Here is a question to the blog clinic from Frances (not her real name) who works for a letting agency
As a follower of your excellent blog, I have a question about taking a property ‘as seen’.
I work for a high street letting agent, recently a young lady came to us needing a property in a hurry but the only place we had in her budget needed redecorating and new carpets.
The tenant said she would move in anyway as long as the work was done later, which to my knowledge was agreed but only in a conversation in the branch and never in writing.
The tenant has moved in and the work has yet to be done, but the landlord has decided not to proceed and the lettings manger has told her that because she took the property ‘as seen’ then she will have to do the work herself.
This has happened a couple of times before, it seems that the ‘taken as seen’ argument in an unfair and dishonest way of securing tenants.
Does the landlord have to do this work and is there anything that the tenant can do?
I agree that it does seem dishonest and unfair, certainly from the tenants point of view.
I can understand it also from the landlords point of view though – for example its always more difficult getting work done when there is a tenant in occupation. There is also no real incentive – as it is not as if they are trying to find a new tenant – they already have one.
Letting as seen
Taking a property as seen, means that you accept it as it is, with any problems that there might be which you may not have noticed.
So far as rented properties are concerned however, this cannot get the landlord out of doing repairs which fall under his statutory repairing duties. For example repairs to the roof, plumbing problems, and any repair work required for gas appliances.
So any contract clause which provides for a property to be taken ‘as seen’ will probably be void under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.
However here the items at issues are redecoration and carpets which do not really fall within that category.
In any event, I don’t think this property was let ‘as seen’. The agent said that re-decoration works were going to be done and new carpets laid. The tenant signed the tenancy on that basis.
Problems in practice
However, although the landlord will be bound by the agents agreement with the tenant, it may be difficult realistically, for her to do much about it.
For example if it was never put in writing, there is the question of proving that the conversation ever took place.
If she were to make a claim for compensation, even if her claim were successful, I also don’t think any compensation awarded would be very much – so it would not really be worth the bother.
However long term, I do not think doing this sort of thing on a regular basis is a good idea. It could get the agency a bad name.
After all we have the internet and social media now. There are plenty of ways a tenant can make public her dissatisfaction with her experience.
The obvious solution is to offer the property to the tenant at a slightly lower rent, but I suspect the agent would get into trouble with the landlord if he did that.
Probably the best and most honest way to deal with it, would be to make it clear from the outset that the tenant would have to pay for any redecorating work herself. It would make the property less attractive – but if there is a lack of suitable properties around she would probably have taken it anyway.
And you would then be spared the problem of dealing with a justly aggrieved tenant.
If you are a tenant reading this – always make sure agreements like this are put in writing.