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Advice needed, Landlord possibly breaking law

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488 views 1 replies latest reply: 22 January 2015
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Tenant

I don’t know where to start really, We were private renting and the house was sold under probate, at the time due to finances my credit rating was poor, I was near bankrupt. We found this end of terraced house and was the only Landlord at the time whom seemed prepared to take us on, although my partner has always worked full time and myself being self employed back then…

When we first moved in, yes we were having problems finding somewhere, however, we had to pay the Landlord £2,400 up front in cash and we moved in. I first had to scrub the house from top to bottom and remove and dispose of the previous tenants very dirty cooker, this Landlord bragged that we could have the option to buy whenever we wish and that the tenancy was somewhat relaxed. I.e. we can decorate, treat it as our own, as long as we keep it nice and add value to the property, “they” would never put up the rent, indeed, we have been here 8 years. However.

Please excuse my ignorance, But I had been very ill for the first 3 years, so this was a roof over my head and I never actually thought about such things like EPC graph etc.

We have a problem here, one of the previous tenants had a central heating system installed, the Landlord is absolutely adamant that it is not his, he does not own it and it is our responsibility…( as he says, just tell them it is your own home- evading the Gas certification) Last year I managed to have the boiler serviced in the process of being totally ripped off with the service and certificate, we pay for these things and take it out of the rent each month…

Next week I am having a service on the boiler and had to locate and purchase a new LPG Changeover valve, again, which has to come out of the rent, The landlord collects every last Saturday of the month and we have to pay him the £600 cash, end of terraced house with 1.4 bedrooms and one acre of land.

What I seem to have stumbled across is that when he purchased these houses there were only Four in the terrace, and he divided the largest one up into to properties, next door does have and EPC, but we do not, I am now thinking that he has never had any certification for this property as  is not listed under the search, only next door is named… fishy goings on there.

Our deposit is not protected, as he puts it, you never get that back, you just stay for 3 months free of charge.

The house is always absolutely freezing, when he visits he chucks leaflets at us saying we can get free insulation and to organise it. The problem with all of this is I suffer from anxiety, I have put us on the housing list but they only ever offer a one bed flat in an area we would rather not move to and please do not take offence, but we live out in the country and in a very friendly little village, it would be nice to be able to even afford to contemplate moving.

We believe with the points above that he is breaking the law? oh, and the rent is not registered as a fair rent either.

Any advice welcome, I am going out my wits here with worry with his latest ambitions to build on the acre field-which we pay £100 a month for! If he gets planning then we relinquish the field, if not, we carry on paying even though he has just had fencing put up to make the field within the curtilage of the back garden, so really, now the field is our back garden, but he shall still charge us £100 a month, plys he is asking that we pay towards the fencing! please help!

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Administrator

Hi Mel

This is a very difficult situation to find yourself in – the lettings industry often seems to rush tenants into signing tenancy agreements and in your situation it must have been even more pressured.

First of all, protecting the deposit is non-negotiable – the landlord has to do it regardless of whether they think the law doesn’t apply to them. There’s some information on that here. You can apply to a county court to have the deposit protected or paid back to you. You can also apply for compensation for the fact that the landlord hasn’t done this which could be between one and three times the amount of the deposit. It’s not difficult to make this application but obviously you’d need to move as the landlord probably won’t be best pleased – although if your compensation claim was successful it might give you the funds to find somewhere with a proper landlord.

With the central heating, he has no obligation to provide it but usually if it was there when you moved in then it probably makes it his responsibility to maintain. The fact that it’s coming out of the rent each month would indicate that the landlord has accepted it’s his responsibility and should be handling the maintenance himself. If that’s the case then the landlord can’t escape the Gas Safety check duty – it can’t be passed onto a tenant. Penalities for not doing this are really severe (imprisonment and a fine of up to £20,000 – more info here). All this is something you’d need to get proper legal advice on – this, and the issue with the EPC – so I’d suggest you go to a local law centre (it’s free) or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Do you have a tenancy agreement? This will be the basis for who has what rights. If you don’t then there are still rights that are implied by law that will protect you – when you get legal advice you can ask about these.

If you suffer from anxiety then it sounds like getting away from this landlord would probably help a lot. Unfortunately the reality is that if you start compelling the landlord to adhere to the legal responsibilities that he either doesn’t know or care that he has then he will most likely want you to leave. Speak to the people at the law centres first and perhaps see if Shelter can offer any advice on how you can get out of this situation and in to a new, warm property with a proper landlord asap.

Good luck, I hope you sort it out soon.

Alex

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