Here is a question to the blog clinic from Kelly (not her real name) who is a tenant:
Me, my husband and our little daughter are currently renting from a private landlord. We’ve rented the property without agents or other middle parties.
We’ve signed up a standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement for 12 months on 23/08/2012. During our first year we have reported to the Landlady problems with the condensation and mould in the house emailed to her on 09/01/2013. She acknowledged the email and said to keep her posted, which we did.
When the contract has finished, she emailed us a copy of the contract which we’ve signed and send to her by a courier. later on she said she never received it even though we had a confirmation from the courier company that the envelope has been delivered to her address and signed by someone called Smith. Anyhow, she sends another contract which we stupidly haven’t read properly as she didn’t mention any changes and when quickly looked over it, looked quite standard.
So, the second year starts, the winter comes and the mould problem began and gotten worse (details provided). We wrote to her again about the problem and she decided to buy a dehumidifier machine. We started using it straight away as the smell and the mould was causing me allergy problems and I was worried about my child too. She asked us if we will buy the dehumidifier but we refused as it is not our fault having the problem with the condensation. We do ventilate, use the extractor fan in the kitchen, dry up the bathroom, clean the surfaces so there’s nothing more we can do.
And now 2 months before the end of the contract she sent us an evicted letter as we did not agree on the rent increase. And a month after she sends us a Vacating letter saying the following: I accept normal fair and tear for the period of your occupation but please note that damage, breakages and/or cleaning will result in claims for deductions from your deposit. For example, a Deep clean costs me £ 100 and a carpet clean costs me £ 200, removing mould (and making good of these areas) costs me £600 +. As you can see, items like these can soon use up your deposit.
So we haven’t yet vacated the house but she starts claiming our deposit. I got suspicious and I had a look at the contract. I’ve read that it doesn’t state anywhere that the house needs to be professionally cleaned. It says to be cleaned which will be of course. So for example she wants £200 for a carpet clean but I can hire someone to do the carpet for a £50. And then I’ve read in the contract the following:
To take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety to the Property especially during periods of severe weather and frost; and prudent steps to adequately heat and ventilate the premises in order to help prevent condensation. Where such condensation may occur, to take care to promptly wipe down and clean surfaces as required from time to time to stop the build up of mould growth or damage to the premises, its fixtures and fittings. In the event if any damage caused by mould or condensation, to pay the Landlord on demand any costs incurred by the Landlord in repairing or making good the affected area(s).
Now I had look in the first year contract there is the exact same paragraph but without the last sentence. So, obviously after reporting the problem during the first year she decides to add this sentence to the same paragraph hoping that we don’t spot. Yes, it was hard to spot as the contract looks the same, the clause begins with the standard text, she didn’t say a word about the change.
Additionally, I found out that she hasn’t given us a Gas Certificate for the past 2 years. I did email her on Monday but have no reply since so I reported her today to the Environmental Health Department in the area.
I know that she can not take our deposit and we will go through a dispute with her. But I would like to find out the following:
Is the tenancy agreement with the added by her sentence enforceable? And if not, can we claim the difference in the rents ( we’ve paid £800 pcm first year and £825 for the second) So if the second contract is not in force, then should it be the first one automatically renewed?
Is it going to cause a problem for us as we’ve signed it?
Can we be compensated somehow for the reason that she clearly tries to cheat us: knowing about the problem and then asking us to pay for it. (any amount she demands)
She’s also put in her vacating letter to us that we have installed a CCTV camera without her permission. We haven’t done that. We’ve only put a fake/toy camera by the door so to scares off people. There;s been a robbery next door. But why she didn’t ask about what is that camera in front and straight away accuses us. Lots of stress to go through.
(Note I have cut some of the extensive narrative provided as it was not strictly speaking relevant. TS)
The tenancy agreement.
If you signed the second tenancy agreement then I am afraid you are bound by it. With tenancy law there are no special consumer ‘get out’ rules such as the cooling off period you get with some other types of contract. You really have to be careful and make sure you agree with what you are signing. Once you have signed you can only cancel the agreement with the consent of the landlord.
So you are bound by the new rent.
I have not seen the whole of your agreement but I suspect it has a clause somewhere saying that your landlord is entitled to deduct the reasonable cost to her if you breach any of the terms of the tenancy agreement. In which case the last sentence of the other clause would have been unnecessary.
It may also have been unwise. Not every clause in a tenancy agreement is valid. Under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, a landlord cannot say she can charge what she likes for things. She can only charge a ‘reasonable’ sum.
So as the word ‘reasonable’ is missing from the clause in your agreement, it is arguable that it may be void under the regulations. Because the landlord is not entitled to ANY costs, she is only entitled to REASONABLE costs.
So you need to provide evidence to the Adjudicator (in the deposit adjucation) showing that the sums claimed by her are unreasonably high (assuming that they are).
I am not sure exactly what you mean by a vacating letter. However if your landlord has just sent you a letter asking you to go, this is not legally enforceable unless it complies with the rules set out in section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
So long as you remove the fake toy and make good before you leave she should not be able to claim anything against you.