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Experience:  Solicitor with over 15 years experience.
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I have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy on a 2 bedroom bungalow

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I have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy on a 2 bedroom bungalow in Poole through a letting agency . The tenancy agreement runs from 8th March 2015 to 7th March 2016. I have lived in the property for almost 10 years, I have always paid my rent on time and think I have been a very good tenant. I paid a £975 deposit when I moved in to the property and currently pay £965 per month rent.
In the past few years I have repeatedly told the letting agent that the windows (which are old fashioned metal ones) are awful, the woodwork outside is falling apart and that this is causing terrible damp in the property. I have sent them photographic evidence of the damp and they have also seen it themselves when they have done a property inspection.
The appalling state of the windows means that the property is very expensive to heat as well. The damp is so bad in the bedrooms that I can’t put my clothes in the cupboards by the outside walls as all my clothes smell of damp. Also the damp is so bad in the kitchen that if I put glasses or crockery in the cupboards they smell of mould and have to be washed before we can use them.
We also have an infestation of slugs that seem to come into the bathroom at night and it is not uncommon for me to go into the bathroom before bedtime and find 4 or more slugs on the tiles above the bath.
When the current tenancy period is up the letting agent always asks for another £25 per month to be added to the rent – when I received the proposed new agreement back in March – again with an extra £25 per month added to the monthly rent I emailed again to ask if anything could be done about the mould. I was told that I must not dry washing in the house and I must ventilate the property. I informed them that I never dry washing in the house as I have a utility room outside of the house with a dryer in it and during the winter months I dry my washing out there and that obviously I ventilate the house when I can but that I wasn’t going to have the windows open during the winter months. I was told that I should go out and buy a dehumidifier as that may help. I told them that I already had a dehumidifier and that actually it didn’t make any difference. They told me there was nothing else that could be done. I would have thought that it was the landlord’s duty to make sure that the property is free from damp – I don’t really expect to live in a cold, damp house when I am paying £965 a month.
Last year the landlord made us aware that British Gas were offering a free insulation service and told us that he was happy for us to approach them to get it. I did this and someone from British Gas came round to see whether we could have the free insulation but they told us that there was evidence of damp in the walls in several areas and that this would need to be professionally treated – they also mentioned that there wasn’t adequate ventilation in the loft and no soffit vents.
I have become increasingly annoyed at having to live in a property with all these problems and that nothing is being done about it and I am also concerned about my health living with this mould all the time– at the beginning of the year I put my name down on a waiting list for property on a private estate near where I work and they have now found me a property that I would like to move in to.
I don’t appear to have a break clause in my tenancy agreement and I would like to know where I stand with things – I am going to move out anyway but obviously I don’t want to have to pay 5 months rent for nothing.
I have a copy of the rental agreement if you need to see it.
What I would like to know is can I make an offer of settlement that is less than the 5 months to end the agreement? If so what do you think would be a decent amount to offer? Can I cite the fact that the bungalow is riddled with mould and slugs as a reason for wanting to leave early?
I would like to give the letting agent a months notice from 19th August so that I am able to move out on 19th September. I will pay the rent on 8th September for that month.
Would it be possible to let me have some advice before the end of this week?
Thanks very much.
Sarah Nicholls
Hello, I am a solicitor with 20 years experience. I will try to answer this question for you.
You have rights regarding the state of repair of your property when you are a tenant.
The landlord has an obligation to keep the structure and exterior in repair. This is regardless of what else may be stated in the tenancy agreement.
Once he has notice from you about disrepair (or knows himself eg through an inspection by his agents) then he has a duty to carry out repairs.
You describe clear breaches of this obligation: defective windows and damp (if it is rising or penetrating then it is structural).
You are entitled to compensation for the unpleasantness you have experienced (calculated on the basis of seriousness of disrepair x time of suffering it post notice to landlord). It sounds like you would be entitled to compensation.
In order to obtain compensation you would need to get in a surveyor or an Environmental Health Officer to asses the level of disrepair. This would not be cheap and there would be no legal aid to help you with this.
If your aim is just to leave the tenancy without having to pay the rent the yo hsoud do the folwong:
Take more photos.
Wroite to the landlord/agent stating
1) The property is in disrepair, that he has had notice since (whenever you first complained + date of first inspection)
2) the Landlord has breached his obligations to you under s11 Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
3) that you have suffered distress and possibly ill health as a result.
40 That you are entitled to compensation as a result.
5) that you have lost faith that he will repair the premises.
6) that you intend to leave on such and such a date .
As far as your tenancy agreement is concerned you technically have an obligation to pay rent until the end of the tenancy, but against that you have a claim for disrepair. You might want to say that you intent to pay no rent in the period until you leave and invite him to make an additional offer of compensation or you will bring a cliam against him.
Alternatively depending on how bad the disrepair is and how militant you feel you might just tell him you will be leaving early but will not pay rent beyond the date you leave and that if he attempts to recover money from you you will counter-claim for the disrepair.
It would be sensible to preserve evidence by getting a report and you absolutely must get very good photos of he disrepair.
I Hope this answers your question but please feel free to ask further Qs.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi thanks for your reply and sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. I think I would rather try and keep things as amicable as possible if I can. We rent through a letting agency but we actually have met our landlord a few times and have his direct telephone number. Do you think it would be a good idea to contact him directly? At the end of the day all we want is to leave the property as we have now found somewhere that suits us better without any problems with the windows and the mould. I have drafted a few things that we could say – can you take a look and let me know what you think? Or let me know if you think it would be better for us to just deal with the letting agent – I just have a feeling that they might be harder to deal with?

"Hi Jeff it’s Sarah Nicholls from*****in Poole.

I hope you don’t mind me calling you but I wanted to talk to you about our residency at 44 Churchfield.

We have lived here for almost 10 years now and feel that we have been good tenants in that time and hope that you feel the same?

We have wanted to live in the country for some time now and a property has recently come up that we want to move in to.

As you know these things never come up at a convenient time and we appreciate that our tenancy agreement doesn’t end until next February but we were hoping that given our good relationship and the longevity of our tenancy we could come to some arrangement regarding a surrender of the property?

We are proposing that we pay rent until 7th October and then release our £975 deposit over to you giving you another months rent – so in all given you 2 months to get the property relet.

We are happy to leave all the new curtains that we had made when we decorated the property a couple of years ago and will pay for a professional cleaning company to do a final clean when we leave so that the property is ready to relet from 22nd September when we are hoping to move into our new home.

Does that sound acceptable to you? If not is there some other arrangement that you think would be acceptable?"

Thanks again for your help.

That all seems reasonable. In terms of your legal rights I think you are possibly underselling them, but as you say you just want top be amicable and get out of the obligations then that is reasonable.
Do get good photos/other evidence of the disrepair though in case he tries to sue you for not paying rent under the current agreement.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi yesterday it appears that our current letting agent let himself into our home within our permission. When I got home the back gate was open which was strange then when I opened the back door I noticed that our dog gate was open - my first thought was that we had been burgled! Our dog was roaming the house which she isn't allowed to do and the toilet seat was up (we always leave it down). The only other people who have keys are my Mum and our dog walker- both of whom hadn't been round yesterday. I am really angry about this and feel violated! What if my dog had bitten him or the dog or cats had escaped - what if the alarm had been set! We have an inspection today so he had no reason to come into our home. Can he actually do this without our permission?
Thanks very much
No he can't in law, it really amounts to a breach of your right to quiet enjoyment of your home. However, as you are negotiating your departure from the property and good will is important, and as this has not happened before (?) there is effectively very little you can do about it.
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