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Landlady refusing to re-imburse for emergency work

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311 views 3 replies latest reply: 21 January 2016
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Tenant

Hi,

Over the Christmas holiday, we had to call out an emergency plumber as the toilet was blocked and it’s our responsibility to clear. However, when he came out, he found the problem was caused by plant roots growing into a hole in the drainage pipe and therefore not a problem caused by our waste.

As we were without a functioning toilet, we agreed to pay the plumber to have the work done immediately. We did call the letting agent’s emergency helpline first, but they simply told us they couldn’t give advice or authorise the work until the branch-reopened after the holiday! 

Since then, we have requested reimbursement by the landlady. She has asked for a copy of the plumber’s invoice, which we sent immediately, but has since gone silent. We spoke to the letting agent again earlier this week to ask about reimbursement, they told use they will contact the landlady again but we have still heard nothing.

It feels like the landlady is hoping we will just forget about this, but I am not happy to be nearly £200 out of pocket for something that was not our fault. We have been here 5 years and never complained about anything before, so we are not difficult tenants. The tenancy is an assured shorthold which was initiallly for 12 months.

What can we do? Do we have the right to withold a portion of rent? Is there anything we can do to make the landlady understand we are very unhappy about footing the bill? We are nervous about causing bad feeling with the landlady as we love our home, but this doesn’t seem fair.

Many thanks for any advice you can give. 🙂

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Administrator

Hi Rebecca

If you withold your rent then you will be in breach of the contract, unless you have agreement from the landlady or agent in writing to do that – that would give the landlord an opportunity to give you notice to leave so it’s not a great way to proceed.

This is a difficult situation as the landlady should have paid for that plumber and they’re obviously not being fair leaving it to you. Have you actually had direct contact with the landlady? The only reason that you had to pay for the plumber was because the agent’s service let you down – that’s a service that the landlord is paying for so the agent may not want the landlord to know exactly what happened. It’s probably worth writing direct to the landlord, setting out what happened – that the agent refused to help and that’s the only reason you had to pick up the bill – and making it clear that you want to preserve the landlord tenant relationship but that’s difficult to do when you’re £200 out of pocket.

Alternatively, you could start with the agent – make a complaint that they should have provided an emergency service, it’s not acceptable to say they’re not available when you have an emergency that could be a health hazard. It’s their job to deal with that kind of thing when they’re managing a property after all – that’s what the landlord is paying them for! (and as a tenant you pay rent so that you don’t have to deal with structural issues yourself). If you have documentation that indicates there should have been support over the holidays then quote that (I’m guessing you do if you’ve got an emergency phone number). You could tell them you’ll complain to the landlord and to any professional bodies that the agent is a member of (ARLA etc – they should display which bodies they have membership of on their website).

If you want to try not to damage the relationship with the landlord then it’s probably better to try these routes first. If you want some legal advice then Citizens Advice, Shelter and law centres might be useful to try.

Alex

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Tenant

Hi Alex
 
Thanks for your reply. 🙂 After doing a bit of reading yesterday, I am really not keen on withholding rent either. I’ve been trying to phone Shelter, but not managed to get through yet.
 
I see what you mean about the letting agent potentially being liable. They did assure me the emergency helpline is there for exactly the reason I called. I really wish I had managed to record the call to the helpline as the lady my husband spoke to was pretty useless and he even asked her what was the point of calling if they couldn’t help – they didn’t answer that, just re-iterated that it couldn’t be dealt with until working hours.
 
We have spoken to the landlady directly as we had the water softener serviced about a week ago and she popped over to see if everything was OK (she only lives a few doors down). My husband mentioned the emergency work and she just hmmmed a bit and said nothing. The only thing she did was ask which plumber we used.
 
I am certainly interested in getting the agent to take action as I don’t want to get on the wrong side of the landlady. You are absolutely right that they failed us when we needed help and as the landlady has paid for a fully managed service, this should have been done. It is stated in the contract that an out-of-hours service is available for fully-managed tenants and when you cal if the office is closed it gives the emergency number.
 
I will keep trying to get through to Shelter, but either way I’m going to try and see if the agent can be held accountable to at least some degree. Many thanks for your advice. 🙂

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Administrator

You’re welcome, I hope it works out.

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