Monday, 29 October 2012

Repairing Relationship

Repairs are a nightmare. Even if you wake up surfing dancing geysers of sewage newly erupted the lounge, many landlords are reluctant to do much about it. The problem festers, as does the flat.

There are some good landlords out there, but many won’t mend stuff if they don’t want to. The grim fact is that after months of justified requests, the landlord might – entirely by coincidence – urgently ‘require the house for relatives’. This is the easiest legal ploy to evict ‘troublemakers,’ i.e. the landlord name for tenants wilful enough to need repairs, however urgent, necessary, and reasonable. Too many homes are uninhabitable: rickety, squalid and damp.

But even if the damage will lead to the house collapsing within days, they really can’t be bothered. The easiest way is to offer to sort it out yourself. Arrange for several high-end contractors to supply written estimates for the task, and politely send off the most expensive, with a note explaining how you appreciate your landlord is very busy, but the property is being damaged by the leak/whatever, so can you have permission to proceed? Sometimes this spurs them into action.

The disruption, discomfort, and health hazards of a damaged flat can drive you crazy. My list of disasters is legendary: the lounge window nailed shut during a heatwave, the leaking ceiling which collapsed, spilling a mouldy waterfall all over my telly. An gas boiler which the landlord’s nominated contractor (and horrified friend) reported to the council. The dangerous shower installed by our landlord’s ‘cousins,’ which could have electrocuted my flatmate.

Landlords often take even the most reasonable requests as a personal slight. One actually whined that he had ‘…even bought us a mop.’ We were, he said: ‘Living in his home, and who had brought us up to be so rude.’ Patiently and wearily, I explained the we pay the rent/he does the repairs bargain.

Another landlord lived in a different city, and if I ever made contact (like sending a telegram to Mars) he’d ask me to sort it myself, and send him the bill. There was no guarantee he’d pay, so commissioning work was worrisome, but in other respects he left well alone, which has much to recommend it.

I was contacted by a reader, whose home has a massive ‘gap’ between the basement and the ground floor flat. It’s freezing - probably rotting the structure, but the agents insist the place was ‘rented as seen’ which is utter bul…rubbish. She’s starting the process of enforcement, which will lead to a nasty surprise for her appalling landlady.

My lowest point haunts me still. I was living in a large, gothic student house, like something from The Munsters. The bedroom was cold. My sleep was often troubled, and one night violent blizzards entered my troubled dreams. As I slept, the glass in the bedroom window had blown out during a winter storm, leaving a gaping hole. I awoke with actual snow blowing onto my face, little drifts settling on my pillow.
When I asked for a repair, the landlord said: ‘Make me…’
And gave me notice me when I did.


Anonymous said...

Hello RenterGirl,

"the landlord might – entirely by coincidence – urgently ‘require the house for relatives’. This is the easiest legal ploy to evict ‘troublemakers,’ "

There is no ground for possession for a landlord requiring to house relatives. The closest one is mandatory ground 1 when a landlord (or spouse) requires to live there and that doesn't get used very often.

Full list of grounds here;

Landlords would simply use a no fault, no reason, no disrepair counter claim, Section 21 notice. No ploy required.

Now that is a can of worms but it has become the only way landlords have a reasonable chance of success in gaining a possession order, however bad the tenants behaviour may be.

Regards, HBWelcome.

RenterGirl said...

I understand that when there is an AST, and it has time to run, the owners must provide a reason, or pay the difference? And yes, I know, we all know, that there is no need other than that for a reason.

Anonymous said...

Hello RenterGirl,

That's not how I understand it (and I'm pretty sure I'm right).

Provided the tenant abides by the AST (and obviously that the landlord was legit in the first place), then the tenant has the right to stay in the property until the end of the agreement, come what may.
-And rightly so.
(With the proviso of the unusual and mostly unenforceable grounds in the earlier link).

A landlord can offer a bung to a tenant to end a tenancy early 'by mutual surrender' but a tenant has no legal obligation to accept.

Regards, HBWelcome.

Anonymous said...

Winge winge winge winge bloody winge

Anonymous said...

With the up comming regulation of the letting agents fees in mind I was pleased as a private landlord myself, and never thinking about this because I don't use agents to be reminded on the private landlord directory Facebook page that tenants can ask letting agents for the landlord/property ownders name and address and must recieve a reply within 21 days under the landlord and tenant act 1985.
They have to give no reason for the request and they ( private landlord directory) believe it may save a lot of tenants money by negotiating a private let.I think this has been overlooked by such as the Shelter campaign against letting fees.Shelter I think should provide a standard form to download on their website ,I have said the same about their (PLD)facebook page too but as yet no form has been posted to download

RenterGirl said...

Anonymous above - I agree, but many landlords for some reason feel protected by agents, even though if things do go wrong they do nothing.

Other anonymous: whinge? Grow up. When you've been moved on every six for ten years, you would complain as well as some of my readers.

