This is a question to the blog clinic from Elsa (not her real name) who is a tenant.
I would like to ask for advice on what actions I can take for repairs in my rented flat. When I viewed the flat and signed the contract, it looked excellent. When I moved in, many things were broken and I have fought with a lettings agency to resolve these over the last 5 months, during which I have been paying full rent. Most of the house’s facilities were unusable and required repairs, which were done extremely slowly, after I called/emailed this agency 5-10 times a day and only one issue at a time. This is a flat managed by a lettings agency.
The main “issue” the agency claims with this is that they cannot do any repairs without Landlord approval. At the same time, they refuse to give me any contact details of the Landlord saying that they act as Landlord legally. This way, I cannot get my complaints through to the Landlord, I cannot repair and deduct from the rent because the agency replies to my requests saying they did not get an answer from the Landlord yet, and also the Landlord who is paying for this agency to manage the flat remains unaware of the bad service they provide.
Could you please provide advice on the legal rights and expectations of the Landlord, lettings agency and Tenant in this case? As I have been living for 5 months with broken things and took several days of holiday from work to deal with 20+ repairmen visits, I would ideally like to seek compensation for these delays as well as have a legal defense in repairing the remaining items and being able to deduct them from rent. Could you please tell me what would be possible in this case?
There are a number of things you can do, which I will discuss below.
However, before I start I should warn you that some landlords will be unhappy about allowing a tenant who is constantly complaining about the condition of the property (even though this may be justified) to remain. You may, therefore, find that they are unwilling to renew your tenancy at the end of the term and you may even be served a section 21 notice.
This is not inevitable and most landlords will want to avoid the expense and bother of having to find a new tenant particularly if you pay your rent promptly and are looking after the property.
There are now circumstances where a landlord can’t terminate a tenancy where the tenant has complained about disrepair, but this is only where the Local Authority serve an Improvement Notice which they are unlikely to do unless the disrepair is serious. Which does not sound like it is the case for your flat.
You will find the ‘anti-retaliatory eviction’ rules discussed here.
The Landlord’s address
The agents are probably right when they say that they cannot do work without the landlord’s consent as letting agents are generally given strict financial limits for repair works beyond which they cannot go without permission.
They may also not wish to bother the landlord – the reason landlords employ letting agents to deal with their properties is after all because the landlord does not want to do it himself.
However, you do have the right to know who your landlord is and to have his address. This is set out in s1 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 which I explain here. I would suggest you write to the agents requesting that they provide your landlord’s address within 21 days as set out in that post.
I point out in that article that the punishment for non-compliance is a prosecution in the Magistrates Court – which may be difficult for you to enforce. However, you also now have the right to complain to your agent’s Property Redress Scheme – see below on this. So I suggest that when writing, you also say that you will be bringing a complaint to if the details are not provided.
Doing the works yourself
As you point out, there is always the option of doing things yourself and claiming the money back from the landlord out of your rent.
You do have certain rights (see here), but it is important that you follow the rules. I explain these here but essentially you need to give the landlord time to do the work and provide at least three estimates before you do anything yourself.
Be aware that you are only entitled to do this for things which the landlord is under an obligation to keep in repair. This can either be under s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 or under your contact – so make sure you read it carefully and see what it says.
Another problem is if the landlord then seeks to deduct the money you offset against the rent, from your deposit at the end of the tenancy. If this happens, you must not use the deposit adjudication scheme as this is not something they are authorised to deal with and so will find against you. You will have to claim your deposit back through the Small Claims court.
For this reason, it is essential that you keep all proof and correspondence regarding the disrepair and what you did. So if you need to go to court you will be able to prove to the Judge that you were in the right.
Complaint to the Property Redress Scheme
Finally, your letting agent will need to be a member of a Property Redress Scheme and this is somewhere you can complain to and seek compensation if you feel you are getting nowhere.
All three schemes have excellent websites and you will find guidance on how to bring a complaint there.
Note however that you must show that you have tried to resolve the matter with the agent before your claim can be accepted. So you need to have copies of all correspondence and emails sent to them. I would suggest you keep a diary of events, including records of all telephone calls and meetings.
This is sadly quite a common problem and it is often much more difficult than it should be for tenants to get these issues resolved.
However, things are a bit better for tenants now all agents are obliged to belong to a Property Redress Scheme and at the very least you should be able to get them to provide your landlord’s address.