This is a question to the blog clinic from Charlotte who is a landlord
I am a landlord of a flat in a block of 16. It is important that I explain the heating and hot water are supplied by a boiler in the basement which serves all flats.
My tenants have complained that two radiators in the flat do not heat up, these are in the bedroom and the lounge. I have bought them some portable heaters but they are expensive to use.
I contacted the management company at the start of November, they sent a plumber who said that the radiators have to flushed but the whole system would have to drained.
My tenants have been chasing me and have decided to withhold part of rent in protest and to cover increased electric bills, the management company keep fobbing me off with excuse after excuse. My tenants (rightly) tell me its not their problem.
They have reported the issue to the Council who are now on my back despite this being a block issue. I have told them it is out of my control but they expect me to do the chasing or get my own contractor in.
I have never been in this position before, can the Council enforce anything against me as the landlord of the flat?
Also if I have to compensate the tenants, can I claim this back from the freehold?
We had a very similar question to this a while back here but from the tenants which I suggest you read – there are some very good comments.
In a nutshell, you have legal obligations under the statutory repairing covenants set out in s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 but there is a get out for you if the problem is caused by something outside your control – provided you have tried your hardest to get it sorted.
Here is the wording of the act:
…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 the words ‘all reasonable endeavours’ means that you have to do as much as you can to get the problem resolved.
Before doing anything you will need to read your lease and see what it says about this sort of major repair work – as it will obviously affect all the flats in the block.
Not least because they will all be called upon to contribute to the cost of getting this repair work done.
However I think to be able to defend any claim by the tenants you will need to show that you have done all you can. So you need to have shown that you have at least written several letters, and it may be appropriate for you to threaten legal proceedings.
I don’t think s11 will actually require you to bring legal proceedings to force the freeholders to do the repair work.
However if this problem proves expensive for you (for example if you have to compensate your tenants), you will have to consider bringing a claim against the freeholders for re-imbursement – if the terms of your lease allow this.
I would suggest that you take some advice from a reputable firm of solicitors who specialise in property and housing work – for example Anthony Gold. It may be that a solicitors letter will galvanise the freeholder into some action.
Speaking more generally, this is something landlords should maybe take into account when investing in property to rent – as it can be a real problem.