Looking for advice on how to handle a threat my tenant has made to withhold rent.
On bank holiday Thursday he emailed to say that a recurring leak had returned, i arranged for my handyman to visit after the bank holiday.
On Friday he WhatsApp’d me a video showing fungus in the kitchen, which he had just found and two further videos of previously unreported mould in the bedroom and bathroom (very small amounts, possibly due to condensation/lack of ventilation). Without waiting for a response he informed me that he would be withholding rent until it is fixed.
I am a conscientious LL and act quickly to fix issues, which he is not denying, but he is saying that because it is fungus they cannot stay there.
I will get the issue remedied as soon as possible but i have lost trust in these tenants. Is the treat of withholding rent a breach of contract or do I need to wait until they are in arrears to start eviction proceedings.
I have never been threatened like this before and i do not want to deal with people who think it’s acceptable.
Your ast will most probably read ‘rent must be paid without deduction’, so if they withhold rent until repairs are done then they are in breach of contract.
Personally I would advise that withholding of rent puts them in breach, I would also get the issues sorted and then see how it pans out. They may settle in. Could just be an overreaction. Or are they just trying it on?
Did you have an inventory done when they moved in? How long have they been there? If you are certain the cause is tenants fault I would state this.
If the tenant is on a periodic tenancy then you can issue a section 21 now.
I would just say what youve said here, that you are committed to addressing any structural defects as quickly as possible but that if they withold rent in breach of contract, you will lose confidence in their tenancy.
I would also arrange for a mold specialist to do a report. If the cause is tenant lifestyle then this needs to be addressed.
Just a few obvious questions
1 Is there a strong extractor fan in the kitchen?
2 Is it a humidistat version so that it comes on automatically and not when the tenant can be bother to turn it on.
3 likewise for the bathroom(s)
4 are trickle vents fitted to all windows and on your inspections are they open?
5 have you observed drying of clothes inside or on radiators?
6 do the tenants actually use the windows to refresh / replace the internal air???
7 have they been heating the property when in use during colder periods???
All reduce condensation caused by tenants, whether knowingly or not!
Notify the tenant you have requested your man to attend.
Notify them they will be in breach of their rental agreement if they withhold rent
Notify them that any unpaid rent will accrue interest
And any admin costs.
Thank you for your advice. Unfortunately the situation has turned quite nasty very quickly.
I arranged for the fungus and mould to be chemically cleaned and arranged for the same company to give a free report on the other areas of damp reported. Unfortunately they mentioned rising damp infront of the tenant and have given me quote of £36,000 to put the issues right. Naturally I’d like a second opinion from an independent damp surveyor - which I told the tenants and they agree was a good idea. However, they are demanding to see the initial report (which I have told them I am not obliged to do and won’t be showing them), and they have decided to use their break and end their tenancy in three months time, but they are demanding a 25% rent reduction and are going to provide me with a list of items they would like fixed and a timeframe for this work to be done by. In addition they have reported me to environmental health, questioned my honesty and trustworthiness and are not taking my calls or replying to emails.
I have offered them a reduction of 15% if they stay for the remaining three months or the chance to end the lease early in 6 weeks time. I have arranged for an independent damp surveyor along with two estate agents to get a valuation figure to come next Tuesday and my tenant told me I had to ask their permission to access - I referred him back to the clause in his lease whereby I have to give 24 hours written notice.
I have left voicemails asking them to confirm that they have received my emails and I have no idea whether they are going to pay any or some rent this month or how long they are going to stay.
I am very much regretting cancelling my landlords insurance!
Has anyone got any advice please?
Defo an over-reaction! I don’t think they are trying it on
I think youve done all you can. If they withold rent beyond what youve agreed then your only real option is to sue them using MCOL.
What is MCOL please?
And thank you i feel ive done all i can think of
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