Looking for advice on taking letting agency to court after heating and plumbing battle

by Readers Question

13:26 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Looking for advice on taking letting agency to court after heating and plumbing battle

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Looking for advice on taking letting agency to court after heating and plumbing battle

I have decided to take my old letting agency to court and really needing peoples advice and opinions.

I moved into a property October 2012 at that point I was heavily pregnant. As soon as I moved into the property issues with the boiler began. Each time I phoned the agency they promised to get things sorted, but it was an ongoing battle for 7 months.

I would hardly be able to get heating it would constantly trip and hot water was basically a no go. My baby arrived December, so I sent a letter complaining and my response from the landlord was a section 21 notice!

Aafter me phoning the letting agency in tears they decided to change their mind, so I lived in fear for the next few months and coped with the boiler. I finally decided April enough was enough, complained again and finally had a helpful engineer out who condemned the boiler. Yhey eventually replaced it middle of may.

The letting agency would ignore my phone calls and only text me ( which had given me lot of evidence). Some are quite patronizing. I was also left with leaks under sink that ended up flooding the kitchen and leaving me with no water and no emergency contact numbers. A leak from the toilet which started running down the front room wall again causing no water in the property.

I asked to be compensated for all the issues I had been through and again the landlords response was a section 21 notice, so in September 2013 my daughter and I were made homeless for 5 months.

What I need help on is really who am I taking to court as I feel both are to blame, the letting agency for duty of care, and landlord for disrepair. I sent the letting agency saying I’m starting the court process, their response was its nothing to do with them they manage the property only.

Sadly at the time they were not registered with any governing body.

Any help will be gratefully received
Many thanks Mariaheat



Comments

Dr Rosalind Beck

15:28 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

It sounds like you had a fair amount of hassle, but frankly if I were you I would have moved out and into a better property with a better landlord. You might have only had to give 1 month's notice (depending on your contract). Even if you were tied in it would have been tricky for the landlord to enforce it if you said there had been no heating or hot water. There's no way I would go down the legal route. I don't know how much money you're hoping to gain for something that happened some time ago but I don't see what monetary value would be put on this. Of course if you are getting free legal aid you might think it's worth pursuing as you will not be footing the bill. I definitely wouldn't consider it if you are paying for the legal process.

Mandy Thomson

15:55 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi Maria

Sorry this has happened to you - as a landlord myself, I really can't understand how any landlord could carry on like this, unless they were really strapped for cash with no means of raising the money, in which case, they really should be looking to sell their rental property, or at least stop letting it out... There was a time last year when I was very short of money, but I borrowed from a family member to cover an unexpected repair, that I had fixed the same day!

Although the agent wouldn't have been subject to the redress scheme at the time you took out the contract, they would still have been subject to consumer protection legislation, just like anyone else providing a service or goods. Having said that, they would still only be responsible under the contract for promptly informing the landlord about the repair, then subcontracting someone to do it with the landlord's permission, and/or pre-agreeing with the landlord that they were authorised to carry out maintenance work under a certain value (usually around £500). A heating engineer callout would fall under this category (assuming that was the arrangement with the landlord) but a replacement boiler would not.

If the section 21 you received was only signed by the letting agents, and not the landlord, you may also be able to argue that it was invalid: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/70/section/17

Also, if the landlord didn't sign it, is he/she fully aware of what's been going on? I suspect they ARE fully aware, but it might be worth approaching them - if the letting agent was ripping you off, they will most likely have done the same to the landlord.

If, after checking the contract, you find that the agents didn't carry out their obligations, you would still be covered under Consumer Protection legislation and could take them to the small claims court, provided you have evidence (which you say you have in the form of texts).

Very best of luck with this - please come back with any further questions and let us know how you get on.

Mandy Thomson

16:10 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "05/02/2015 - 15:55":

Sorry, where I've stated, "If, after checking the contract, you find that the agents didn’t carry out their obligations, you would still be covered under Consumer Protection legislation and could take them to the small claims court, provided you have evidence (which you say you have in the form of texts)." Should read "the landlord would be covered under consumer protection legislation", as the agent's contract was with the landlord, not you and your contract was with the landlord, even where an agent was acting, so although the problems you had may be "nothing to do with them" it is, or should be, to do with any half decent landlord!

