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Our landlord's a tosser, do we have any rights?

(50 Posts)
WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 15:34:53

We've been renting a house since Oct 03. It will do until we move to somewhere bigger, which we hope will be at the end of 05. We were renting through an agent, all fine.

In November 04 the landlord wrote us a crappy little handwritten letter (didn't even use our names) saying "we've ceased our contract with <estate agents> please send your cheque to this address by the xth of each month. A new contract is being drawn up and as soon as I have it I will send it on." The landlord, incidentally, came round once in about July when the boiler was broken, looked at it, said it needed replacing and only then admitted he was one of the landlords (they're a couple) - we'd been told a plumber was coming. Cheeky f*er but I suppose that's by the by, still, it didn't impress me. I wrote to them saying yes, I'll arrange a dd, please send me bank details. They wrote back with bank details (using our names this time) and saying 'sorry for delay, we have a baby and life is hectic'. Well, I don't care, I've got 2 children and I pay you rent so aaaggggh.

Anyway, I wrote back again (early Dec) saying happy to pay rent but only once we have a new written tenancy agreeement as we're sure you understand that we don't want to live here without anything in writing. So far we've held December's rent, due 1st Dec. It's there ready to pay to them when they comply. Anyway, we haven't heard from them and today our pilot light went off and we faced the prospect of no heating or hot water (sorry this is soooo boring I know). Tried all 3 numbers we have for them and no reply. Dp has managed to get it working but actually, the boiler needs replacing and they should have done it before now imo. It took dp ages and was a PITA. I'm pissed off but is there anything I can do other than write a letter saying they need

a) to provide a written tenancy agreement NOW
b) to provide a new boiler and emergency contact numbers

The letter I've written so far says (reasonably politely) sort it or we're moving out but I'm so bloody cross, any advice appreciated. TIA.

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 15:36:22

Apologies for bad language btw.

JudgeFlounce Thu 30-Dec-04 15:38:39

Message deleted

mooncrumbs Thu 30-Dec-04 15:40:31

That is appalling, I think you do have rights here. Have you tried the CAB, I wouldn't pay a penny until you have a tenancy agreement from them, did the agent not contact you to let you know that they wern't dealing with them anymore? I'm sure it is also against the law to rent a property where the gas appliances haven't been safety checked every 6months, it could be leaking carbon monoxide into the air!

DelGirl Thu 30-Dec-04 15:43:54

so they didn't replace the boiler earlier in the year? I think it's perfectly reasonable to want a new agreement before you pay up. Trouble is, obviously you need the boiler sorted now and would therefore have to pay for the repair unless the plumber was willing to bill the landlord direct. If you pay the bill, i'm not sure where you stand on getting it back unless you write it off against the rent you owe. But the, the landlord could try and get you out for not paying and saying you shouldn't have got it fixed without their knowledge. I'm being no help whatsoever am I, just trying to put down all scenarios. I'm sure some legal bod will be around to help you with this, far better than I can.

DelGirl Thu 30-Dec-04 15:46:54

mooncrumbs, can say without doubt that gas appliances have to be checked annually. It's still c&ap having to put up with this. I assume you have a safety certificate for the boiler www? or the landlord must be able to provide one as he'll be in BIG trouble if not.

mooncrumbs Thu 30-Dec-04 15:49:24

To be honest, without a valid tenancy agreement, there is no contract at all between you and the landlords, therefore, he doesn't have to do anything for you and you do not have to pay him rent at all, there is nothing to say you have to pay him a penny and if he tried to evict you for non-payment of rent he wouldn't have a leg to stand on as by law there is nothing legally binding to say you actually have to pay x amount on x date, you need to get proper advice about this asap IMO!

DelGirl Thu 30-Dec-04 15:56:11

forgot to add that to my useless bit of blurb mooncrumbs

eefs Thu 30-Dec-04 15:58:40

WWW - that's a bit cr@p, esp in this weather.

anyway I think you also need
c)remind them that they are in breach of the health & safety law (don't know which one, W&R?) regarding annual safety certificate for gas appliances - I presume you don't have one.
d)provide suitable accomodation until the boiler is fixed as the house is not habitable / potentially unsafe (see above, the threat of this additional cost might get them to move a bit faster)

all in a nice polite way of course.

just curious about this one - if you started your tenency through an agency, surely then your contract is with the agency and not the landlord - can he just step in and change it like that?

philippat Thu 30-Dec-04 16:01:38

hmm, not sure, I assume your contract with through the agent was still WITH the landlord rather than the agent? If so, and if it was shorthold assured, even a continuation, it will still apply. If you withold rent, you put yourself in a difficult position.

We went through exactly the same thing about 5 years ago when our landlord disappeared for several months and something needed mending on the central heating. I went to the CAB and was pretty shocked that basically the tenant is in a crap position. I ended up getting it fixed, subtracting that amount from the rent and sending copies of everything recorded delivery. (I deducted the cost of that too).

I seem to remember the Shelter website was pretty helpful, but basically, get yourself down the CAB asap.

Be wary of being too rude in a letter - getting two months notice to leave is so not what you need!

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 16:12:15

Thank you all. No, they didn't replace the boiler earlier in the year but it does have a current gas safety cert. However, I'm pretty sure this was provided before it broke last time, but I'm not 100% sure, I need to check. I've drafted a letter, what do you think? It's too shitty isn't it? I'm fairly sure they want to keep us as tenants, the last scrappy letter said 'can I reiterate that I have no intention of changing the rent or giving you notice - I am more than happy to continue as we are if you are.' The answer to which is of course that I'm not! Letter below:

Dear

We are writing as we have called and left messages for you today and tried your mobile number and all the numbers we have for you but have been unable to get hold of you.

