This is a question to the blog clinic from Joe who is a tenant.
Hi Can I ask, we have been renting a four bedroom house for the last 16 months. It is classed as a loft conversion and the EPC was advertised as E.
The house was so cold over the winter months, we asked the landlord to do something about it , however he took no notice. We eventually called the council in. The upstairs was issued with a Cat A Hazard for excessive cold!
Following this, we have had floorboards up , so we have not had use of the bedroom area for nine months! We were told their is nothing we can do about it,
Just basically put up and shut up. Is this true?
Yes and no. Unfortunately the law relating to the condition of the property is a bit complex.
The law explained
There are things which you can sue the landlord to get done and for which you can claim compensation. These are the things set out in the landlord’s repairing obligations in section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 (section 11).
Under these the landlord must keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property and the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation and for space and water heating. This is basically all about the property or things in the property being damaged or broken.
Then there are the health and safety standards which come under the Housing Act 2004 and which are calculated by Environmental Health Officers after having done a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) Inspection. This is all about the condition of the property being unsafe (so is wider than section 11).
If the EHOs make a finding that there is a ‘category 1’ or category 2’ hazard, then they can require the landlord to put it right and serve an improvement notice on him if he does not. If the landlord fails to comply with the improvement notice he can he prosecuted and fined.
However it is up to the EHOs to take action. Tenants cannot sue on a HHSRS report unless it throws up something which falls under the s11 repairing obligations.
The finding of excess cold came under an inspection under the HHSRS. Only the Council can enforce this as I suspect that there was nothing ‘broken’ – the problem is that there was probably no heating at all.
So I suspect that you will not be able to bring a claim against the landlord under section 11.
However you DO have a claim as you have been deprived of your right to use part of the property you rented (assuming it was the landlrod who had the floorboards up doing works). You have not been able to use one room for 9 months.
So say that your property consists of seven rooms and you pay £700 rent pcm. If you have not been able to use one of those rooms then you have a claim for compensation for £100 for nine months.
Compensation is not something you can claim as of right, it has to be either agreed with your landlord (or his agent) or awarded by the court. However if you have been unable to use a room for a period of time and can prove this, you will have a very good claim for compensation.
If your landlord is unwilling to agree compensation and you decide to deduct the money from your rent anyway note that if the landlord then seeks to deduct this from your deposit, you must NOT challenge this deduction via the deposit schemes adjudication service. As this type of claim is not something that they are authorised to consider.
Even if they feel sympathy for you the adjudicator will have to find in favour of the landlord. You will have to claim back your deposit through the courts.
Although if you fail to pay the last months rent (or a sum equivalent to your deposit or, if less than this, the sum you claim as compensation), then it will be the landlord who will have to go to court to claim the money not you. Which in the circumstances he may be advised is a bad idea.
To find out more about the sort of sums you can claim in this situation take a look at this post.
NB Find out more about my services for tenants.