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Landlords….


When I moved into my apartment last year, the place needed a few bits and pieces fixed up, stuff that the inventory check hadn’t picked up. As dutiful tenants, myself and my girlfriend noted all of these defects and forwarded a copy of it to the landlord letting agent. A few months later, we got a signed copy of the inventory back acknowledging that the defects would be looked into. A few months later, still nothing. Now, one of the major issues was that none of the heaters in the living room had timers, meaning that during the winter of 2010 (which was really cold…), we had no way of setting the radiators to come on in the morning to prevent the place from freezing up (and leaving them on all night wasn’t an option). Obviously, this was a ‘big deal’ and one of the reasons we really needed them to get up off their bums and deal with the problems.

A contractor came out during the coldest part of the winter and had a look at the radiators and all the other bits and pieces. As far as we were concerned, he would go back to our landlord letting agent, tell them how much it would cost, they would sign off on it, and bingo bango, it’d get done. Um, no. More months passed, angry e-mails were sent to the landlords letting agent, more claims of “we’ll chase that up”, winter turned to spring, the weather got warmer, and the radiators still don’t have timers.

It came to a head in May when I sent a vitriolic e-mail to the person who deals with our tenancy and made it quite clear that I thought that there was a gross level of incompetence in the company which shouldn’t be tolerated. I thought that shaming them into action would be a canny plan, but alas, nothing. So I moved it up a level and complained to her line manager and reiterated that things needed done in the flat, we had waited over 12 months for them to get fixed and really, what kind of company were they running? We got a response (huzzah!) and two contractors were swiftly dispatched to deal with our unruly flat. The defects were reviewed, quotes were made, our landlord was told, and two months later… still nothing has been fixed.

Now, the things which need fixed aren’t major, but that’s perhaps the most infuriating thing: these things take nothing to fix (but are beyond my frankly laughable DIY non-skills). To give you an idea, the plug in the bath doesn’t fit properly, so the water drains out, the main bathroom shower always runs cold, the spyhole has no spyglass in it (so it’s just a hole), the front door handle is shoogly, kitchen cupboard is off the hinges, and a few weeks ago, the front lock is busted (to lock it from the outside, you need to lock it from the inside with the door open, take the key out, go round to the other side, put the key in, unlock it, close the door, lock the door, slightly unlock it to take the key out…)

As of this week, the lock is being addressed, but everything else hasn’t been dealt with. So, I’ve decided to take a different tact in my new e-mail thusly:

Dear X,

It has now been almost two months since the last set of contractors visited the flat and, not at all unsurprisingly, we haven’t had an update about when the work required will be completed.

I’m really sorry to ask this, but have we done something wrong during the course of our tenancy? Do you just not like us? I’m seriously curious as to why we appear to have been singled out for such crass lack of attention from your company. Would you like us to send you guys some cakes? Would that help? What kind do you like?

I look forward to your reply. 

Regards,

Robert

Maybe overbearing and sarcastic kindness will fit the bill. I’ll let you know.

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  1. August 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Hehe… I feel your pain. Although we currently have great landlords in most respects, it took them 2-3 months to replace a broken lock in our front door… what made them fix it in the end was that it got so bad that we could no longer close the door anymore, so we had to leave it ajar (with some stuff piled against it) and hope that no one burgled us.

    When I was an undergraduate living in St Andrews, my landlady tried to evict me for *fixing* the front door lock. I did give her a key, but apparently she *didn’t* want us to be able to lock it. She also didn’t like the fact that we had put some red lightbulbs from under the sink that she had ‘bought in error’ in the carriage-lights outside the front door. Apparently it might ‘give people the wrong idea’ about our place, ‘especially as there are both males and females living there’!?!?!?

    In my experience, cake probably won’t cut it – the only thing that works is threat of legal action (referring to their responsibilities under the tenancy agreement is usually a good start). You might even be entitled to withhold rent for certain faults, although I’d get legal advice on that.

    Happy battling!

    • August 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      I think that if this e-mail doesn’t galvanise them, then we’ll have to go to Citizen’s Advice. It’s getting kind of ridiculous and something needs to be done. Bah, can’t wait until I get a mortgage.