Mandy Thomson

16:17 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rosalind " at "05/02/2015 - 15:28":

Depending the amount of rent reimbursement or compensation she's seeking, she may be able to use the small claims procedure (which doesn't need a solicitor) or there are a few firms around who will act for tenants on a no win no fee basis: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/housing_w/housing_repairs_in_rented_housing_e/housing_disrepair_what_are_your_options_if_you_are_a_private_rented_tenant_e/taking_court_action_because_of_disrepair.htm

Steve From Leicester

16:37 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi Maria,

Its highly unlikely that you can claim anything from the agent, and highly unlikely that the agent has any sort of "duty of care" to you where maintenance is concerned.

Once you've moved in the agent is working for the landlord, not you. He is employed by the landlord and paid by the landlord. You may pay your rent to the agent, but the agent is merely collecting it on behalf of the landlord - you don't pay an extra "management" charge to the agent.

Its unlikely the agent is at fault anyway. Tenants regularly gripe that "the agent didn't fix things" but almost certainly its the landlord who won't authorise the work. Think about it. I'm an agent. I don't pay for repairs - that's the landlord's responsibility, so why on earth would I deliberately prevent work from being done?

Arguably you might have a claim against the landlord but it would be very difficult to prove that you'd suffered loss through the landlord's negligence many months later. I think you should just move on.

I'm not unsympathetic by the way and I certainly don't condone landlords who fail to carry out essential repairs, I'm just being pragmatic.

Paul Franklin

16:53 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Have you checked with the redress scheme that the letting agent are now registered with to see if you can bring a complaint to them? - even if they weren't registered with the redress scheme at the time?

It became a legal requirement that all letting agents become a member of a property redress scheme in October last year. It will be a potentially less expensive route and probably less stressful too?

Paul Franklin

16:57 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

P.s. if you do look at court action, I would have thought taking action against the landlord is the way to go. The agents only work on the landlord's behalf. The landlord has to authorise repairs and authorise serving notice. If the landlord feels his agent has let him down or acted outside of their durestriction, he in turn can take his own action against them.

maria packer

22:25 PM, 5th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi everyone thank you so much for your comments.
Mandy its nice to know there are good landlords out there. I will certainly let you know how it goes.
Paul thank you for your helpful comments. I did phone the redress scheme the other day and they said as it was a while ago its unlikely they would be able to help. But may try and phone again. You never know. Think they have a 6 month rule.

Mandy Thomson

9:29 AM, 6th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "maria packer" at "05/02/2015 - 22:25":

Thanks Maria! It is sometimes difficult to put right issues in properties, as sometimes it's not always clear what the cause is - typically, structural issues particularly with older properties, but it doesn't sound like that was the case here!

I can sympathise with the agent up to point - they were put in a very difficult position, knowing the repairs should be done (if only to comply with the law) but on the other hand, not being in a position to carry these out as the landlord wouldn't /couldn't pay for them, then as the landlord was their client, they had to save his/her face, so couldn't just tell you, "sorry, but the landlord won't give us permission to do it". Unfortunately, human nature being as it is, people get annoyed when put under this kind of pressure, hence their attitude when you chased them up...

Having said that, they should have at least treated you with courtesy (I had a lovely job once as a floor manager in a job centre, and I never lost my temper with a customer, despite daily challenges and provocations). I would put a review of your experience with these agents on http://www.allagents.co.uk/ (you can add them at the same time if they're not there already).

I would be interest to hear from any letting agents reading this, and I wonder if it would not have been possible to come to a financial arrangement with the landlord where he could have paid for the repairs by installment, with a reasonable amount of interest added to cover the agent for paying for the repair upfront?

Steve From Leicester

13:04 PM, 6th February 2015
About 4 years ago

Mandy - you asked for an agent's opinion so here it is:

Firstly (correct me if I'm wrong) but I don't think I could legally charge interest unless I've got a Consumer Credit Licence, so it would have to be interest free.

Secondly and more importantly I'm a letting agent not a bank. I don't have either the funds or the inclination to start paying for repairs to cash-strapped landlords properties.

I agree that the agent should have been polite and courteous to Maria as a matter of course, but its highly unlikely that the agent is to blame for the underlying problem, namely that essential repairs weren't being carried out.

I stress once again that I'm not unsympathetic, merely pointing out that the agent was probably stuck in the middle.

For what its worth a tenant tried taking us to court once. It was a different issue (the return of a deposit), but the same principle, that the tenant held us responsible when in reality we had to follow the landlord's directions. We were in front of the judge for less than 20 seconds - he said to the tenant "You can't take action against the agent you need to take action against the landlord". And that was it. Case dismissed.

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