paying some repairs and claiming, the cost of having to pay rent, plus repairs, plus the cost of reclaiming in court, is likely to be prohibative.

Customer:

okay.... i'll contact the council today and hopefully it will be able to help

Joshua :

Do consider that if you do find yourself suing for monies you can consider a claim for a rent reduction for the period in question. If funds are tight HHSRS is likely to offer a more cost effective approach though it inevitably will take a little longer than taking action yourself using your funds. With some landlords it is enough simply to threaten HHSRS involvement to spur them into action

Joshua :

Can I help you with anything else or has the above answered your questions satisfactorily?

Customer:

that was helpful.... thank you Joshua

Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience: LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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