We are concerned that we have not yet had a new tenancy agreement as requested in our letter to you of 10th December 2004. We want to pay our rent for December but we don’t want to live here without a written tenancy agreement.

I am more concerned though about the fact that when our central heating and hot water were not working earlier today we were unable to get hold of you. When we were renting through ??? we were given emergency numbers for call outs during holiday periods.

We have two small children and it is totally unacceptable to be without heating or hot water. When Mr x visited about six months ago he agreed that the boiler needed replacing but this has still not been done.

We really do need these issues resolving as soon as possible. If they are not and we don’t hear from you shortly we will be giving notice and looking for somewhere else to live.

Yours sincerely

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 16:13:41

mooncrumbs, is that right, there's no legal contract between us at all atm without a new agreement being signed? Eeek! I hate the sound of all this and even more that you say it's all in the landlord's favour PhillipaT.

JudgeFlounce Thu 30-Dec-04 16:14:29

Message deleted

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 16:15:32

So should we pay the rent? Happy to if it puts us in a bad position not to pay it. But OTOH I don't want ANY hassle, I just want them to be a bit more organised, give us an agreement and proper contact nos, a new boiler and let us live here in peace!

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 16:18:03

Well all right judge flounce, you don't need to tell me not to be stupid. These people don't appear to want to do anything unless I put a rocket up them so it seemed reasonable to me at the time. Unless they sort it out we will just move house. Although I'd rather do it in my own time I also don't want to live somewhere with a dodgy boiler and one of the upsides of renting is that a boiler is not my problem.

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 16:18:58

And I didn't know it weakened my position which is why I was asking for advice here. I don't expect to be called stupid tbh.

mooncrumbs Thu 30-Dec-04 16:20:29

You'd have to check your original tenancy agreement, check the exact wording of it, whether it is still valid. What sort of contract was it, shorthold etc? As the agents had a solicitor write it up on their behalf, I cannot see how it is still valid for the landlord. That is the whole point of going through an agent, you contact them and they contact the landlord, obviously he was too tight to pay the agent the fees! What contact have you had with the agents?

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 16:21:28

No contact from the agent at all mooncrumbs.

WideWebWitch Thu 30-Dec-04 16:21:55

<sigh> I'm going to have to read the agreement aren't I? OK, will do.

JudgeFlounce Thu 30-Dec-04 16:23:46

Message deleted

softymom Thu 30-Dec-04 16:27:18

I could be wrong (not lawyer - but rented our flat out for a while so got info from Which? Guide to Renting and Letting), but I think that until you get a new contract from your Landlord, your previous agreement (given to you by the agency) is still valid. However, it changes from being assured shorthold (assuming the period has passed) into being a rolling contract, whereby you and the landlord only give 1 months notice. I don't think the rent or anything else can be changed.

Could you check with the previous agent to clarify your position? And while you're at it - see if they have an alternative place you could move to on your books. If you've been good tenants, I don't think your landlord is going to want to find somebody new in Feb (useless time to find tenants!).

Probably good idea to find out/check who is giving you your deposit back at this point (officially the landlord holds it, but agencies usually suck it up in their fees so the landlord might be reluctant to cough up - so could be an idea to not pay final month's rent).

Good luck. Hope it all works out. Awful having no heating and hot water at this time of year.

Kaz33 Thu 30-Dec-04 16:34:09

Your existing contract was with your landlord and will therefore continue to apply. In order for them to terminate ( if assured shorthold tenancy - which it is bound to be ) they need to give you 2 months written notice. You would need to give 1 months written notice to terminate your contract. Do not withold rent, no point. You do not need a new contract and if they wish to impose a new contract on you then they need to give you the requisite 2 months notice.

An agent is just what the word implies, an agent working on behalf of someone, you have no contract with the agent.

Ex- commercial property solicitor here, afraid knowledge of residential property law is old and ropey so can give no advice on the boiler. Speak to the CAB, they must deal with this scenario all the time.

DelGirl Thu 30-Dec-04 16:53:15

judgeflounce, are you going to let us know who made your blood boil. I'd sure like to know if it was me as i'd hate to give out duff info when just trying to help, cheers

Freckle Thu 30-Dec-04 17:28:23

WWW, worry not. You do have a tenancy agreement with your landlord. If a new one has not been drawn up, then the terms of the previous one will continue to apply. This means that you have to pay rent and your landlord has to comply with certain contractual and statutory obligations. If your landlord is refusing to carry out essential repairs, then there are a number of remedies available to you - one of which is withholding rent to pay for the repairs. However, there is a very strict procedure which needs to be followed when doing this and I would not advise it without being totally sure of what you are doing. Withholding rent gives your landlord an immediate right to evict you as you are in breach of your contractual obligations. If you want to know the procedure for withholding rent to pay for repairs, let me know and I'll post it.

LIZS Thu 30-Dec-04 17:39:01

agree with kaz33, delgirl, softymum and phillippat that my understandign is that a contract would still run until superseded by another - although would be grateful for confirmation/correction by Judge Flouce. The contract is between tenant and landlord, not agent, although this may then vary the account itno which the rent is paid. Wouldn't have thought the date rent is due etc could be changed without a new agreement though.

Do you have a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate and who arranged it - when is it due for renewal? As landlords/occupants we have a British Gas service contract to cover just such a problem. You should continue to pay rent but there was a thread a while back as to how to go about complaining. It is a little long winded and may not be of much use in your circumstances.
Have a look here, and scroll down to paragraph beginning "If the landlord has not carried out repairs .." and read on

hth

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