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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71154
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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We wish to surrender our 12 month tenancy contract

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We wish to surrender our 12 month tenancy contract following reasons: the landlord has not complied with the HHSRS standards in that mould and harmful spores had been allowed to accumulate on and penetrated the upstairs unpainted window frames (the glass also was covered in black mould which had to be cleaned off). My husband has asthma and his condition has become worse. Samples taken from the bedroom windows reveal the presence of Aspergillus amongst other species. Complaints have been made since moving in (2nd Sept) but the complaint was not taken seriously until we threatened Environmental Health. A 'damp proof specialist' visited but nothing has progressed since the visit (14 Jan); he confirmed that mould spores are classified as a serious health issue. This is in addition to other issues such as electrical and no water meter reading at the outset of the tenancy. The landlord has agreed to surrender the contract - but that we must continue to pay the rent (as per the contract). We want to contest this as we believe the landlord is in breach of the contract. I might add here that we are landlords ourselves and we find the landlord's position unacceptable. The question is, is our case to be relieved of the legal requirement to continue paying rent?
Thank you question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
The short answer is that it is arguable. What you have is a disrepair claim. It is a fairly good disrepair claim. However, it is fair to say that things have to be pretty diabolical before you can walk out without liability. Something like gutting by fire damage would be a good example. A gas leak would be another.
Generally speaking, issues injurious to health can be sufficient. They do usually need to present a fairly immediate risk largely because there is always the option to make a referral to EH who should issue an improvement notice to the landlord to have the work done within a week or two at the outset.
What the landlord will do though is deduct from your deposit. If you want to litigate then you can always sue him. That will mean the burden of proof passes to you. It shouldn't be difficult to show the condition of the property. The difficulty will be proving that it was so injurious to health that you were entitled to leave immediately rather than just complain to EH.
If he tries to claim any more then he will not get it. It takes one month to fill a property if a landlord is making reasonable efforts. If it is just that he cannot let it because of the condition then he will not get away with claiming rent from you.
Can I clarify anything ?
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Not sure if my follow-up question was sent so I am repeating here (apologies if you have already received this).

The landlord is English but now lives in the USA and, therefore, as we understand it, we cannot sue him. However, if we were to refuse to continue to pay rent remaining 5 months of the 12 month contract (we have informed the landlord's agent that we are moving out on 6 March), would the landlord be able to pursue us rent (perhaps through representatives in England)? I understand we could be 'blacklisted' paying the rent and that this could affect our credit scoring? Many thanks

You could but it would not be cost effective.
If this is an AST though then the deposit should be held in a scheme and you could complain to that.
The landlord could sue you outstanding rent. He only needs an address in the UK. He doesn't need to live there. It is just a postal address. If you didn't pay within 28 days of judgment then that would affect your credit rating.
But you could counter claim disrepair.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The landlord is now marketing the property (we are paying ) but has increased the rent by £50 pm. He has rejected an offer from one couple as being too low (I don't know what the offer was). If someone offers the same rent as we are paying, can it be regarded as reasonable to refuse such a tenant?

Many thanks

It does depend on the value of the property. Sometimes local rents do increase. But, in principle, you are right. Increasing the rent unreasonably would not be accepted.