Here is a (rather long) question to the blog clinic from Andrew (not his real name) who is a protected tenant. I have removed names and locations from the question.
I have been a Protected tenant since 1980 at my home.
Ist landlord was the Methodist Church. I live in the upstairs of the property next to church, one time the manse.
Property was built, never maintained until I moved in. I got a new landlord in 1999, since then my rent has gone up by 280%. Two years ago leapt up by 14%. Complained to VOA, and loads of others. They considered the rent increase and all the previous rent increases fair by the Fair Rent Act. I disagree.
The new landlords refuse to anything unless I go to the Council Environmental Department. There have been about six enforced Notices in total placed on first and present landlords. Took me three years with present landlord to get a porch light. I finally had to go to several Councillors, to persuade landlord to allow! The present landlord only paid £73k for the whole of the property. Their are many more issues filling a memory stick of correspondence.
Now the problem, the floor in my home has bowed. There is movement in the floorboards shifting. I am the first to notice, being as I have live here and have for 35 years. I did not know, but the ceiling downstairs was cracked from one wall to other, and the other wall to to the other wall, like a “x”.
Seemed the perfect opportunity to remove the whole of the ceiling to inspect and add strengtheners. But no, just cut out the worst and fill the rest! Above the ceiling I am talking about in my home is a toilet a bathroom and a box room, further leads to a kitchen. apparently according to the landlord plumber, I am not lifting anymore floorboards. There is a complicated system of braceings. I am going to get poly…..instead of using copper pipes.
So I have an inch slope in less than two feet. It does not feel safe at all! I do not many baths now, and not much water when I do!
As the Environmental Health Officer, new to area two years and been in his job one year, told the tenants downstairs that, before the work was “done” that the ceiling was safe. It seems it never occurred to him to check the floor above. I managed to get the EHO to assist me with the problems I was having.
He said as I was without a tenancy agreement, I was a protected tenant. The landlord would have to put a radiator in the box room, the windows would all have to be renewed; they are rotten, And they would have to provide me with a complete new kitchen.
It appears that the landlord has big say in what goes on in my area, and the EHO Team Leader obviously has taken him aside and spoken to him as windows have not been renewed at all just painted, still stiff and draughty, the radiator has been “fitted”,
I only got permission from the first landlord to fit central heating. Supposed to keep rent down, but does not. And the kitchen will ow just have counter top replaced. Previous present landlord, builders managed to cut a groove in s/s sink and crack several tiles. Another put a hole in my bathroom blind.
However I have waited two months for legal aid via [solicitors], first lawyer took all my bank details and signatures and left, not placing them on their computer! I finally got a surveyor, who has not been in the attic, not been in the ground floor, nor has he investigated the foundations, as the church cellar next door is flooded.
Its now been two months, I have contacted the solicitor many times concerning the surveyor’s lack of investigations. He says it will —- him off. Oh I see better to —= me off, get a useless and incomplete report and waste public money!
I have tried to investigate myself. I have been in the loft to see if there is any movement there. I noticed that the chimney in the loft is missing some cement as there is a crack. The chimney’s on both sides of the building are leaning inwards.
Oh yes I have informed the landlord, on the 10th of October 2014. They say he is busy the maintenance man. He is supposed to be making an appearance on Monday 3rd of November.
This has been going on for months. Is there anything you can suggest? I do not feel safe using my washing machine. There is a family who live downstairs who seem to believe the council man.
OH yes I nearly forgot. In an attempt to get my home inspected by EHO, the new man, on the 21st of August, he said he would be on holiday, bank holiday, and his team leader would inspect on Tuesday the following week.
Now I contacted the local newspaper, with names of the council and phone #, and of my solicitor and phone #. They the newspaper in turn informed the council; and on the 22 of August The new man, phoned me and said.”Now that you have a solicitor and are getting a surveyor we are not inspecting.” Washing their hands of the matter.
On the next Monday I tried to phone the Team Leader. Still had “I will return on August the 5th” message, on his answering machine. Latter I get a phone call from someone who I have not contacted saying that the council have inspected my home and it is ok. AH but the next day I get a letter composed by this lady [name] and placed under the head of, GET THIS, Department for People Corporate Director.
The letter says that if I phone the council have the right to put the phone down on me. I am only attempting to insure that my home is safe which it is clearly not!
I have since spoken to another councillor I see in the community, he said he will find someone to deal with the matter.The people he tells me deny knowledge of the matter, or no its not my area. I go back to this councillor. HE SAYs someone at the council said you will have to contact the council through your solicitor. I ask this person name and he the councillor cannot remember? Is this a lifetime situation whereas I have to speak to council via a solicitor when needed?
QUESTION What is going to happen if the building does fall down. I wonder what sort of watergate will be invented.
Can you help assist me in anyway please?
I can understand your frustration with the Council. However you must understand that all Council’s are under tremendous pressure just now with their budgets being cut. Many have had to reduce their staff which means that fewer people are having to do the same work.
It is not surprising therefore that, learning that you have a solicitor, they decide that they are best using their time to help other tenants who do not have any other assistance.
Here are my thoughts on your case:
If you are a protected tenant you have the right to apply for a fair rent. You don’t actually say whether you have done this or not. However once you do – the rent you are charged can only be that set by the Rent Officer.
Landlords can apply to have the rent increased every two years, but the amount of the increase is limited by The Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999 – unless the landlord has done major repair and renovation work.
So I’m not sure how your landlord can increase the rent by 14%. Unless that falls within the increase allowed by the regulations (which is governed by a complicated calculation which I understand works out to about 10%).
If you do not have a fair rent, then rent increases are invalid unless the landlord complies with s51 of the Rent Act 1977 – this provides that the agreement must notify you of your right to apply for a fair rent.
So I suggest you check these.
However note that under these the landlord is only obliged to keep the property in repair. You cannot claim for things, such as a kitchen or the roof etc to be replaced or renewed. There have been cases which confirm this.
This is why it is OK for the landlord just to patch things up rather than replace them.
The local authority powers under the Housing Act 2004 (under which Environmental Health Officers carry out inspections as they did for you) are not limited in this way but these can only be enforced (so far as I am aware) by the Local Authority. So you are rather dependent on them taking action for you. For example, see here.
Note by the way, that your rights under s11 come under the Civil law and the local authority powers come under the Criminal law. You can read about the difference between the two here.
However if your repair issues in your property are such that they constitute a public nuisance and are prejudicial to health (for example if the ceiling is about to collapse) it is possible that you may be entitled to bring a prosecution under the Environmental Health Act – as was done on the basis of damp and mould as described here. This is something you may want to suggest to your solicitors.
Finally – you ask what would happen if the building fell down. If this was down to the landlords failure to carry out essential repair works, you would no doubt have a claim against them for compensation – at the very least for any personal injury you might suffer and for the loss of any of your belongings destroyed.
You would also probably get an award (possibly a substantial award) for the distress and inconvenience suffered, particularly if you were able to show that you had warned the landlords that this might happen and they had ignored you.
The landlord would probably also be obliged to re-house you.
I hope that has been of some help to you.