Compensation while works go on in a house?

by Readers Question

8:52 AM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Compensation while works go on in a house?

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Compensation while works go on in a house?

Compensation while works go on in a house

Hi all

This is a problem which occurs quite regularly; we do some work in a house and the tenants ask for a rent reduction while it is going on.

The current scenario is this:

We are changing a 4-bed, 1 bathroom house into a 6-bedroom, 2 bathroom house. Phase 1 is converting a large, drafty bathroom into two separate ones. Bathroom 1 will have a roll-top bath and shower attachment, sink and toilet and Bathroom 2 will have a walk-in shower, sink and toilet. Thus the tenant/bathroom ratio will go from 4:1 to 3:1 and the new rooms will be greatly improved in terms of insulation.

The work started last Thursday and is progressing well, with at least one of the bathrooms ready soon. The drawback from the tenants’ point of view is that there will be added occupancy as a very large lounge will be divided to become a bedroom and a smaller lounge and a very large bedroom will become two double bedrooms (the tenant here is most likely going to leave, but quite amicably).

Two of the other tenants haven’t said a dickey bird, but one tenant is complaining every day. Firstly, he said the builders were noisy and the house was dirty, so we visited yesterday and the builder said the tenant had told them he did not find them noisy and the house was clean – the builders are very good about cleaning up and are mostly confined to the back of the house. We pointed out to the tenant that the house was not dirty and so today he has sent another text saying that he cannot sleep, cook or shower. In fact, he can shower in the evenings no problem and also the workers have even stopped work so that he can have a shower in the afternoon as he often starts work at 4pm.

There is no reason why he cannot sleep – the workmen arrive about 8.15am and also no reason why he cannot cook as the kitchen is largely clear apart from a bathroom shelving unit being placed there by the builders in the daytimes.

So, to the question: what would other landlords do when someone keeps saying ‘it’s not fair I pay the full rent?’

If we gave him money then all the others would also ask for it and it is my experience that when someone asks for compensation they have a very large figure in their head, so no amount will please them and I then wish I hadn’t given them anything!

I’m toying with the idea of a case of wine and beer (finding out first what the tenants like) and gifting them that at the end of the works to thank them for their patience… NB. they are a very transient group – we let to them including all bills (and this particular tenant has apparently turned the heating on so high that others have had to open windows…). At least two of the four are likely to move within December and the complaining tenant had previously intended to leave in December too…

Anyway, I would welcome your thoughts, tales of how you have dealt well or badly with this kind of scenario.

Thanks.

Rosalind



Comments

Mark Alexander

9:07 AM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Hi Rosalind

This is a difficult one because the works are really for your benefit.

I had a situation a couple of years ago which required significant works to a leaking roof. Scaffolding had to be erected and there was water damage in the property too. I gave the tenants four options:-

1) Move out early and I would grant a surrender of tenancy allowing them out of their contract early
2) I would pay for them to move into B&B for a month
3) I would give them £850 compensation to live with family
4) I would waive the £850 December rent payment.

They chose option 4.

However, that was essential maintenance. Yours is a very different scenario. My only thought here is that you should have had the negotiations before the work was started.
.

Dr Rosalind Beck

9:19 AM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Thanks Mark. Yes, we did arrange a meeting but this particular tenant couldn't make it. And the two who did attend haven't complained (as yet); so you are right - it does work better if you go over it all beforehand. On the other hand, I think some personalities like to push for whatever they can get. We didn't kick up a fuss about him costing us loads on the gas bill... It's a tricky thing being a landlord - nobody sane likes conflict and we all like to be liked, but I also don't like to be a pushover and just say yes to every request. It's not a major job like a roof and like you, when we had to do similar works - replacing a floor to a bedroom, the tenants went to family and we waived the rent - because the house was not habitable. This isn't the case here.

Mike W

10:06 AM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Hi Rosalind,
You have not given details of the tenancy but it appears you are renting 'rooms' within the house with individual tenants having access to the common areas. That is slightly different to a situation where you rent a whole house to say an individual family. But not much different. I am not a solicitor and anyway I am in Scotland where the law is different. My solicitor explained the principles rather well. When you rent your property you are in effect giving it to someone else for a period and you still have certain obligations. One prime obligation is that you will not disturb the peace of your tenant. So doing the work that you are doing did you ask their permission before you started? Now I said you seemed to be letting rooms so I would suggest that your case is much like a hotel. Would you expect hotel guests to be happy in this case? I would not be and I'm a landlord.
In Mark's case I think he was very fair. Repairs do from time to time have to be done even in an owner occupiers home. And they can be disruptive. But by Marks description they did not make the home uninhabitable. My understanding of the legal definition of a habitable home is quite low - currently.
If you were in your tenants position, would you be happy? Honest answer please.
All my humble opinion.

