Rent including bills but no access to the heating!

Rent including bills but no access to the heating!

by Readers Question

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8:33 AM, 24th November 2015, About 9 years ago 3

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I have had numerous rented accomodation over the years (~10), and I have always been lucky enough to have a positive experience. It appears, however, my luck has run out and I am unsure of my tenancy rights as per contract items and the ability to control heating.bill

Facts/information that may help – we are all on separate contracts. Rent is inclusive of bills. Rent is at a premium of around 20% above the average of the city (Portsmouth), from my experience. I tried to google average prices but could not find anything. Current rent: £525, what I believe to be the average (including bills) of the area, is around £450. I went into the contract knowing it was expensive; but wanted to have a higher quality property after many student accommodation houses. My experience within student accommodation, sadly, has been 10x better than this ‘premium rent’ house.

Heating – Landlord has locked boiler in a cupboard, and sets the timing of when the heating will be on. I cannot see any terms about this in the contract. All of us are uncomfortably cold. If we would like any heaters, there is a contract term stating we require written permission from the landlord (which I doubt he would grant). I do not expect 24/7 heating, but it does not appear to be on enough for us to be even slightly comfortable. This is made even more annoying considering the amount we pay; I expected little fuss on heating because of this. Is this legal?

Mold – who’s responsibility is it to treat mould within a house? We believe it is linked to the lack of adequate heating (not sure if there would be a correlation?). My fellow tenants have contacted the landlord but have received no reply (which is extremely common).

Fortnightly Cleaner – a fortnightly cleaner for all communal areas is within the rent. I moved into the house in August, and only at the start of November did the cleaner make regular visits. This was confirmed by the Landlord (verbally) that the cleaner had not been coming regularly, and that they did not do an adequate job of this. It took three months of e-mails to get to a point where he finally resolved the cleaning issue.

Charges – this is the final one on my list. The below charges are what the landlord has set out:
Landlords admin fee £100 (AST item 6.2.7)

EOT Clean £40 (AST item 7.23.4)

Inventory Fee £42 (AST item 7.23.1)

Mattress protector £6.44p (AST item 7.23.5)

Deposit reg fee £18 (AST item 6.2.6)

It seems extremely excessive, again, considering how much rent we pay and that we went straight through to the landlord. Admin fee – seems extremely excessive. Inventory fee – I have 1x mattress & bed, 1x wardrobe & 1x mattress protector. Mattress protector – it seems to be a waste to throw out each year. Especially when the EOT cleaning states it includes cleaning the bedding. Cleaning – states the carpet in the room needs to be professionally cleaned by the landlords approved cleaner. It is clear to me that this had not been done prior to me moving in. Charging the tenant for the deposit registration seems unfair (and I’ve never been charged that before), and to me would come within the Admin fee. Equally, as you will see from the below AST items, only the Admin Fee had a pre-written fee on there.

I realise that, considering we signed for the above, we probably have little rights. If the other areas of my tenancy were going well I would likely not take issue. However, it does not feel like we are getting what we paid for. I will place the wording for the above AST items at the bottom of this e-mail.

Any help and advice will be greatly appreciated.




Landlord Admin Fee

6.2.7 The tenant shall pay the landlords admin fee of £100 at the end of the tenancy.

EOT Cleaning

7.23.4 To have the room and carpet professionally cleaned at the end of this tenancy term, using the landlords approved cleaner. The cleaning will include the, cleaning of any curtains (including net curtains and blinds), blankets, bedding, upholstery, nearest bathroom.

Inventory Fee

7.23.1 To pay the check out Inventory fee and Schedule of Condition listing all the Fixtures and Fittings in the Premises and the condition of them at the expiry or sooner termination of the tenancy.

Mattress Protector

7.23.5 The tenant shall pay the cost of a replacement mattress protector at the end of the tenancy as provided by the landlords cleaner.

