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JimLawyer
JimLawyer, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 15412
Experience:  Senior Associate Solicitor
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I have just moved into a flat and on the day I moved in I

Customer Question

Hi, I have just moved into a flat and on the day I moved in I was informed a window in the property was smashed and the sink / shower was blocked. Neither has yet been fixed. If I had known this before moving in I would of told them I want it fixed before moving in, but I was told when I picked the keys up. Do I have any legal right to withhold rent?
JA: Where are you? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: Cambridge, UK
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: None - I have spoke to the estate agent to explain I am unhappy
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 think so
Submitted: 11 days ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  JimLawyer replied 11 days ago.

Hello, this is Jim and welcome to JustAnswer.

Thank you for the question, I am reviewing the details now. I will aim to resolve it as quickly as possible for you.

Expert:  JimLawyer replied 11 days ago.

If you withhold rent you would technically be in breach of the tenancy agreement - that could mean the landlord tries to evict you so it is a risk and there are other avenues to explore first. I woulds ay withholding rent is a last resort, as would court action.

If you wanted to terminate you could ask to unwind the tenancy if the agency misled you. I will proceed on the basis you will remain in the property however.

To summarise your rights, 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).

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 terminate then they could sue and you may have to defend the claim in a civil court. If you are within 30 days you could ask to unwind the tenancy (https://www.nhas.org.uk/assets/docs/Right_to_unwind_-_Housing_Matters_August_2016.pdf) though the landlord will need to agree to this. If they do not you could use the courts but this would take several months so is not ideal.

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’.

If those notices are ignored, the council has the option to prosecure the landlord in the magistrates court - which can lead to a criminal conviction.

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) in the first instance to report the matter and ask them if they can send someone out to do an emergency repair - if so, they will do the work and they will bill the landlord themselves.

You can reach yours by email: *****@******.*** or telephone : 01223 457900

If for some reason the council cannot help, you could instruct a tradesperson to come out and fix the problem and you then pursue the landlord for the money, in a small claim if necessary.

If the landlord does not pay or if they refuse for whatever reason, you can sue them in the county court for your losses on the money claim site (www.moneyclaim.gov.uk) although I recommend sending the landlord a letter before action to warn them of your intentions first and allow them 14 days to reimburse you. If they do not reimburse, you are free to issue a claim.

Expert:  JimLawyer replied 11 days ago.

I hope this answers the question. If you have any follow up questions then please do let me know.

Many thanks,
Jim

Expert:  JimLawyer replied 11 days ago.

Just a final note that I am free most days and would be happy to assist with any other queries you may have.

Best wishes,

Jim