  2. Aaron
    August 16, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Generally speaking you can have a third party contractor come out and fix a lot of problems, especially if they are things that negatively impact your quality of life, so your shower running cold might qualify, and take the cost of those repairs out of your rent. Your landlords won’t be happy about it, but as you’ve been so diligent and patient trying to get them to do it in the first place, I doubt they’d have much legal recourse. Of course I’m not a lawyer so don’t take any of this as gospel 🙂

    At least they’re not some of the slum-lords I had in Tucson. The last place I lived with Zach when we read the contract, thought something was funny about it, brought it to a lawyer who said something was funny about it and told our landlords that the contract didn’t say what they thought it said, they told us they would take us to court if we tried to force them to write a correct contract. We didn’t give a shit, and the way the contract was written it gave us the right to leave the house on a month’s notice which we were fine with. Though it did give them the right to kick us out at a month’s notice, but they didn’t seem to realize that.

    I did have one really cool landlord in T-town once, one of the state representatives if I remember correctly. Not that that’s here nor there.

    • August 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm

      Oh yes, I know about the devil landlords of Tucson, not good. I’ll see how this recent e-mail goes down and then get further advice if nothing further is done.

  3. August 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Let me tell you a story from a landlord’s perspective.

    I have a tenant who operates as a gents barber shop. The upper parts of the shop are supposed to be used for offices and storage. He has illegally sublet the area to two people for residential purposes. I now have to spend money in order to evict a tenant who broke the terms of the lease – and the law.

    A few yards away, I have another tenant, who took it upon himself to demolish part of the landlord’s wall in order to extend his unit out further. He then denied that he had done this, even though photographic evidence proved that he had. Again, the landlord is the innocent party but is forced to spend money to rectify the situation and protect his property.

    There are many rogue landlords. But, equally, there are many rogue tenants who seem to think that the terms of a lease and the rule of law do not apply to them.

    • August 16, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      I totally get where you’re coming from David, which is one of the reasons why we haven’t pursued any of the repairs ourselves.

      But when these issues were noted 12 months ago when we first moved in, you’d think that a decent sized landlord company (it’s not a private individual, so letting agent might be more accurate) would have the resources to be able to fix any issues which come up relatively quickly.

      Particularly for important things, like the recent issue with the front door lock for instance, I’m really worried about how quickly the landlord would be able to get them fixed.

      P.S. Actually, I’ve realised that ‘landlord’ might be misleading, so I’ll need to edit it to say ‘letting agent’. Grrr….

      • August 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm

        It may be that your landlord is unaware of the problems you are experiencing and they should be made aware because they will undoubtedly be paying the agent a fee for providing what appears to be a non existing service. If it is the landlord at fault, you do have remedy in law but it can be a pain the backside. I got out of the residential property market because it was simply too stressful and life is too short!

  4. August 17, 2011 at 9:18 am

    The landlord (i.e. the actual owner of the flat) might be unaware of the issues, but the letting agent (who we deal with directly) certainly isn’t, especially after sending six contractors out to get quotes >.<

    But yes, property is too stressful!

  5. Steph
    August 17, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Hey Rob, Steph here. At our last house we had the same problem – after 3 months of waiting for the washing machine to be fixed (along with a broken shower door, broken freezer, and many other wee handyman jobs needing done) we wrote a letter to say we were withholding rent (stopping the direct debit) until it was fixed. That put the fire up the landlord’s ass! They came out the next week and did the lot. I can’t WAIT to stop renting, I swear to God!

    • August 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      Well, you’re not too far away it seems! Got my abstract accepted btw (as a poster rather than as a paper though), so I need to decide if I want to invest time on working it up…

      Anyway, your approach sounds like a good one, and we’ll definitely investigate if that’s a plausible route.

  6. adph
    August 17, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I had a similar problem (in this case, to do with condensation and lack of ventilation), which the letting agents dragged their heels over. The landlord wasn’t aware of the problem until quite far down the line. I’d try and contact the landlord directly, if possible.

    (PS – I wasn’t put forward for AHRC funding through Birmingham, unfortunately, but I’ll still be doing the course, so I’m just waiting for it to start now!)

    • August 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Ugh, condensation is one of the worst things that can happen in a flat, it just makes everywhere really grotty… Not sure if contacting the landlord is an option, and still not reply from the letting agent…

      Sorry to hear about AHRC funding, but good that you’ve been accepted on to the course. Not that I was expecting anything else though! Congrats 🙂

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