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Hi There. 

We are renting out our mothers bungalow to pay towards her care.

We have used a letting agent to manage the property.

We were told by the Letting agent that there was water coming through the ceiling and there was mould and damp. This seemed strange as there was no issues prior to them moving in and the agent themselves checked the property prior to the tenants moving in.

It transpired that the roofing felt had failed and a new roof was required. This was not covered by the building insurance as they see this as a maintenance issue (or lack of maintenance). I don't see how you can maintain a roof!!

Three to four weeks passed between us being informed of the issue to the work being completed. That includes getting three quotes. 

We checked the property and in fairness to the tenant it looks that the leak probably started in the fitted wardrobes however, they continued to keep their clothes in there. When the leak started to appear around the rooms they did not report the damp and it developed mould which again they did not report or even try to clean.

The tenant is saying that they want:

2 months rent free as compensation that includes: the stress that they experienced having to live in a house with a water leak and mould. They're also saying that they were not able to heat the house sufficiently due to the roofing felt perishing. 

The agent seem to be next to useless and are saying that we should give them something. My view is that the tenant is taking the mick but will put my hands up if I'm wrong.

I would really appreciate advice on this as I feel that we have acted very quickly and promptly with this.

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Just to make it clear, are they withholding rent or did they pay the rent for the period where the roof was leaking?

If they're withholding rent and you paid for the repairs, then no they can't do that. If they had to pay for repairs then they do have a right to withhold rent up to that value but it's a slippery legal slope for both of you.

If they've paid rent they may be trying to negotiate a rent reduction but reasonableness would be at each party's discretion. As a reasonable landlord, you should consider their request. I think 2 months free rent is pushing it as it doesn't sound like they were without usage of the property for this time. 

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They’ve not paid for November. 
we paid for the repairs and they’re not out of pocket. 
They continued to live in the house. We’ve really been more than reasonable. I don’t know what we’d be compensating them for. 
 

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They can't withhold rent from you, you'd have to go through your letting agents normal arrears process if they collect payment.

You'd have to prove that you've been reasonable in any dispute.

Providing you can prove that you acted as soon as it was reported to you, it simply taking a while wouldn't be deemed as unreasonable.

Edited by lolerz
Missed out part of first sentence.

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I think that there are a number of issues here to consider.
However the first thing to say is that I believe that it is possible to maintain a roof and felt roofs particularly need regular inspection – probably a couple of times a year to check for mould and general deterioration through strong sunlight. As a house owner I would have thought that it would be in your interest to keep a regular check on this kind of thing. I think that these are the responsibilities that come with property ownership otherwise the value of your property will simply deteriorate and instead of having to pay for minor repairs you have to pay for substantial work to be done – as you seem to be discovering now.

In terms of obligations as a landlord, if you look after the property as if it were your own in terms of regular maintenance, then there should be little problems with a tenant in respect of the condition of the property – so by looking after it, you are looking after your own interests and the interests of the people who are occupying the property and paying you money for it.

To the issue in hand:
The most important thing is whether they are long-term tenants? Whether you get on with them generally? Is it in your interests to keep them on as tenants in the future.

If you aren't bothered about them continuing their tenancy and you think the you could easily replace them then this would suggest oneParticular way forward – and you may even be able to increase the rent a little bit, depending on current market price.

It seems to me that the tenants have suffered some inconvenience and they may well be deserving of some kind of compensation. Two months rent could be rather a lot, in my view.
From what you say, they did very little to alert you or to protect themselves when they realise that there was an ingress of water. Even as tenants, they have a responsibility to the property – but despite that, your failure to inspect the roof and to maintain it, is the root cause of the issue.

We don't know what kind of relationship you have had with your tenant so far it seems to me that this issue is going to strain relations and you may not want them around any more.

In that case, I would suggest that maybe you offer them one months rent but also give them notice to leave and tell them that once they leave you will pay than the one months rent as well as the deposit which presumably you are holding in an account.
You say that they are withholding rent and that seems to me to be a basis for giving them notice anyway. However I would hope that you want to be fair to them and also you would like their leaving to be an easy matter with them leaving the property in good condition et cetera and so I think the one months compensation in return for them leaving is not a bad way to do it.
As I have said, this will give you the opportunity to increase the rent for new tenants if you want and also to have some serious words with the managing agent who you say is not doing a very good job. This could be the time to switch managing agent although I think you would be better off having a stern talk with the managing agent and telling them that you are thinking of switching because you are unsatisfied with what they have done so far and that you want written undertaking from them that they will manage the property correctly in future otherwise you will move on.

