Here is a question to the blog clinic fast track from William (not his real name) who is a tenant:
My enquiry concerns tenants’ rights when the letting agent withholds information about planned construction work to take place during the tenancy period.
When my partner and I signed a 12-month tenancy for a London flat in July 2018, we had to insist on having a 6+2-month break clause, which wasn’t initially included. Three months into the tenancy, we understood why this was: between the fourth and twelfth months of the tenancy period, the entire estate our flat is part of would undergo cladding replacement – something that was known to the landlords, and presumably also the letting agents, since January 2018, according to paperwork provided to me by the housing development company. However, the agency had never mentioned the cladding replacement plans.
Through email correspondence prior to signing the tenancy agreement, my partner and I had expressed our desire to find a property that was in a quiet area. Moreover, the agency was made aware via email that I work from home as a writer, which they acknowledged and said was OK.
The noise level of the construction work has been an increasing problem, but we decided to put up with it for now, as we really like the flat. But with the scaffolding now having reached our floor, the noise is intolerable and doesn’t allow me to work in peace. And at least six more months of repair-work noise await us.
Since we found out about the cladding replacement, circa 3 months have passed. We have now mentioned to the agency we are considering our options, including activating the break clause. We have therefore asked about the costs we’d incur, as we’d be leaving the property four-to-five months before the end of the 12-month tenancy.
However, we’re not sure where we stand in terms of our rights as tenants, nor how we could proceed, considering we’re in this situation because the agency failed to inform us of key information. We would not have taken this flat had we known about the planned repair works.
There are a number of options available to you. Let’s take a look at them
Misrepresentation and unwinding the tenancy
There has long been a right for people to claim for ‘misrepresentation’ and there is now also a right for tenants to ‘unwind’ or end a tenancy through the courts if they have been induced to enter into it by some sort of unfair practice. Such as concealing a problem – in your case the fact that noisy cladding works were to be carried out.
Unfortunately for you though, you need to exercise these rights promptly or you will be deemed to have accepted or ‘affirmed’ the contract.
So far as the right to unwind the tenancy is concerned, for example, you need to apply to the court during the first 90 days of the tenancy (and ideally during the first 30 days when you can reclaim all monies paid). So this option is no longer available to you.
You will find a brief guide to misrepresentation from Which here.
Excessive noise levels in living accommodation is illegal and is one of the ‘hazards’ looked at by Council Environmental Health Officers when carrying out a ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System’ assessment.
So complaining to your Council is one of the options available to you. There is now a useful noise app which you can use to record noise levels.
The main problem though is getting your Council to do anything about it as most do not have enough staff to deal with the housing issues in their area.
Still, I would recommend that you start recording the noise as of now with the noise app as it always helps to have evidence of these things.
The break clause
As it is obviously going to be impossible for you to end the cladding works, if the noise is intolerable, your best option will be to end the tenancy and move out.
You mention that your tenancy agreement has a six months break clause so I suggest you action this, it now being six months into the tenancy.
You don’t give the wording of the clause but note that it is important that you do exaactly what it says. For example, if it requires two months notice in writing you need to give two months notice in writing. So read it carefully.
Complaints to a Property Redress Scheme
The final thing to discuss is your right to complain about the agents to their Property Redress Scheme.
All letting agents must belong to one of the two schemes or they will be trading illegally. They must give the name and logo of the scheme they belong to on their headed paper emails, website and in their premises, so check which scheme is being used by your landlord’s agents.
There are two schemes:
- The Property Ombudsman (TPO), and
- The Property Redress Scheme
You can read our article about them here.
Note that you can only apply to the Property Redress Scheme after you have failed to resolve a dispute with the agents directly. You will find guidance on the procedures and the forms on the scheme’s website.
The Ombudsman has the power to award up to £25,000 compensation and I don’t see why you should not request some compensation from the agents. For example something towards the costs of moving.
The agents have clearly withheld information from you and acted in an unfair manner – particularly as you specifically told them you needed somewhere quiet as you are a writer. Which happily you will be able to prove as you have your email correspondence.
Whatever you do it is always best to have proper proof and paperwork. So I suggest you prepare a chronology showing what happened in the past and also from now on keep a diary. You can use this to record all meetings, conversations and telephone calls with the agents on this issue and also the noise levels which you will also be recording with the noise app.
This will be very useful for you if you need to make a complaint to your agents Property Redress Scheme.