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Question

England | Landlord Responsibility for Repairs and Maintenance (England) | Responsibilities and Liabilities (England)

Should we serve S.21 notice on tenant threatening to sue for length of time taken for works to be done?

2 Oct 2021 | 1 comment

Tenant occupies since October 2015 a 2-bed flat with poorly insulated flat roof and problems with the bathroom skylight’s inner skin having caved in last summer 2020.

We told him that the Landlord was trying to get a Green Homes Grant to insulate the roof from the outside and have a new skylight put in whilst the reroofing was taking place.

As he never opens his windows, even in the summer, and switches the positive air pressure unit off, his ceilings along the flat roof hardboard joins, the inside of build-in cupboards and the double-glazed plastic window frames are covered in black mould that he says doesn’t come off.

So, the landlord, whilst waiting to get the grant to do the works, offered him a rent reduction of £100 from his rent of £550 to £450pcm which he took, and we offered on several occasions to come and clean all this mould off for him for free (to which he never replied). All we got was the following sent by email:

“Solicitor says the damp/mould and subsequent issues that have arisen from this are an ‘immediate health and safety hazard’. Furthermore, she has stated that immediate action should have been taken as soon as the problem was reported, furthermore, the advice given is that it is not reasonable to wait for government funding to begin the works. She says I must contact the local authority to lodge a complaint.”

Now, over a year on, the works have still not been done.

The Landlord finally managed to lodge a GHG application in February 2021, after months of trying to find a contractor on the approved government list willing to quote.

The application was rejected in July, and the appeal recently dismissed on grounds that the ID of the landlord couldn’t be proven because he couldn’t provide Council Tax and utility bills for the correspondence address on the application form.

All that, notwithstanding having sent proof that the correspondence address was the address of the company he was a director of, but lived at a different address for which driving licence, Council Tax and utility bills were sent 5 times, with finally a Firm of Solicitors’ letter confirming he was known to them for over 5 years!

The Landlord’s brother, who lives at the same address and gave the same correspondence address, was awarded the Green Homes Grant for the flat next door with the same flat roof!

The scaffolding is going to be erected this coming Monday around the next door flat.

The tenant is bound to kick a fuss and complain to the Council who will no doubt slap an improvement order on the Landlord who hasn’t yet got the totality of the funds to get this roof sorted without the grant.

Should we serve the tenant a section 21 notice before he gets the chance to involve the Council, or take action in the County Court for breaches of the landlord’s repairing obligation, and claim compensation for damage and inconvenience resulting from the breach?

It might take a while for the Landlord to raise the additional finance to have the works done.

The tenant is still paying the reduced rent of £450pcm, and at the moment, you can’t find in Plymouth a 2-bed flat for less than £650pcm, if you are lucky enough. So, we don’t want to be accused of making him homeless either. He is only, consistently and regularly, a few weeks behind with his rent. And except for the way he keeps his flat, he is not a bad tenant.

What would you advise?

Answer

1 Comment

  1. guildy

    Section 21 can be served anytime especially like you say if there’s been no formal notice from the local authority as yet.

    However, it could still be regarded as a “retaliatory eviction” because we don’t think the inability to obtain the grant is a sufficient response to the repair request. If there’s a genuine repair needed, an adequate response is to get the works done regardless of grant availability.

    However, with retaliatory evictions, there are further steps required in order to be retaliatory including the service of a formal notice by the local authority (which can be after the service of the notice).

    Please see here for full details which should help decide if now’s the time to serve.

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