Here is a question to the blog clinic from Trish (not her real name) who is a tenant:
I have rented a house for two years, my landlord has always done emergency repairs on the property like replacing the boiler when it broke down. However there is a lot of other maintenance which needs attention, for example our shower has not worked for months (since the boiler was replaced), the fence in the garden has collapsed and there is a growing damp patch in my son’s bedroom.
I keep chasing my landlord and for a while he said he would come round and look but he never did, now he’s stopped responding at all. Then last week I had a letter saying my rent is going up.
My question is can I refuse the rent increase on the basis that the landlord is doing his duty? I don’t want to be an awkward tenant but I feel the landlord only cares about one thing.
Several things to say here. First, probably your landlords main concern IS the rent – after all renting out property is a business and no doubt he has his own expenses.
The disrepair issues
Second, it may be that some of the problems are actually down to you do deal with not him. Landlords have certain repairing obligations under s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 but this does not cover everything that goes wrong in the property. You have a duty too to maintain it and keep it in good condition.
Then often whether a repair item is down to you or your landlord will depend on what caused it in the first place. Damp and condensation are very difficult here. There are a number of different causes – all too often it is actually down to the way the tenant uses the property.
So if the shower stopped working BECAUSE of the work on the boiler, then repairing it is probably down to your landlord, otherwise it may not be.
Fences are always difficult. Usually tenancy agreements are silent about who should be responsible, in which case it is arguable that it is up to the tenant to deal with this (as for the duration of the tenancy, it is the tenant’s property). If you are considering staying in the property long term, offering to share the cost with the landlord is one way forward.
The rent increase
So far as the rent increase is concerned, you do not have to agree to this. The landlord cannot force a rent increase on you (unless he uses the statutory notice procedure and even then you can challenge the rent if you consider it is higher than the market rent).
However if you refuse to agree to the new rent, he always has the option of serving a section 21 notice on you, requiring you to leave. This, sadly, often happens.
So probably the best advice I can give you is to think seriously about whether you want to stay in this property long term and act accordingly.
If you want to stay, you will probably have to agree to the new rent and share the costs of the items that need dealing with. You should try not to antagonise the landlord or do anything which will make him decide to serve notice on you.
If you are intending to move out, then you should not sign a new tenancy agreement once your fixed term ends (the landlord cannot force you to sign or to leave without a court order for possession, if he tries that it illegal eviction and is a criminal offence), and carry on paying the exiting rent until you have found somewhere to move to.
You will then need to give the landlord one months notice, ending at the end of a period of your tenancy.