Arnie from Newington said...

The simple answer is too make tenants responsible for the maintenance whilst they stay in a property in the same manner as renting commercial property.

Dazzla said...

Is it, Arnie? How would that help then?

RenterGirl said...

Arnie: you're trolling. In commercial property tenants of (eg) shops profit from the premises, and run a business on it. Tenants just want to live in a home, and the business is run by the Rentier charging them to live in it, who profits from the rent they pay, in consideration of it being properly maintained. I'm trying to be patient. *Good grief*

Arnie from Newington said...

Hi RG thanks for your reply, I think the point I am making is despite your many protests to the contrary the reason that landlords are responsible for repairs and safety checks are because they are responsible people.

Commercial tenants are also responsible and that is why commercial property leases are mostly let on a full repairing and insuring lease.

If as you claim that it is the tenants who are responsible people and the landlords who are irresponsible people then why not start letting residential property on a full repairing and insuring lease?

I don't think disagreeing is trolling.

Anonymous said...

why not start letting residential property on a full repairing and insuring lease?

You already can, it's called leasehold (with all the problems that entails).
It's not suitable for short term lets, mobility, low income or many other situations.
It's not a good solution, more akin to saying if you don't like renting then buy.


RenterGirl said...

Anon: what on earth do you mean? 'Responsible people'? Only in that they are responsible for repairs. But they don't always do them. Like I said: they profit from their investment, not tenants. That's what business rental agreements sometimes make the tenant responsible. You are man with an axe to grind...

Arnie from Newington said...

RG: I disagree that I profit from my tenants, if anything I subsidise my tenants.

If a tenant afford can't afford to buy a property then how then can the rent they pay cover all of the landords expenditure.

However I am happy to subsidise my tenants as I view my properties as my pension.

I do have sympathy for your generation as when I bought my first flat (to live in) in 1997 property was relatively cheap. However following another decision made in that year property inflation went through the roof until 2006.

This I believe is the root of the problem and unfortunately there is nothing that I can do about it.

I can understand the anger of your generation but feel that this should be directed at the person who made the decision in 1997 that caused house price inflation to go through the roof rather than sniping at landlords.

RenterGirl said...

You said it yourself Arnie: those tenants are subsidising your pension - you are not 'subsidising' them. They pay rent for an essential service ie a home. You get the benefit and profit of increasing equity. Eventually. That's what investment is all about.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rentergirl,

We've just had a nasty repair issue with our letting agent and have spent three nights without access to our bedroom.

On Friday evening we discovered that the barrel in the bedroom door had broken.The door was closed so we couldn't get in. I telephoned the agent and spoke to a smug bastard who had actually been very rude to us on a previous occasion over renewing our contract. He said they wouldn't send out a contractor on the Friday night because they would have to pay them time and a half. He suggested we have a go at it with a screwdriver, which we had already tried. He suggested we email their repairs address and I told him the laptop was in the bedroom so we wouldn't be emailing. I stressed that we couldn't access the bedroom. He put the phone down on me.

I called him again on Saturday. He said nothing would be done until today (Monday) - he hadn't mentioned on the Friday evening that it would be Monday and not Saturday! Again I stressed that we could not access the bedroom and he said there's nothing he could do as it would cost them £45 to send a contractor. I reminded him that we had just paid him an astonishing fee of £90 to renew a contract and asked if he had even contacted the landlord to seek permission to do it now which he had not. I suggested to him that if the landlord has any empathy, they will probably authorise it now. I asked him what he would do if it was his home... The smug twat said, "Well I own my own home". I told him that we have no access to clothes, bedding etc because it's all in the bedroom. He said there's nothing they could do. I argued that it is not reasonable to expect us to go without a bedroom for 72 hours. He told me he was terminating the call and put the phone down (but hey, at least he told me he was terminating the call this time!).

We've spent two nights in a hotel and one night in a colleague's spare room. We were both working Saturday and today so we needed to sleep!

They have now fixed it. It actually only took a contractor 30 seconds to open the door using a file to turn the mechanism. Alright if you know what you're doing. Putting a new barrel in is easy enough and in fact I could do that myself - just not when the door is closed!

I sought advice from Shelter. They told me about Section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. I'm also going to make a request for my landlord's name and address and Section 1 of that statute.

We have no intention to stay because we simply don't want to be customers of this particular agency. Unfortunately there is no break clause in our tenancy agreement, but we're going to see if we can come to a mutual decision to leave anyway. (I'm sure the agent will jump at the chance to charge a new tenant £150 plus £50 for a subsequent tenant to move in!)

We're going to write a complaint to the agent. Depending how that works out, we'll take it further if we have to. We really don't think that it's reasonable for us to have been without access to our bedroom for three nights. I'd not be bothered if it were a cupboard or something, but the bedroom is one of the fundamental aspects of a dwelling really... without it you could argue that it is uninhabitable.


Lee & Tom