Here is a question to the blog clinic from Luke who is a tenant
I am a tenant in an unhappy situation, I cannot find reliable advice anywhere. Please can you point me in the right direction.
My girlfriend and I have not had any hot water in our flat for two months, we have an electric shower so at least I can wash in comfort but boiling a kettle every time we want to wash anything else is getting ridiculous. Now we need heating so the matter has become even more urgent.
Our flat is on the middle floor of a large building which was originally one house and the boiler is in the basement.
Our landlord is a company but they do not own the whole building so when we reported the problem to them they immediately attempted to contact the people responsible for the boiler. We were then told that the telephone number they held in their records was incorrect, my girlfriend found out the correct number by speaking to one of our neighbours in the flat across the hall.
We have been informed that the company that owns the building has gone into administration and no one knows who to contact. Our landlord is refusing to take any action because they are not responsible for repairing the boiler and seem to have given up.
We called the council but had to pester them continuously until they eventually sent out a woman. She looked in the flat, confirmed there was no boiler and a locked door leading to the basement, then she left. Nothing has happened since.
Two other flats have hot water which is provided by other means so they are not bothered. We have concluded that the other flats are empty or that the residents are not affected because no one else seems to have raised the alarm.
We appreciate that the landlord does not own the boiler but feel they should be doing more to sort out this problem, their apathetic stance is very frustrating. Is there anything we can do as tenants to force the issue and is?
Also the landlord has said that they are not in breach of contract because they do not own the boiler, is this true?
This is a very tricky situation not least for your landlord who is not entitled to break down the door where the boiler is situate to get in and do repairs.
Under law (s11 (1)(c) Landlord & Tenant Act 1985) your landlord is responsible
to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
However s3A then goes on to say that where the landlord/lessor
… does not have a sufficient right in the part of the building or the installation concerned to enable him to carry out the required works or repairs,
then, in any proceedings relating to a failure to comply with the lessor’s repairing covenant, so far as it requires the lessor to carry out the works or repairs in question, it shall be a defence for the lessor to prove that he used all reasonable endeavours to obtain, but was unable to obtain, such rights as would be adequate to enable him to carry out the works or repairs
So your landlord is correct. If you were to go to court for an injunction or compensation he would be able to defend the proceedings on that basis.
I think all you can do is find somewhere else to live and move out as soon as you are able. If you are still part way through your fixed term, your landlord may be agreeable to let you leave early in the circumstances.
NB See Giles Peaker’s comment below though as he takes a more hopeful view.