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Help! Disrepair/Section 21/Compensation

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836 views 1 replies latest reply: 04 August 2016

Hello – this is a long post. Sorry – really need to clarify first n then in need of some advice.

I have been renting this property from a private landlord for almost 6 years. Throughout this period we have had several disrepair issues which we always reported to the landlord. We have always been patient and given him adequate time, in most cases more time than required to carry out any work. 
In the last 6 years, I have had to contact the council twice and we have had an environmental officer inspect the property to view the damages. It was at this point we saw the landlord step up and get the work done – this was after him causing us weeks/months of inconvenience. The first major incident involving the council involved our downstairs toilet being out of use since we moved in and eventually leading to the ceiling collapsing due to water leaks in the ceiling. It was finally repaired after 3-4 years from being completely out of use.
The second and most recent incident, which we reported this year in April, involving our boiler not working at all and resulting in no hot water or heating. Our boiler was always faulty and whenever reported either nothing was done about it or after weeks of chasing the landlord he eventually sent out some cowboy plumbers who did nothing to get it working effectively and all said the boiler is knackered and needs to be replaced. So eventually the boiler packed up in April completely and since then (almost 5 months) we have had no heating, hot water. Just to add we also have 3 children under 5 including a baby. Beginning of this period while it was really cold still I had to take my children to stay at my parents, paying a lot for travelling and spending ridiculous amounts on running electric heaters. I also suffered an incident a few months ago where I cut my hands, this made it impossible for me to wash the dishes with cold water as I had fresh wounds. I then resorted to buying paper plates n cups so I could dispose them instead of washing. 
In 6 years my landlord always received the rent for a property stated as ‘furnished’ on the contract yet there was nothing here when we moved in except some ripped/unusable items of furniture which we had to remove and replace ourself. We have always tried to carry out repair work ourself but since this boiler issue I just had enough and got the rent transferred to myself thinking it would kind of push the landlord into taking action and get the work done. I am just sick and tired of it and the inconvenience it caused my family. I am also a carer n look after my parents so all this has made it even more stressful for me.
Just to clarify I only owe the landlord 2 months rent. It is going back to him now. And we have also been served with a section 21 because of the arrears. So now I have another situation to deal with and more inconvenience as my kids will be starting school a day before the eviction 🙁 
I looked into all this and have contacted shelter housing who have suggested we stay put. I intended to give the landlord his overdue rent however the boiler is still not working. We are still in the same position we were months ago. He has been given 5 weeks by the council to get the work done.
There is so much more I can complain about but il be here forever. The landlady has sent me messages threatening that she will make sure I get CCJs for not giving them rent. A bit personal I think and uncalled for as I never intended to not give them the rent – I just wanted the work done. 
Any advice/help on what I can do in terms of the inconvenience this has caused my family. I have been told I can get compensation or my rent reduced? 
Thank you.

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Hi Ameeraayan,

OK so there is a lot to deal with here but I will give what advice and info I feel is applicable HOWEVER I do recommend that you seek legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau on this matter.

Benefits- Whilst you dont state this specifically, I have gleamed that you are a Tenant in receipt of these. If you wish to keep receiving these you will have to be evicted by the Courts as, only then, will the council rehouse you.

Section21- a Section 21 is not an eviction notice. This is merely a formal notice setting out the intended end of your contract. However- if there is an open maintenance issue with the Council, this is not a valid notice. If you do not have a valid Gas Safety Certificate- this is not valid. If you do not have an EPC this is not valid. The Landlord MUST address all three of these matters before a legal S21 can be served. What is more, Landlords must give at least 2 months notice with a S21.

Arrears- witholding rent, especially benefits, is a very dangerous game to play. As a Tenant, you have rights to ensure major issues get resolved- if not by the Landlord then by you. The accumulation of arrears can lead to legal issues as, once you are 2 full months in arrears, then the Landlord can issue a Section 8. Also, arrears can then result in a CCJ if you are unable to dis-charge them.

Repairs- if a Landlord does not reapir a major issue, such as a broken down boiler, then you have rights to addres the issue yourself. In reality, for an issue such as a failed boiler, the Landlord should have someone attend within 24-28 hours, however 7 days is ample time. You should write to the Landlord, advising them that they have 7 days in which to have plumbers attend and quote for the works needed and that any and all such works must commence within 14 days and be completed within 7 days of that. Fauilure to meet any of these deadlines will result in you arranging the necessary repairs/works and deducting the costs from your rent. This is a perfectly legal approach and one you could have used from the very start of the issue.

Move On- With such a poor property and such a terrible Landlord is there a reason you are not looking to be rehoused? It sounds like nothing is ever going to change so, what you need to do, is find a new home where you can all be happy.

Eviction- Do not be afraid of eviction. Tenants in the UK are not obliged to vacate in line with a S21 notice. You have the legal right to remain in situ until you are evicted by a court appointed bailiff. As advised, if you are on benefits, you have to be evicted for the council to rehouse you. As long as you resolve any arrears this should not have a long tetm effect on your ability to rent in the future (however given the issues I am not sure a court would rule in the Landlords favour to receive all the rent having breached so many ternms of their agreement).

Compensation- this is tricky as you deal with a Landlord so they are not overseen by a regulator or Ombudsman. For this, you would need specific legal advice and would alsomost certainly have to take the Landlord to court for this. This is your right but you need to understand the costs and processes involved in ursuing this course of action however, based on the facts stated in your post, you would most certainly be entitled to compensation.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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