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.