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Question

Landlord Responsibility for Repairs and Maintenance (England)

2 year old shower broken down, leaked and caused ceiling damage

18 Oct 2017 | 7 comments

I have a fully managed property. A new shower was installed 2 years and 2 months ago, inside which a part has failed causing the shower to leak down to the living room ceiling below. The cost of stopping the leak was £155. Replacing the shower and repairing the ceiling has been quoted at almost £1000 by the letting agency who manages the property.
– The agency says my claim is against the shower installer engineer, and not them.
– The engineer who fitted the shower says that the guarantee (1 year) has expired and that any claim I have should be taken up now with the manufacturer.
– The Sale of Goods Act (for pre-Oct 2015 goods) seems to suggest that a shower should be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality, which a shower breaking down after 2 years, needing to be replaced, and causing ceiling damage like this would appear not to have been.
Who should I be asking to take responsibility for this?

Answer

7 Comments

  1. guildy

    Firstly, the agent is just an agent so they won’t liable. They simply arranged the repair but the actual contract was between you and the installer.

    From what you describe, it sounds to us like this is an issue to be taken up with the manufacturer directly.

    Assuming the installer carried out the installation properly, a one year warranty sounds perfectly normal so as you say, this is down to whether the goods (shower) were of adequate quality.

    A good starting point may be the provider of the shower (not the installer but the company where the shower was purchased).

  2. Pendrive

    Thanks, Guildy – I’m hearing from elsewhere, though, that in fact the presence of an agent is a complicating factor, as I do not have a contract with anyone apart from them if they instructed the work (including provision of the shower), and paid for it prior to deducting it from the rent. I could consider, however, claiming against the shower installer on the grounds of negligence in fitting a shower which developed a defect so quickly.

    If I had the contract myself with the shower installer, under the Sale of Goods Act it would be the retailer, I am told, and not the manufacturer, who would be responsible.

    It seems difficult to get clear guidance on this in terms of legal responsibilities, though if one wants to take things up with the small claims court, for instance, there is a need to identify who can be claimed against. So if anyone can shed any further light on this it would be appreciated.

  3. guildy

    As long as the agent made it clear to the installer that they were your agent then without doubt the contract is between you and the installer – it was just arranged by the agent. This is no different to the tenancy. The tenancy is not between agent and tenant, it’s between landlord and tenant – arranged by the agent.

    Therefore, your options are to go to the installer, supplier of shower or manufacturer.

    We can’t see how the installer could be to blame unless they had incorrectly installed it (and you could prove that).

    The supplier is certainly an option but they will probably be able to argue that after the years warranty you need to go to manufacturer. However, our starting point would be the supplier of the shower.

  4. Pendrive

    Hi Guildy – this is what I’ve been told by Which’s legal service:

    “It would appear that the plumber has a contract with the agent and you have a separate contract with that agent. This means that to pursue a formal avenue of redress, the agent would have to take the plumber to court. You can also hold the agent liable if they have breached their contract to you and that is the reason that you are suffering this as a consequential loss.

    You can still try to pursue the plumber informally or can get the agent to take action as they have privity of contract.”

    Citizen’s Advice said much the same independently, over the phone.

  5. JungleProperty

    Where an agent is employed to manage the property, the agent will normally be responsible for instructing tradesmen to carry out necessary repairs. Although, in law, the agent is not generally responsible for substandard work of contractors, an agent could be liable if the workmen were employed directly (i.e. as the agent’s employees), or incorrect instructions were given to the subcontractor. You would have to prove the agent acted negligently and the agent would be judged by the standards normally expected of an agent in their profession.

    • guildy

      As a confirmation, that’s why we made a point of saying that we assume the agent has disclosed to the contractor that they are an agent and not the actual employer (for example as they would be if work was being done on their own office premises).

      On that assumption, the contract is between landlord and contractor directly and the agent simply made the arrangements.

  6. Pendrive

    Thank you very much to both. Looking back, I should have made it clear, perhaps, that the shower was installed on the direct instructions of the agent at the time (the property is now managed by a different agent) to a contractor. It wasn’t a question of repair but of installing a new shower, a part of which has now failed leaving the ceiling damage, and the shower needing to be replaced.

    The agent at the time, which fully managed my property, asked me if they could go ahead with instructing a contractor to install a new shower, after the old one wore out. I wasn’t given any details of the contractor. I gave permission for them to go ahead.

    They contacted the contractor and instructed him to supply and install the shower.

    The contractor supplied and installed the shower.

    The invoice was sent to the agent. It was not passed on to myself. The cost was merely deducted from the rent I received the month following the installation of the shower.

    No warranty of any kind in writing was supplied, either to the agent or to myself. I am told that the shower had a 1-year warranty, but now that I am trying to obtain documentary evidence of that, it appears that there is none. Instead there seems to have been an assumption that the manufacturer would cover the shower for 1 year, though I have asked for written proof of a warranty of any kind, supplied by anyone, and it has not been forthcoming.

    I continue to be firmly told that the agent is the avenue by which I need to pursue this matter, as the contract existing in the circumstances was between the agent and the contractor, with my own being with the agent.

    In terms of ‘You would have to prove the agent acted negligently and the agent would be judged by the standards normally expected of an agent in their profession’, it would appear that the agent is acting negligently now in failing to acknowledge (as they are doing) the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 in any way, and to respond to that. They have persistently ignored all of my requests for them to address this particular issue, and persistently referenced a 1-year warranty which they have now also said does not actually exist in writing in any form.

    I very much appreciate the comments that have been put here, and the time the respective commenters have taken to do that. Given that it looks very much as if I am going to have to pursue this through a court – hopefully the small claims court – though, I hope it is understood why I am so keen to try and ensure what the correct pathway to follow is going to be.

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