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JimLawyer
JimLawyer, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Senior Associate Solicitor
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My son & his girlfriend have moved into a flat. They were

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Hi My son & his girlfriend have moved into a flat. They were not able to see it before moving in as they were told the previous tennants wouldn't llow it due to covid.. They were assured the flat was in great conidition. When they collected the keys on 3rs Sept, they couldn't get in as the door was damaged. The landlord let them in using a wallpaper scraper to jimmy the lock. He has since 'fixed' the door. The flat is not in great condition, the carpets are filthy, it smells damp, the oven doesn't work, and there is an infestation of silverfish. The landlord has refused to pay for pest control or carpet cleaning. Speaking to a neighbour it seems that the silverfish problem is throught the block. I have looked at the contract and the fixed time period is 12 months. However I was wondering if there was anway to break the contract, legallky, based on the property not being as described.
JA: Where are your son and his girlfriend? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: they are in Hatfield, Hertforshre
JA: What steps have your son and his girlfriend taken so far?
Customer: They have spoken to the landlord, he has said he won't pay for pest control. doesn't want to clean the carpets as 'they may shrink'. He is going to order parts for the oven. Denied any silverfish issues. Did say there had been a leak, but that it had been fixed.
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: I don't know. They are only 21, the flat was for their final year and for post grad studies. The letting agent had said it was really great and in great condition.
Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Posted by JustAnswer at customer's request) Hello. I would like to request the following Expert Service(s) from you: Live Phone Call.
Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Let me know if you need more information, or send me the service offer(s) so we can proceed.
Customer: replied 11 days ago.
i am happy for you to call or respond here - either works for me.

Hello, this is Jim and welcome to JustAnswer. I will be the lawyer working with you today.
Sorry to hear of the issue. I will set out my written answer shortly.

A tenancy agreement is a binding contract. So your Son and his girlfriend are bound by it. A contract can be breached like any other - whether a tenancy contract can be terminated depends on the facts and if the breach on the landlord's part is serious or not. Being misled can make a contract void too. It sounds like they were misled in that they were told the flat was in great condition - so there is a case if they wanted to terminate and leave. However don't be surprised if the landlord and agency kick up a fuss and try to argue otherwise.

In UK law, landlords must ensure the property is in good repair under Section 11 to 16 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Further, a recent law came in to force to provide more protection to tenants, which is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is now in force - the house or flat needs to be healthy, safe and fit for human habitation (free from things that could cause serious harm). So damp and an untreated leak would put the landlord in breach of this law.

If they do not, they face prosecution by the local council and can be fined. It would also be a breach of contract on their part.

*The only situations where a tenancy can be ended are, you finish the tenancy term or there is a break clause meaning you can end the tenancy part way through. Or the landlord agrees to you leaving early - usually if another tenant can be found. You could terminate but you would need evidence of repeated requests to the landlord to fix and they do nothing. If you terminated then they could sue and you may have to defend the claim in a civil court*.

The Local Authority Environmental Health Officers have powers under the Housing Act 2004. They have a duty to ensure that properties in their area are in a habitable condition, and will serve improvement notices on landlords of properties which are assessed, under the new Housing Health and Safety Rating System as having ‘category 1 hazards’.

Similar powers are available to Local Authorities under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if the property is considered a threat to public health.

I would therefore recommend that you contact your local council (the housing department) to report the condition of the property. They may be able to help further with this - it should put pressure on the landlord to agree to the termination. A law firm may have more of an effect too, especially if the landlord takes legal action. You could come back to this site as an alternative though - feel free to come back to the site in future if you need more help, or if you need recommendations for suitable law firms.

I hope this helps and answers the question - my goal is to ensure you are happy with the answer and have the information you need. If you have any follow up questions then please let me know. I will reply as soon as I can to help with any further queries.

Many thanks,
Jim

Please let me know if the answer helped or if you need me to cover anything else?. I am happy to clarify the answer or if you have any follow up questions. If so, I’d be grateful if you would let me know. I am free most days, including weekends, so feel free to ask me anything you are unsure of.

Best wishes,

Jim

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Hi Jim - thanks for coming back to me. WOuld the pest problem be a cause for breaking the contract - as the neighbours have said that they have been an issue for a long time.

A pest problem is an infestation and it may help your case, yes especially if the matter has been a problem for a period of time and left untreated. I would agree with you.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
that is the biggest issue for them as they are finding 10+ mature silverfish a day, and they have only been in the flat a week. They are crawling up the walls have been foind in the cupboards, carpets, furniture and even in the bed

Thanks, ***** ***** sounds like a problem, yes. The landlord should have dealt with this before your Son moved in. They have not so are in breach of the landlord and tenant laws - you can report them to the council and it would be grounds to move out and demand the money back. They may have to sue for the money back if the landlord maintains their stance however.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
would it be correct to say that the landlord should have told them there was an issue. He should also have cleaned the property before they moved in. Would he be liable for pest control? he has said he won't pay and has said that 'it's never been a problem before' but the neighbours have said otherwise! We have spoken to the council, but they have said that as the flat is in a block that contains social and private housing they may not have any power.

Yes, they should have done and they should have accurately described the property. It should have been cleaned, yes. And yes to the costs of pest control due to the law I mentioned above regarding health risks. The neighbours should give written statements to support your case in my view.

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