This is a question to the blog clinic from Kate who is a tenant.
Private landlord who is not maintaining the property despite receiving a total of £3200 pm from 7 students. Issues include
-water dripping from poor plumbing in bathroom through light fitting and smoke alarm of kitchen below
-kitchen ceiling plasterboard falling into kitchen due to the plasterboard being wet
Each time an issue is reported he puts a sticking plaster on it and says it’s fine.
Can we get a rent review and seek compensation?
Can we withhold rent?
The quick answer to your questions are, I am afraid, no and no.
The only circumstances where you can refer your rent for review are during the first six months of the tenancy (if it is above a market rent) and after your landlord has served a statutory notice of rent increase on you under s13 of the Housing Act 1988. You cannot ask for a review due to the poor condition of the property.
The fact that the property is in poor repair also does not entitle you, as of right, to withhold rent. If your landlord brings a claim against you for possession of the property based on rent arrears, you would be able to claim compensations and offset this against the arrears but I suspect that the compensation you would be awarded is less than you think.
It would be unlikely to be 100% of your rent and so even if an award was made in your favour you would still risk a possession order being made – depending on the level of the arrears.
NB, We have a video snippet which explains exactly how tenants compensation is calculated in disrepair claims which is explained here.
So what can you do?
Compensation deduction from your rent
You could find out what the level of compensation is likely to be and just withhold that amount. This would reduce the risk of a possession order being made on the basis of rent arrears.
Note that if you do this, you should insist on any dispute regarding your deposit being dealt with through the courts as deposit adjudicators are not authorised to deal with this sort of tenant claim and would probably award in favour of your landlord.
Note also that you would not be able to do anything to stop your landlord bringing a claim for possession based on section 21 (assuming he had complied with all the various requirements – for example regarding protection of your deposit and obtaining a license if this is a licensable HMO).
Getting an HHSRS inspection done
You could also ask your Local Authority Environmental Health dept to carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating Survey (HHSRS). If they find any ‘category one’ hazards (and it sounds from what you say as if they would) then they will require your landlord to put them right
Your property is almost certainly an HMO and there are extra health and safety regulations which your landlord is clearly not complying with.
If the works are not done and if the Council then serve an improvement notice on your landlord then he will not be able to serve a valid section 21 notice on you for the next six months, and any earlier notice served on you after you made a complaint about the same issues set out in the improvement notice will become invalid.
Note however that this will not apply if your tenancy or its last renewal, started or took place before 1 October 2015. There is also nothing to stop your landlord evicting you under section 21 after the six months period has expired.
The rules protecting tenants in the case of poor repair of their property are not really satisfactory even with the new ‘anti-retaliatory eviction’ rules discussed above.
I have only been able to outline the rules very briefly here and you may want to get some further advice. There are some places where you can get free advice listed in this post. You will also find a summary of the new rules in the 2015 Deregulation Act regarding section 21 notices here. Note that there may be other things you can do which are not covered in this post – for
Getting advice would be good as there may be other things you can do which are not covered in this post – for example, f your property is a licensable HMO and your landlord has not got an HMO license.
If you want to remain living in the property long term and you fear that your landlord will evict you if you take action about the repairs issues at your property then you may feel there is nothing you can do.
In which case you may want to speak to your MP about this and ask him what he (or she) is doing to ensure that tenants like you are protected in future.