Age old tenant/landlord conflict

Hi all,

This is a fairly common set of issues, but I would be grateful for any input regarding my particular case and what options might be available to me.

I signed a lease for a furnished property to move in on 20th of February, and there have been so many issues since.

Despite agreeing to the terms of the lease a month prior, the actual lease was not sent over until the 19th of February. When I responded asking for clarity on what furnishings would be provided and whether that should be included in the lease, they informed me that the lease could not be changed, but that we could discuss any issues after the fact. I shouldn’t have signed, but I’d booked a moving van for that weekend and felt time pressure. I also paid 6-months upfront as I’m an international student.

  1. Move-in – The day I went to get my keys, the flat was in awful shape - dirt, mould, grime, and old tenant belongings left throughout. I started sneezing from allergens within minutes. I immediately emailed and asked for the flat to be professionally cleaned, which they ultimately agreed to, despite trying to argue that I should have asked for cleaning as a condition of my offer.

  2. Toilet – The toilet was broken when I got here. They hired a plumber who replaced part of it and said that there were structural blockages he would have to clear out. He came back to do that a week later, and said he could only clear 85% of it, and I should ask to have the toilet replaced if there were still issues. I’ve been living with a semi-functional toilet for almost a month now, and it is still not fixed.

  3. Furnishings – I was finally able to move into the property on March 3rd. Within the first few days, I noticed that the sofa was broken and the mattress had deep depressions from the previous tenants, making it extremely uncomfortable. I sleep on top of my duvet and a mattress topper to try to mitigate these depressions, but it’s still unbearable. I emailed on March 10th asking to see if it would be possible to have these furnishings repaired/replaced. After a prolonged back and forth, I got a flat “no” as they were purchased “relatively recently” and the check-in report didn’t note any damages.

  4. Furnishings 2 – I asked if I could replace the furnishings myself and leave them at the end of my tenancy, and they said no. I’m a student and wouldn’t even consider this if I weren’t desperate for a good night’s sleep, but I certainly can’t afford to store the current furnishings on top of purchasing new ones.

  5. Check-in report – The check-in report states that it comments only on superficial condition, so it wouldn’t comment on the issues I noted. I also pointed out that it says it was supposed to be sent to me within 7 days of completion and I would have had 7 days to respond. It wasn’t sent until 19 days after completion and I sent my concerns the same day. When I pointed this out, the agency reversed course and said that the check-in report couldn’t be used to verify the condition of furnishings for this very reason. To me, this illustrates the landlord knows this is a grey area in terms of responsibility but is grasping at straws for contractual reasons they wouldn’t need to deal with it.

  6. Mould – There’s been mould in the bathroom that I’ve tried desperately to get rid of. When my own efforts failed, I hired two different cleaning companies, neither of which were able to remove the mould. I emailed asking for the shower to be resealed, and was told that the landlord “isn’t looking to complete bathroom works at this time.” They sent me a YouTube video with instructions for how to remove mould from shower sealant, which I’m happy to follow, but with all of the efforts I’ve taken I’m doubtful will work. The bathroom has no windows so I imagine this will be an ongoing issue regardless. I have been showering with the bathroom door open in order to try and prevent this issue from worsening.

  7. There is also no carbon monoxide alarm at the property.

A wrinkle in the situation - I wasn’t able to view the property in person as I have chronic illnesses and couldn’t risk flat tours amidst the winter covid peak. They had me sign a document saying that I couldn’t complain about “cosmetic” issues as a result. I don’t mind chipped paint or stained upholstery, but these areas are structural/hazardous.

I have chronic migraines and respiratory allergies, which I acknowledge isn’t the landlord’s responsibility to accommodate. I feel absolutely desperate to make this flat livable, but the landlord is making it so difficult.

These are the steps I’m considering -

  1. Go to my local authority and ask for enforcement at least on the mould and carbon monoxide alarm. My interactions with this agency and landlord have been so unpleasant thus far that I’m frankly concerned that escalating the problem would lead to more issues with repairs and issues down the line. This also doesn’t fix the issues of the furnishings.

  2. Try to negotiate a termination of the lease, potentially using approaching the local authority as leverage. I can imagine I am not their favourite tenant as I’ve been calling them out on these issues, despite the fact that the flat is in much better condition than when I moved in. I’ve also considered asking for a refund on the rent from the first week when I couldn’t move in.

  3. Try to find a tenant to take over my 18-month lease and pay the (probably exorbitant) fees associated with referencing.

Do these actions seem warranted at this stage? Is there anything else I can do?

Go to the council, environmental health or the HMO department ( they cross over)
If you have to pay for stuff keep receipts and offset it against the rent ( see your contract for terms and conditions)

Don’t replace tenant just yet

Did you not see the place before you signed?

Signing a tenancy agreement without seeing the place or asking a friend to view it was reckless. I’m not surprised you’re having problems now. Sadly I don’t think any of the issues you list strikes a killer blow that would give you a legal right to unwind the tenancy unless the photos you saw in advance were wildly in accurate.

With regard to your specific points:
1 and 3 would be argued as your fault for not checking in advance

  1. The toilet should be replaced keep pressing

4 They dont have to agree that

5 Unless there is a detailed inventory/schedule of condition, (which could be called a check in report but should be referenced in the tenancy agreement) then you will struggle to argue that the condition of the furnishings doesn’t match what you were promised. Conversely, the landlord would struggle to make any claim for damage unless the condition of the property is clearly detailed.

6 Is the mold on the walls/ceiling? Its possible that it’s Bern painted over and therefore hard to remove. Depending on how extensive it is, you may have a case to insist the landlord gets it treated, although you may need some evidence that you didn’t cause it.

7 A CO alarm is only legally required if there is a solid fuel burner/open fire in the property.