Despite much publicity there are still a significant number of landlords and tenants that have disputes over the state of rental properties. Indeed as many as 40% of all rented homes in England are in poor condition. This is a popular time of year for many people to move house and a crucial part of that process is to carry out an inspection of the property before you enter into a tenancy agreement.
In the summer, when the weather is warm and dry, many of the defects with rented properties are hidden. They do not appear until late in the year when the temperature drops, it rains frequently and heating systems burst into life. It’s at this point that thousands of tenants report the onset of problems. These are commonly issues with damp and mould making living conditions very unpleasant. Then comes the onset of health problems. These can range from frequent colds to chest infections or longer-term problems like asthma. So how should tenants deal with this type of situation?
Landlords and Tenants – Legal Obligations
Landlords and tenants are governed by many laws and the reasons are obvious. Keeping a property in a safe and habitable condition is good for both sides. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 has an implied duty that a property must be fit for human habitation. It also means at the start and throughout the tenancy period! If you are a tenant and you suffer ill health through living in poor conditions is there anything you can do? The answer is YES!
Report any problems with damp or mould to the landlord or their agents. Do this as soon as the problem appears. If you can complain in writing and keep copies of all your letters. If you report the problems by telephone make a note of when you made them. Take photographs. Take more photographs and show the affected areas in the property on a regular basis. Make sure that the photographs show the date on which they were taken. This is good evidence. If you or any of the occupants become unwell seek medical advice promptly. The reasons are two-fold. Prompt treatment reduces long term problem and a record in your medical notes is more good evidence. Give the landlord or the Lettings Agents a reasonable period of time to rectify the problems. If that fails seek legal advice but this should always be a last resort.
These steps are absolutely crucial! In any subsequent claim for compensation we need to be able to cross a number of hurdles. That the landlord had a duty of care to provide you with a safe environment in which to live. did they fail in this duty? Were they aware of the problems? Did you suffer as a result? Did you tell your GP? Do we have photographic evidence that support our allegations? Ultimately we need to show that your deteriorating health can be clearly linked to the conditions in which you are living. Sounds simple enough and it should be.
Your home should be somewhere to feel safe. There is help available if rogue landlords fail to carry out their legal obligations and taking advice early is the key. This could prevent months of misery and numerous visits to the GP. Follow these steps and you might avoid living with a chronic illness that could have been prevented by early intervention. Landlords and tenants might have different views on these issues. The key of course is finding common ground and professional negotiation.