Deposit Registration Fee

6.2.6 The tenant shall pay the deposit registration fee.

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Gary Dully

14:00 PM, 24th November 2015, About 9 years ago

I will comment on the inability to control your heating and mould growth.
If the landlord is a "Live Out" landlord, he has no right whatsoever to deny any tenant access to the heating control of the property and I would view it as harassment by not giving ' quiet enjoyment' of the building.

The landlord should have some sort of "fair use" policy, written into his agreement, instead of total restriction based upon typicle use data during a year, from various organisations, where any overspend becomes liable by all occupants on a fair equal pay basis.

That way he or she doesn't have to panic every time a bill lands on the floor.

Fees, we're they advertised? - if not it breaches advertising standards.
If they are in your contract, they could be deemed as unfair, but you need to take independent legal advice on that.

Mould- if you are the cause of it - I would take the opinion that you should clean it ( or the fortnightly cleaner for a bunch of flowers).

Mould causes should be investigated, especially if caused by water leaks etc.
I usually find its because ventilation is badly restricted and laundry is dried or aired in people's rooms, where I restrict my tenants to use a communal tumble dryer and tiled areas such as bathrooms, but I pay for the electricity as it is wired into the "Landlords Supply"

Humidistat fans are wonderful in helping in this problem area, but they produce a noise, like all motors do, but are within EU standards.

I hope that helps you slightly.

16:09 PM, 25th November 2015, About 9 years ago

hi there, I think it is probably illegal to prevent the tenant access to the heating timer controls. I have seen several properties where the heating is included in the rent, but the property has a communal heating system that is always on! and the tenant has access to individual controls on each radiator, so they can turn them down/off if required. Not being able to keep the property adequately heated could be classed as a hazard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

A couple of things for you to look into yourself:

do you have access to the gas emergency cut off valve? This is usually fitted to the gas meter, and sometimes gas meters are situated in the same cupboard as the boiler, which you say is locked. Regardless of where it is, you have to be able to access this at any time and without delay: if you can't then the property automatically fails the annual gas safety check!

Are you renting an individual room in a shared house? if so, it is possible that your local authority requires the landlord to licence the property a a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

I would think some of the clauses in your AST might be considered to be unfair contract terms (which a court could strike out, meaning you wouldn't have to comply with them)

Things you can consider doing:

Go to your local authority and ask them if the property is licensed as an HMO, and if not ask them to check and tell you if it should be or not. Also ask them if they can carry out an HHSRS inspection. They have the power to compel the landlord to make improvements if they feel these are needed for Health and Safety reasons

Check if you have access to the gas safety cut off valve. If not, ask your landlord to tell you where it is and to arrange for you to have access to it. If he refuses, next time he sends someone out to do the gas safety check, make sure you are in and ask the engineer if they can sign the certificate given you have no access to the cut off valve, then stand back and enjoy the look on their face!

Bear in mind though that any of these actions may well spark a retaliatory eviction by your landlord. But as long as you can find somewhere else without too much difficulty/expense maybe that's not such a bad thing?

One last thing, if your landlord has prepared their own inventory then this is highly likely to be of poor quality, which means it will be more difficult for him to get any deductions he might claim - you can contact me via Twitter @GYDB_UK for specialist expert advice if you need to

Best wishes

Dr Rosalind Beck

9:58 AM, 28th November 2015, About 9 years ago

I think the charges are way over the top and as a private landlord I don't charge for anything apart from the rent and the deposit which goes straight to the DPS. However, you saw the charges and agreed to them, I suppose, so I would maybe just accept them but in a future rental try and negotiate so that you don't have to pay them.
On a general note I think it is always best to speak nicely to the person with whom you have the issue, in the first instance. Explain that the heating settings aren't adequate, that you are cold etc., so could he please change them? Tell him what you would like - eg. heating on from such and such time to such and such time and what level heating.
I would do one thing at a time, and get the other tenants to then approach him say a week or so later with the next most urgent issue. If you go down the route of reporting him to the authorities etc., it could be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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