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Should we pay rent if there is no hot water?

Bailiff?Here is a question to the blog clinic from Richard who is a student tenant

Basically when I moved into the house the contract has already started so i expected the house to be clean and spotless, however when I moved into the house it was a complete dump, and the boiler was not working for the month.

Me + rest of the tenants decided not to pay until the landlord came to fix the issue, however when he came he brought the bailiffs over to intimidate us into paying us his rent, one of the bailiffs even used aggressive language towards my housemate because he was advising him on not using one of the toilets.

Im sure there must be something we can do as tenants because as students we feel as if we are being violated and in no way should we be intimidated into paying rent.

Also for all the housemates its bills included so it doesn’t feel right paying for central heating and hot water if we have not had it for the past month

No, its not right and it sounds as if your landlord is one of those rogue landlords you read about.  These are not easy to deal with but here are some suggestions:

  • Put the rent in a separate interest bearing bank account and tell him you will hand it over once the repair work has been done
  • It sounds as if your landlord is not one who will resort to the courts, but if he threatens to sue you for the withheld rent, say that if he does this you will counterclaim for compensation for the disrepair in the property
  • Contact the Local Authority and ask them to come out and do a ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System’ survey – if they find any ‘category one hazards’ (and it sounds as if they will!) they will serve an improvement notice on your landlord ordering him to carry out works
  • Contact your college accommodation office and tell them what has happened.  They may be able to advise you.  Also if this landlord is on their books, they will probably take him off

By the way, I think it is most unlikely that the ‘bailiffs’ are actually official bailiffs.  They sound to be like thugs bought along to intimidate you.

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4 Responses to Should we pay rent if there is no hot water?

  1. “it sounds as if your landlord is one of those rogue landlords you read about.”

    Like they’re so rare; they aren’t. Shelter and others like them are inundated with calls from tenants who are trying to get essential repairs done, and just being ignored by their landlords. I look fwd to regulation. So many landlords still treating it like a free lunch (whilst screaming “business decision” in the next breath).

  2. This is one of those instances where a solution is not clear and simple. I agree with Tessa that the supposed bailiffs are nothing of the kind and are in fact ‘heavies’. If as a result of their presence you have been forced to pay the rent and presumably stop complaining then an offence of harassment may have been committed. That is dealt with by the local Council Tenancy Relations Service (or similar) an intervention from them is likely to be quicker than an Environment Health inspection, depending on the local council

    If your college has a Student Union Advice Service they are usually able to make urgent interventions and may also know the landlord.
    The property is an HMO as you are sharing with others who are not related. It may require a formal licence if it contains five people living on three or more floors and again the local council Environment Health department will be responsible for dealing with a complaint.

    Looking ahead to the end of the tenancy to protect you from future problems, check now that your deposit is being held in a nationally approved scheme; if not you may have another claim that your Union should be able to advise on your rights.

  3. Bailiffs my arse. I agree with Tessa and Colin Richard.

    Bailiffs are only instructed after some form of money judgement which would have been impossible to do in the month you have been there and you would have had full notice of any proceedings.

    Even when instructed, half the so called bailiffs are merely debt companies not certified bailiff’s at all.

    Get a TRO involved and also be advised that no heating or hot water may well be a breach of property management regulations for which there are fairly instant and substantial fines.

    I’ll double check that when our EHOs get in this morning

  4. Hi Ben
    There are no ‘fairly instant and substantial fines’ under HHSRS. The CLG enforcement guidance requires advice, notice, time and then after that possibly fines except in an emergency when a Prohibition or more likely EPO is issued. Even then a fine would not be payable until expiry of any appeal system. A lack of heating /hot water in the given situation is unlikely to come into the category of emergency PO except perhaps with an extremely proactive EHO section. Serious breaches can result in a £20K fine but tend to be few.

    The House of Commons Select Committee that looked at the private rented sector last year proposed a ‘fixed penalty’ notice for some minor breaches but that would be the only fairly instant penalty as far as I am aware.



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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