Here is a question to the blog clinic from Diane, who is a landlord
Please can you give some advice regarding tenants who withhold rent for maintenance, I commonly hear that this is not permitted but I cannot find any specific legal wording which backs it up.
Some tenants moved into my property and there was a leak straightaway, no one’s fault just one of those things – faulty old fitting or something. There was some damage but not enough to force the tenants out. I had workmen in and out over the following weeks.
There were also a couple of other issues which needed sorting, the back door came dropped and got stuck and the carpet on the stairs came loose, these were both fixed fairly quickly. The tenants have taken it upon themselves to withhold a full months rent after apparently being told this was ok by the citizens advice bureau!
The tenancy is for 12 months with a break after 6, I don’t want to lose the tenants as I have paid my agent 12 months worth of fees for finding them but I also don’t want to wait 12 months to get the money back from the deposit.
I can see this from both points of view. Obviously you need your rent Diane, but from the tenants point of view, they have just moved into your property only to have a series of maintenance problems and builders coming in and out all the time. Which is not what you want.
This just shows I suppose the importance of making sure, before the property is let, that it is in tip top condition. Otherwise this sort of thing happens and creates bad feeling.
So far as the deduction is concerned, it depends what it is for. Tenants are entitled to get work done themselves and deduct the cost from their rent, so long as they do it the proper way. I discuss this here.
However you are right, they are not entitled to make a deduction for compensation for their inconvenience. Where compensation is appropriate, this should either be agreed between the parties or be awarded by the court (and I’m sure you don’t want them bringing a court claim against you!).
My feeling however is that you should offer an ex gratia payment to them to compensate them for the problems they have suffered. You need to get these tenants back on your side, otherwise you are going to have a rocky ride with them.
For example if, when the problems first occurred, you had apologised profusely, given them a couple of bottles of wine and agreed a modest reduction to the rent that month, I am sure they would have felt quite differently about things and it would in the long run have cost you less.
They may be wrong in deducting a full months rent from you, but it sounds as if they have had a pretty ropey experience in your property so far.
It may be no-one’s fault precisely, but they are the ones paying for the service.