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With the deposit, if this has not been protected then yes that gives you significant leverage. Landlords must protect deposits and send Prescibed Information (i.e. which scheme holds the deposit etc) within 30 days of you moving in. If this hasn’t been done then you can make a claim against the landlord to either get the deposit repaid to you or to get it protected and you can also claim 1-3 times the deposit amount in compensation. This applies to tenancies that were signed after 6 April 2007 – presumably you’ve signed a new tenancy each time the rent has gone up in the last 7 years? The deposit must be re-protected each time a new tenancy is signed.
Have you had annual gas safety checks? If not that’s more leverage as you can complain to the Health & Safety Executive who have been known to fine landlords £20k for not doing this.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to take any action against landlords like this as the huge number of tenants looking for properties means that the complacent, greedy ones can just keep kicking people out and replacing them or refusing to do repairs by threatening eviction. However, that’s about to change – as of autumn this year if your landlord was to kick you out as a result of questioning the rent or requesting repairs (a ‘revenge eviction’) then you’d be able to take action against him as it’s just been made illegal – more info here.
In terms of what you can do now, you could request that the repairs that are required are included in the contract as a condition of you signing. You can also challenge the rent at a tribunal (info here) – they would decide whether the increase was ‘market’ and this presumably would take into account the state of the property.
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Thank you very much. This has been very helpful. After reading your comments, it sprung up additional questions:
Deposit / legal action
I’ve read that I grounds for taking legal action against an unprotected deposit is ONLY valid in the event the landlord is refusing to pay back a deposit at the end of a tenancy. Could you clarify? Or is it still possible to make a claim at any stage based on the knowledge that it’s been unprotected?
How many repairs is too many?
Is there any law that states that a repair must be done within “X” amount of times before it needs a permanent fix / replacement? For example, we have had a consistent problem for 2 years. The efforts to repair thus far have not been successful and we have been inconvenienced by the amount of times we’ve had to chase the landlord about the same issue, plus the many visits we’ve had by the repair man (who often tell us a day when they would come only to never showed up, and we have lost time out of work), and said issue has also impacted our utility bills.
You also said, it would be “difficult to take any action against landlords….” I realise the new law goes into effect in October, but bearing all of the above in mind, do I have a chance of winning this battle beforehand?
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Not as far as I know – I’m not a lawyer but it seems that even if the landlord returned your deposit you could still claim the compensation if it had been unprotected. The compensation is a penalty for the failure on the landlord’s part to protect the deposit. A judge can award compensation of between 1 and 3 times the amount of the deposit – if the deposit had been repaid then it would most likely be just 1 x but you could still claim.
Again, I’m not a lawyer, but as far as I know the only requirement is that the repair is done within a ‘reasonable’ timeframe. So, if you had no heating and hot water, or if there was a health risk, that would require a more urgent response than fixing something less important. This is obviously interpreted by most landlords as a much longer period than a tenant would see it as – and that’s where the problem with the law lies.
You’d really need to speak to someone with experience of what has happened in other cases similar to yours to know if you had a chance – try a law centre or Citizens Advice. As far as I can see, the reason the law was changed was precisely because revenge eviction cases didn’t succeed. Whether or not you could sue for breach of the landlord’s obligation to keep the property in good nick in the tenancy for the lack of repairs I’m not sure – you’d need the legal brain for that.
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