Here is a question to the blog clinic from Beth who is a tenant:
My husband and I rent a flat which is on the top floor of a four storey building.
The roof has been leaking ever since we moved in, which was in July this year. The wallpaper in the corner of our lounge has peeled off and there is black mould on the wall behind it.
My husband suffers from asthma and has breathing difficulties if he is in the room for long periods. The condition is also an embarrassment to us when we have visitors.
We have reported the problem to our landlord but he says he cannot do anything about it because the roof belongs to the owners of the building. He has given us their phone number but they will not talk to us because we do not own the flat.
Our landlord told us a month ago that the owners of the building have got quotes for the work but nothing has happened. No one has even come into our flat to look at the damage, instead we have had to send photographs to prove there is a problem!
Many of our friends say that we should stop paying our rent but we do not blame our landlord if it is not his responsibility, although we don’t feel that he is being forceful enough with the building owners. We are just so frustrated that no one is taking us seriously. Is there anyone else we can go to for help?
Damp and mould are notoriously difficult to deal with as it is often hard to find the cause, and indeed the cause if often down to the tenant failing to heat and ventilate the property. See this post here.
However clearly here the fault is not down to you so I will answer on that basis.
The main thing that springs to mind in your case is to ask the Local Authority to carry out a Housing Health and Safety Ratings survey (HHSRS) inspection. If they find any ‘category one hazards’ they will serve an improvement notice on your landlord requiring him to deal with the situation.
They may also be able to exert pressure on the headlessor whose liability it is to get the work done.
So far as your landlords’ liability to you as tenant under his statutory repairing covenants are concerned, it is a defence if he does not have the legal right to do the work. We discussed this topic on this post and there are some very helpful comments there on the landlords obligation.
It may be that there is nothing your landlord can do if the headlessor has actually arranged for the work to be done but, for example, is waiting for the contractor to start work.
Tenants are not legally entitled to just stop paying rent as your friends suggest although they entitled in some circumstances to do the repair work themselves and deduct the cost from the rent as I discuss here. This is not possible in your case as the repair works are not something you could do yourself.
If you feel that withholding the rent anyway is the only way to get something done, you need to be very careful as non payment of rent can be a ground for possession. Make sure you keep the money safe in a separate bank account so you can pay it over quickly if required (and let the landlord know you have done this).
Finally, your husband may perhaps have a claim against your landlord for compensation for personal injury. If you wanted to investigate this it would be best to use a firm which has a specialism in housing work, such as Anthony Gold, so you can get proper advice on the issue in the round.
In summary, the best people to help you right now are the Local Authority Environmental Health Dept who will come out and do an HHSRS inspection. You may also be able to get help from a solicitor in respect of the personal injury aspect.