So, saying goodbye to your present tenants with a little sweetener/compensation could be enormously beneficial to you.

On the other hand, if you get on very well with the tenants and you expect that they are there for the long term, then you may well have to consider a more generous accommodation. There is no doubt in my mind that they do deserve some compensation. Maybe six weeks could be more appropriate – and maybe reduce the one months offer to 3 weeks if you want them to leave.

I think you definitely need to look at the long term. You need to decide whether you want to continue with the existing tenants and have a long-term good relationship with them, or you want to get rid of them and start off with new tenants and possibly a new managing agent.

I certainly wouldn't simply react in a defensive way because they are aggrieved about the condition of the property – and it seems from what you say, that you do have some responsibility in its deteriorating condition.

If you do decide to give notice to the tenants then before letting them know, I would go to the property and inspect it very thoroughly and take photographs of everything so that you are aware of the condition of the property before you give the notice.

I would hope that you took photographs of the property before you let it out – although I expect you didn't. Very few landlords seem to do that even though it is a basic survival action.

Before and after evidence of property condition is extremely important

at the end of the day, what I'm suggesting is a proper responsible and businesslike approach to being a landlord

 

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Thanks for looking and your in depth reply.

I have to make it clear that this is my mother's house and as POA we are trying to do our best by her and using the rent to pay part of her care costs. No one is profiting or trying to exploit people.

I think I am guilty of being defensive as we set out to be reasonable landlords. Everything was checked prior to letting especially and the roof was checked in accordance with the EPC check. Nothing was picked up on regarding the felt. 

The ball was definitely dropped regarding the roofing felt but the property is not deteriorating. The place has practically been refurbished with brand new fitted kitchen and appliances, new carpets fitted wardrobes and was professionally decorated. unfortunately she became ill and never got to enjoy it herself. Brand new doors and windows etc.

Fortunately we do have pictures and a walk around video of the property inside and out as well as the agents inventory. The bungalow was well looked after and was only rented out to these people in August. Their rent has never been on time and I've received letters each month telling me that they are in arrears. 

I met them the day the leak was reported as we wanted to make sure that they were okay. They seemed nice and we got on well which is why I'm surprised that they are in my mind being unreasonable and acting like we are slum landlords. Basically they reported what turned out to be a major issue and we jumped on it to rectify it for them within 3 weeks - bearing in mind the weather we've had. We have also purchased a dehumidifier to help dry out the affected rooms. 

They have done absolutely nothing to mitigate any further expense to us or to them and had to be instructed to clean the mould that appeared and remove their clothes from the wardrobe that was getting damp.

It all leaves a bad taste to say the least. I have already expressed my dissatisfaction to the agents but as you say we might have to consider a change. As for serving notice, they have kids who've just started at a local school etc and I really have no interest in causing any disruption to their lives. If we can sort everything out amicably then that would be great.

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Good luck and please do keep us updated.

Maybe suggesting a couple of beers at the local pub might be an unusual and very proactive way to begin to deal with it

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It wasn't meant to be funny. It was a serious suggestion. Unconventional approaches tend to surprise people and break down formality

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Hi

So the Tenants reported this leak which ended up being the flat roof felt and the tenants during that time did not mitigate any damage even to there own goods by removing from that affected areas within the property.

The Tenants should be aware that in any property whether it be Private Rented or Social Housing it is there own responsibility to have Contents Insurance.

The Tenants withholding rent in any circumstance puts them in a bad position and should never ever be done by the tenant as this places them in Breach of Tenancy and I would never ever advise any Tenant to withhold there Rent.

Your own actions as a Landlord during this have been very reasonable as you got  quotes and got the roof fixed within 3 weeks which is reasonable.

Has the internal of the property been inspected properly where the water damage was and any works needed carried out also if electrics were anywhere near this it may be advisable to get an electrical safety inspection done.

