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Tenant being evicted after complaining about the damp

housesHere is a question to the blog clinic from Andrew (not his real name)

We have been renting a property since February this year. When we moved in, we noticed a damp problem – there are wet patches on the ceiling and wall after rain.

For months the landlord was insisting the problem was due to condensation, and that he would get an extractor fan fitted in the bathroom.

I kept persisting to get the problem checked out properly, because we were sure that the problem was not due to condensation.

To cut a long story short, we have now been informed by a structural engineer that there is a problem with the roof, as well as the house not being ventilated properly, due to the blocked off chimneys with no vents.

The landlord has finally decided to do the repairs, but when we asked the agents to ask him about compensation, he responded by giving us notice, despite the fact that only two weeks ago, we received a letter from the agents stating that he would be happy to renew our tenancy.

I am aware that the landlord is in breach of section 10 and 11 of the LTA 1985. However, he has now finally decided to do the repairs, after 11 months of persistence, but instead of offering us compensation for all of the inconvenience and discomfort from the damp and mould, he has decided to end our tenancy. We do not have a copy of the report.

Please could you advice how we may go about justifying the situation.

I am afraid this is something that happens.  Landlords are perfectly entitled to end the tenancy under s21 if they want.  And often they want to do this when tenants complain.

Although it is of course always possible that the landlord requires vacant possession in order to get the repair work done properly.

This will not affect your entitlement to compensation.

However the landlord will be probably be unwilling to pay it – from his point of view he has the expense of the repairs (although it may be covered by insurance) plus a period of time when he will be getting no rent while the works are being done.  So I suspect he will try to avoid paying if he can.

The only way you will be able to force the issue is by going to court.  If you threaten this and are clearly serious, your landlord may decide to make you an offer.

I would strongly advise getting some legal advice from a solicitor on the strength of your claim and the sort of compensation you are entitled to.

In the meantime you need to gather as much evidence as you can before you leave – so take photographs of everything relevant and keep detailed records of your conversations and telephone calls with the agents and landlord.  Make sure you write down a detailed note of your conversation with the structural engineer before you forget the detail.

Finally, this sort of problem is not new – it is called retaliatory eviction and the CAB did a report on it back in 2007.

If anything is to be done about it, those campaigning need evidence, so you may want to contact one of the main campaigning bodies, Shelter, and tell them your story.

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8 Responses to Tenant being evicted after complaining about the damp

  1. The CAB report to which you refer estimated that there were some 6,000 cases of retaliatory eviction in 2008, and the bureau expected that there were more they did not know about.

    Conscientious landlords who are aware of our tenants’ rights disagree with this practice, but the section 8 process is inarguably obtuse and convoluted when seeking to evict a genuine problem tenant and for many, s21 offers the only recourse.

    The RLA and such bodies will always decry further bureaucracy and legislation in the sector, but distinctions need to be made between occasions when an s21 is justified, and when it is simply a bad landlord being petty and vindictive.

    The Office of Fair Trading already distinguishes between fair and unfair terms in tenancy agreements; perhaps their role could extend to recognising examples of retaliatory eviction and stepping in where it is deemed necessary?

    I wish the complainant the best of luck in any instance.

  2. If the tenant claims compensation for their ‘inconvenience and discomfort’, couldn’t the landlord counterclaim for the actual cost of a proportion of the internal repairs caused by the tenants’ (in)actions?

    Even according to the tenants version of events, part of the problem was due to their not ventilating the property-

    ‘as well as the house not being ventilated properly, due to the blocked off chimneys with no vents’

    Presumably the property has windows.

    Most damp problems are caused by internal condensation due to the occupants behaviour.

    • The property was continually ventilated by opening windows. However, the main part of the problem was structural, i.e., due to a leaking roof, and rising damp. This was confirmed by an engineer, and a number of damp specialists. The problem was present upon moving in, and we notified the landlord immediately. There was no ‘action’ or ‘inaction’ of our own, that had any effect on the property which was already in disrepair upon moving into the property. We were, you could say, ‘the perfect tenants’, a professional couple who paid rent on time each month, and notified the landlord of a serious problem, that most reasonable landlords would want to fix, in order to maintain their property.

  3. There is a very thought provoking article here about possible legal defences to retailiatory eviction

    The authors are Andrew Arden QC and Justin Bates, some pretty heavyweight housing bods and not to be dismissed lightly. They suggest “that a notice served to punish someone for doing a lawful act should be considered an invalid notice.” and then set about offering possible legal points to support their assertion

  4. Unless it is a problem with the structure or exterior that has transpired since the start of the tenancy this is unlikely to be a section 11 breach? Ventilation is a tenant issue in which case we may have a case of the landlord wanting to get rid of difficult tenants?

    • It was precisely a structural problem with the property – leaking roof and rising damp. There was also a ventilation problem due to blocked off chimneys that had no vents. All properties must comply with a certain standard level of ventilation. Opening the windows on a daily basis, did not stop the roof leaking, or the overall damp problem, due to the structural defects of the property. Unfortunately, the landlord kept avoiding fixing the problem, and ignoring the facts.

  5. @Rebekah If it is a structural problem then the landlord may not be liable under s11 – which is aimed at ‘disrepair’. If a problem is structural it is not caused by the landlord failing to do repairs, but is due to the way the property has been built. S11 does not cover this sort of thing or improvements.

    This is a big problem with the landlords repairing obligations and it is particuarly problematic with damp issues – which are often caused by structural rather than by disrepair issues.

    • Thanks for your reply Tessa. I should clarify that whilst there were structural problems, an engineer confirmed that the roof was leaking, along with other parts of the property. I assume that the landlord was liable to fix the roof, and that he shouldn’t have leased it in this state in the first place. Repairs were attempted by roofers during the final week of our tenancy, however it did not fix the problem… Rain water still penetrated the walls and ceiling. They have made an offer to settle, but they continue to deny that there was a problem with the roof, despite the fact that they sent roofers to replace the ridges and all of the other relevant evidence!



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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