Harlequin Garden

11:06 AM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

All I can say is that I'm very surprised that you are surprised that your tenants are very fed up - particularly if they are in the property during the day. Even if they are in the situation that few tenants understand of 'renting the room' not the whole property (my tenants have never understood it so I rarely bring it up) - they do want 'quiet enjoyment' of their home. These works are for your benefit and will ultimately have a detriment affect on your current tenants - I could be a little more forceful with my disbelief actually.

When I have carried out works which will benefit me (rarely) or works to a room that affects others because it is not in their interests but for another tenant I always give a rent reduction, it's only fair. Forget a bottle of wine, tenants need to know that they are appreciated and not a commodity.

Ian Ringrose

11:17 AM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

It sounds like this tenant does shift work (“he often starts work at 4pm.”) therefore he will expect to sleep in the day time, so even builders that are not noisy by builder’s standards, just by being there walking about, and talking could keep him awake. (If he then had a car accident due to lack of sleep, would you be hold responsible by the courts?)

The tenants get no benefit from the work, in fact the properly is being downgraded by you putting more people in. Therefore they have every right to expect a rent decrease, as it will no longer be the property they signed up to live in.

The work is also not a repair, so why should they put up with it, when it is you that benefit form the additional rooms?

Harlequin Garden

11:25 AM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Agree totally - many tenants now work in 'shift' and not necessary shift workers in the old sense of the term - with days now being from 9am - 9pm I regularly have tenants leaving the house at later times and also coming in later and wanting a bit of peace and heat and hot water!

Sam Addison

12:16 PM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

While agreeing with most of the above comments I would suggest that this particular tenant may be better off in someone else's property where they may be undisturbed. If you are letting rooms then it seems there is nothing keeping him in your property. With his attitude you may be better off without him.

Harlequin Garden

12:28 PM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Sam Addison" at "04/12/2014 - 12:16":

I disagree, this may be a room (and the shared use of the rest of the house), but it is also this tenant's home - does he have to keep moving because a landlord doesn't respect his right to peace in his home? The tone of 'letting rooms' does not take into account the new culture of HMO's which is essentially a house share with residents on different contracts - Landlords have a bad enough name without coming in and carrying out works as and when they please and accusing the tenant of being unreasonable to expect some privacy in his home. Come on now!!

Mark Alexander

12:48 PM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Harlequin Garden" at "04/12/2014 - 12:28":

I agree!

Can you imagine what the media would make of a situation if a holiday rep asked a holiday maker to find a different hotel if they complained about work going on in the room next door?
.

Dr Rosalind Beck

13:23 PM, 4th December 2014
About 4 years ago

I can feel a bit of ganging up going on here. It's easy to do that, but it's not helpful to me or to the one tenant for whom the work is an issue. I was interested in some constructive suggestions. Maybe I'll receive these if I give more details. The tenant pays £320 per month (of which at least £80 goes on bills), so out of a rent of £240 per month and if there was (limited) disruption for two weeks, what rent reduction would people believe was correct? If anyone can give me ideas about this, at least I will go away with some constructive advice.
I would have also welcomed more examples of what people had actually done (as Mark gave initially) - rather than being told that other people would be far better and caring landlords when faced with the same scenario (theoretically).
And thanks Sam for addressing me and the predicament in a more sympathetic way than others. I try to be helpful on this site, and do not often ask for help. I may not ask again... And I think this is a shame as the whole idea of the compensation culture is an important one and often relevant for landlords. NB. the head of the landlords association I belong to has told me off in the past for giving compensation and he was right to do so, as when we waived a month's rent as well as rehousing a student because of a maintenance issue in the past, her father ended up trying to demand a further two months' compensation, despite her only having been out of the house for two weeks and despite the problem being entirely caused by a neighbour.
To conclude, I honestly believe that people should be more considerate on these sites and address people as they would if they met them in person - the 'righteous indignation' and patronising tone of one of the commentators has been especially unhelpful.

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