I have to agree them asking for 2 months rent free is a bit much for the disruption they have been through (doesn't help you advising they are always late with rent) also bear in mind you say there is a dehumidifier running in the property to assist drying it out so this cost will be on the tenant to run that which is unfair I think one month rent free is more reasonable.

I understand you are not happy with the Letting Agent but as you employed the services of this Letting Agent and have a Contract with them you need to make them fully aware of your issues and how you can get out of that Contract to find a better Letting Agent.

What you need to remember even though you Employed the Services of this Letting Agent or any Letting Agent you Employ they are only acting on your the Landlords behalf and the buck for anything stops with you the Landlord. So if you have an issue with the Letting Agent you need to inform them and have a paper trail to back you up with everything you do as a Landlord.

 

 

 

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I'm going to disagree on one point. They may have a moral responsibility to themselves to have contents insurance but that does nothing to absolve the overall responsibility – both moral and legal – of the landlord to maintain the property so that these kinds of incidents would be avoided.

There is no legal duty on the tenants to have contents insurance.

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Just a quick update: the agent has just informed of the following even after I said that I am willing to sit down with the tenant to sort things out: I have had a conversation with him since and he has been adamant to withholding 2 months rent back due to the inconvenience and lack of heat in the property. 
I am attending the property on Friday with the agent to assess any damage. 
In terms of ‘inconvenience’ I can’t see what that would be other than scaffolding and a skip for nearly two weeks. 
 

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How much is the rent?

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So they are trying to withhold £3200 from you.

I think that they are now undermining the contract and the bond of confidence that is needed for this kind of agreement which requires constant trust because it is a continuing contract arrangement. It is not like purchasing a one off good or simply getting the service that might last a few days at the most.

How much have they withheld so far?

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I think that you should sue them for a portion of the arrears and also that you should give them notice.
You need to have trustworthy tenants. You need to have tenants who deal with you reasonably – but of course reciprocally you need to be a trustworthy and diligent landlord and certainly your diligence is in question.

Are you prepared to start a small claim against them? When is the next rent day when presumably they will withhold that months payment as well

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Rent is due on the 25th each month.

My intention was to discus compensation with them but it's clearly not their intention.

We pay for Rent and legal protection.

In an effort to be reasonable, I had already emailed the agent to speak again to the tenant and advise them of the consequences of withholding their rent. If no change to the tenants stance, I have said that we will begin the legal process. 

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I wouldn't bother to start using your legal  protection insurance. It will take ages and they won't cut to the chase.

So the next payment is due on Christmas Day.

I think you should move quickly. It is in your interests and also in the tenant's interest that everybody knows where they stand.

I would suggest sending them a letter of claim warning them that you will be suing them for £3200 – less an allowance for the inconvenience et cetera that they are claiming. I suggest about £500.
If you send the letter tomorrow, then it will arrive after the second Wednesday is due so you will know whether it is £3200 or simply the £1600. From the sounds that it will be the 3200.

Separately that you should give them notice – what is it now, two months? Whatever it is, do it by the book but do it immediately. You can always retract the notice if you want – but frankly I think that your relationship with these people has hit the skids and it needs to be terminated for the benefit of everybody concerned.

I understand that they have recently put their children in to school and I think that it was very proper of you before to say that you were reluctant to give notice because of this. I completely agree. However £3200 is a money grab. It is a complete try-on.

And because I think that they have seriously undermined the relationship of trust which is necessary for this kind of arrangement, I think that even if they change their position and back down, there will be resentment which will poison the relationship for as long as the tenancy lasts and so I think that once you commit yourself to giving notice, you should proceed with it.
If you can do anything to help them get a new property – such as references or contacts – then this would be a very decent thing to do.

And of course before you let the property out again, you better get it sorted out so that it is in the condition that you would have liked it to have been in if your mother was still living there

 

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So if you want, post a draft letter here

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No, of course there aren't templates. If there were templates that would mean that there are other people with situations identical to yours.

Put a letter together and we will have a look. In terms of giving notice, that should be a separate letter and I'm afraid that I don't have the experience to be able to advise you on that.

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