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V. v. Cold Flat - what are our rights?

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97 views 1 replies latest reply: 13 October 2016
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Tenant

Ok so here goes: this is going to be a long post so …

Tldr: Our flat is extremely (unsafe) cold and too expensive to heat – what can we reasonably ask our LL to do?

Full version:

Our flat is a ground floor flat taking up the back half of a ~1850-1900s house, one bedroom plus a kitchen/living room and ensuite. It’s registering very cold temperatures – I’ve got one of those heat strips from my office and the bedroom was 15C (or lower, that’s the coldest the strip measures) in day time when it’s been 10-15C outside and we can often see our breath! It gets colder at night and probably will as winter progresses. My partner has a respiratory infection which just isn’t clearing up and we’ve been getting patches of mould along the skirting boards and lower walls – I don’t know if this is rising damp or due to condensation but I’m assuming the latter because it’s mostly occurring on outside walls.

A bit more about the property…

Communal house front door has a hole for a letter box and a gap under it, all the doors in our flat have gaps – we’ve done our best with draft excluders but there are gaps at the top too! Flat is mostly double glazed except for one single pane sloping window above the shower (can’t cover else it will get mould). No idea about insulation but I think as it’s old, all there is is brick and plasterboard. The majority of our walls are exterior. Our kitchen is L shaped, so there’s a maybe 3x3m space unaccounted for which I believe might be the cellar door and stairs, boarded over and plastered, so presumably an empty cellar underneath us also sucking out heat. Floor is carpeted in the bedroom and fake wood in the kitchen but both are still really cold.

LL has provided us with vertical strip blinds which do nothing to keep heat in and conveniently fill the alcove around the window so I can’t put in an extendable curtain rod. External PVC door and window above have no curtain/blinds.

Heating: Our flat is all electric, on a pay per use meter. We’ve got two small wall mounted electric heaters (1 in b/room, one in kitchen) which aren’t fan assisted. They’re also very expensive to run – putting one on med-high cost 50p/hour.

My plan is to start by bubblewrapping as many window panes as I can, I can probably get an extendable curtain rod to go above the back door and maybe the bedroom window. What can I reasonably ask my LL to do, and what are my rights as a tenant? We do have heaters but can’t afford to run them – even if we could, it’s impractical and probably a fire hazard to have them on while we’re asleep but without them the flat is cold to the point of being unsafe.

I’m hoping if I write to the LL/estate agent and outline this fact, I can ask them to fit draft excluder to the front door and gaping ‘letterbox’ and ask for curtains to be installed. Is it worth saying that if no action is taken we will be forced to turn to Environmental Health Officers?

Help/advice very much appreciated – this is my first experience renting and so far it’s not going well!

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Tenant

Is it worth saying that if no action is taken we will be forced to turn to Environmental Health Officers? – It’s always worth threatening further action, even if you don’t. The fact that you know your rights and aren’t shy to defend them is sometimes enough to put your landlord into action. 
Did your landlord give you an EPC ? From April 2018, landlords can’t rent our properties with an EPC grade bellow E. I know 2018 is quite far from now, but it’s some leverage. 
Negotiate for better energy efficiency in your property, but there is no promise for success. 
There IS equipment for heating and that is all that the landlord is legally required to provide. 
The minimum heating standard is at least 18°C in sleeping rooms, and 21°C in living rooms, when the temperature outside is minus 1°C and it should be available at all times. This MIGHT be categorised as health hazard, which your landlord must resolve. 
You make your best effort to negotiate, threaten to involve the council and do the procedure properly. You might have a chance at this. 
You’re in luck though, we just launched the first of our official guides – Getting repairs to your heating and hot water
I know you said your heating is *working*, but the information and template letters inside may give you some ideas.

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