Here is a question to the blog clinic from Rebecca (not her real name) who is a tenant
I am a tenant and I want to query whether a clause in my agreement is unfair.
My partner and I share a flat and we have just had our first ‘routine visit’. When the agent came round he noticed we had clothes on dryers in the spare room and said it was not permitted.
We contested this but he told us that the landlord felt very strongly about drying clothes inside because the flat had suffered from mould problems in the past and had to be completely redecorated after the former tenants left. He ran his finger over part of the window which brought up a tiny amount of black mould and gave us a lecture about the effects of condensation (my partner is a science teacher so it was quite awkward).
We told him we always open the windows and clean regularly, he said this wasn’t enough and suggested that we use the balcony, buy a tumble dryer or visit a launderette.
Since the visit we have received a letter from the agent saying that the landlord has the issue has been reported to the landlord and we must stop drying clothes in the flat immediately or our tenancy will be brought to an end.
I admit that when we signed the tenancy agreement we did not notice this clause, however we feel it is unfair because:
1) The balcony is only 6ft x 4ft and can only be used for drying clothes in warm dry weather.
2) The flat was let with a washing machine only (i.e. not washer dryer)
3) There Is no room for a tumble dryer unless it is placed in the living room – who has a tumble dryer in their living room!
4) The nearest launderette is 2.8 miles away – not practical to transport bags of wet clothes across town.
5) Some clothes cannot be tumble dried.
Is there anything we can do to officially challenge this silly rule?
There are a number of issues here.
First it is quite true that drying clothes indoors can cause condensation and mould. Particularly if the rooms are not heated or ventilated properly. So the landlord has a point here.
However tenants have to wash their clothes and dry them somehow. I agree that it sounds as if the arrangements in your property are not adequate and I would suggest that you request the landlord to exchange your washing machine for a washer dryer.
So far as the clause in your tenancy agreement is concerned, whether it is enforceable or not will depend on what it says and how ‘reasonable’ it is.
The Office of Fair Trading (which regulates the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations) has said that it is unfair to try to prescribe tenants day to day life in properties. However as it is a known fact that drying clothes indoors does cause problems, this type of clause is more likely to be considered fair than a clause, say, requiring you to wipe down kitchen surfaces daily or clean the windows inside and out every week.
Then if the clause is valid, what can the landlord do to enforce it? The answer is very little during the term of the tenancy. It is most unlikely (for example) that a Court would agree to end the tenancy and make an order for possession on this basis.
However there is nothing to stop the landlord serving a section 21 notice on you and refusing to allow your tenancy to continue after the end of your fixed term and (if you refuse to vacate) evicting you on that basis.
Also the landlord may be able to claim against your deposit for the cost of re-decoration if he is able to show that this was made necessary due to your breach of the clause. Although it is possible that you may be able to claim some reduction on this due to your landlords failure to provide proper drying facilities for you.
What do readers think about this?