Withholding Rent for a Lack of Hot Water and other Disrepair
Every tenant, regardless of whether they rent a property privately or through a housing association, is entitled to live in a home with functioning hot water and an adequate heating system.
A lack of hot water is a major inconvenience which will undoubtedly impact your daily life and as a paying tenant, its entirely justified that you are wondering how you can assert your rights.
Is it Legal to Withhold Rent for Landlord Negligence?
In most instances, you are not permitted to withhold rent just because your landlord won’t do repair work.
Failing to pay rent could lead to possession proceedings being issued against you, or even cause your eviction in a worst-case scenario.
The only time you would be legally allowed to withhold rent would be if your property was in a such a state of disrepair that it has become almost uninhabitable and you plan on using the rent money to get the repairs carried out yourself.
You should keep all the money you are withholding on your rent payments in a separate bank account, and not spend it.
Before taking this step we do strongly advice you to first get legal advice for your specific situation.
If this is the route you decide to go down, it’s imperative that you keep copies of any evidence proving what you have paid, including quotes for repair work, photographs of the damage and proof of a bank account where you stored all of your rent payments.
In addition, you should collect and store all communication with your landlord about the disrepair and actions you have taken as a result.
Obviously, securing photographic evidence to prove your lack of hot water is difficult. You can keep a diary listing the day-to-day issues you have experienced and what actions you have taken to fix the problem.
Proving you are not At Fault
Collecting your evidence and clearly communicating your actions to your landlord will ensure you are compliant with the law and it will help you build a case against your landlord or housing association in the future.
For your case to be successful, you must be able to prove beyond a doubt that you are in no way at fault for the disrepair. This would reasonably likely be the case if you are lacking services such as hot water.
Is a Lack of Hot Water deemed to be a Hazard?
Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (the HHSRS), there are 29 types of disrepair which pose as a hazard. These hazards are either a category 1 hazard (urgent issue which poses as serious risk) or a category 2 hazard (less urgent).
The HHSRS recognises excessively cold bedrooms and a broken or non-existent boiler as category 1 hazards, meaning that your landlord would be expected to repair these swiftly.
Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, your landlord is obligated to ‘keep in repair and proper working order the installation in the dwelling for space heating and heating water’, as well as the supply of gas, water and electricity.
A lack of heating or inadequate water supplies would therefore be deemed an urgent hazard and is indisputably your landlord’s responsibility.
If your landlord doesn’t respond to your complaints in good time or fails to fix your hot water issue altogether, legal action should be considered as you could be entitled to compensation.
Notable Cases of Negligent Landlords
It’s an unfortunate fact that unscrupulous landlords exist in both the social and private sector.
In 2017 the Guardian revealed that Bristol-based housing association, known as Alternative Housing, topped the UK’s list of most prosecuted landlords to ever operate.
Alternative Housing was convicted of six housing offences over a period of two years, after numerous landlords were found to be providing vulnerable tenants with unlicensed homes short of heating and drainage systems.
Housing Association was Fined £3m
The inadequate housing association was fined £3m for their negligent behaviour which took place between January 2015 and December 2016.
One of the landlords involved with Alternative Housing was John Mayer from Plymouth, who was found guilty of renting out substandard homes to thirty people without a license.
He also failed to provide twelve tenants with heating and never responded to improvement notices, rightfully earning him a fine of £23,000.
Should you Withhold Rent or Contact a Housing Solicitor?
Generally speaking, withholding rent is a fairly risky method of assertion.
We would not recommend holding back rent for such issues as a lack of hot water or other types of disrepair.
Depending on the relationship with your landlord, the issue could turn sour quickly and leave you in a difficult and isolated position. In addition, the law may not be on your side if you have previously chosen to withhold rent.
Housing Law Solicitors
Pursuing a claim with a housing law solicitor could result in you being rewarded compensation and have the appropriate repairs carried out by a professional.
Our team of experienced housing law solicitors offer advice and guidance in these situations, and if you do choose to proceed, they will assist and support you along every step of the claim process.
We handle all of our housing law claims on a no-win no-fee basis, meaning that you don’t owe us a penny if your case is unsuccessful.
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