This time of year should be all about cosying up at home. But if you’ve got problems with your rented property, and your landlord or letting agent is refusing to make repairs, home could be the last place you want to be.
For over a month, I’ve been trying (and failing) to get the heating fixed at my new flat.
My landlord has been full of excuses. I’ve sent her a formal letter, and I’m looking into arranging a visit from an engineer myself.
Each night I’ve had to layer up for bed in my onesie, woolly hat, scarf and thermal socks, and I’ve had to buy an electric heater, which I’m worried about leaving on overnight as my power sockets are a bit dodgy, too.
I might dread going back to a fridge at night, but if I was elderly or frail, the cold could be dangerous. Browsing recent news tells countless stories of people putting up with conditions that are much, much worse – and more tenants are battling for action and compensation from negligent landlords.
When housing is scarce and we’re all paying more for rent, I don’t believe this is acceptable. For many, moving isn’t an affordable option and there’s a real worry that ‘complaining’ might lead to rent rises to cover costs of repairs, or worse, threats of eviction.
The search for affordable housing is hard enough, but ‘affordable’ shouldn’t mean substandard. Landlords need to be held accountable for providing basic needs.
Taking legal action
Are the problems you’re facing a threat to your safety or affecting your health? If you’ve repeatedly raised your concerns with your landlord to no avail and exhausted all other avenues, such as contacting Environmental Health, taking legal action could be an option.
Before considering this, read the terms of your tenancy agreement to check what your landlord, letting agent or housing authority is responsible for, and whether you’re entitled to claim for the work to be carried out.
Generally, tenants have a right to accommodation that’s kept in a reasonable state of repair. Your landlord has a responsibility to maintain your property, including the walls, roof, external doors and windows, as well as interior essentials such as sinks, toilets, drainage, electrical outlets and gas appliances.
Your type of tenancy can also affect your right to make claims. For example, if you live in a property and share space in the house with the landlord, you may have fewer entitlements than a tenant who rents their own private space.
You may be able to claim compensation if an issue has caused damage to your property, for example, a leak has ruined your furniture. If you haven’t been able to use part of your home due to disrepair, you could claim a reduction in rent, known as abatement.
You may also be entitled to compensation if you can prove that a problem has directly affected your health, although this process is complicated.
If you intend to seek legal support, it’s important to keep records of all formal correspondence with your landlord regarding the issue and collect as much evidence as possible, including photos.
Have you got ongoing issues your landlord isn’t resolving? Have you ever taken legal action against a landlord?