Problems with the property

June 22, 2022

PESTS

Having a problem with pests is fairly common, but certainly unpleasant. It is best to try and get this resolved as soon as possible. Whether it is mice, rats, slugs, silver fish or another insect, not only can it be unhygienic and unpleasant but they can also cause a lot of damage to the home and your property.

It is important to let the landlord know about any pest problem and we would always advise that this be done in writing in case this is a useful trail if things take a long time to be resolved.

Sometimes there can be a disagreement between the tenant and the landlord in regard to who is responsible for resolving the issue and the cost of this.  

The landlord may believe that this is your responsibility to sort and pay for pest control as the problem has been caused by your actions.

How can I prevent pests?

Basic Hygiene and cleanliness can help in some case. Such as leaving rubbish bins out or food out that attracts vermin or not keeping the place clean. This may also be stated in your contract so it is worth reading through to make sure that you are clear what your responsibilities are.  

Nothing helps, how do I get help?

You could get in touch with Environmental Health via the council to see if they will visit or are able to give any further information or advice, after notifying your landlord.  

If you want to have the house inspected you will need to contact the Private Sector Housing Team at Exeter City Council, telephone 01392 277888 or email environmental.health@exeter.gov.uk

If not through the Council, there are many private pest companies that will come out and try and resolve the problem.  

If you believe that the pest problem is caused by a structural problem with the building that allows the pests in, that is out of your control or if this has been an ongoing problem known about by the landlord prior to you moving in you can ask your landlord if they can make changes to your home to improve the situation and pay for the pest control measures. This would need to be supported by recommendations by Environmental Health.  

If it is your responsibility and you are expected to pay to deal with the pest problem and this is difficult financially you could try an application to the Success for all fund which is based on your own finances not your parents and may be able to help with the cost.  

What are my rights?

Landlords have responsibilities under the Fit for Human Habitation act to ensure that the property is safe and healthy so that the tenant can live in them free from harm.

This legislation recognises poor conditions that tenants could be living in and allows them to raise this without retribution in threats or actual evictions and in some cases be able to seek compensation.

Of the 29 problems that are identified is “domestic hygiene, pests and refuse (including inadequate provision for disposal of waste water and household waste)” So if you have a pest problem, this is included.

Guidance on HFFHH Act 2018

Additional support

You are welcome to contact the Advice service and we would be happy to see if we can support with this.

This Shelter guidance on pests has some useful information.

Alternatively you may wish to contact your local Citizens Advice or a specialist housing solicitor

MOULD AND DAMP

Mould can be unpleasant and potentially damaging to property and health so it is important not to ignore it and find out the cause and hopefully a solution to this. Often in damp areas such as the bathroom, it is normal for a small amount, that can be easily cleaned, but it is more concerning if it is excessive or in living and sleeping areas.

Depending upon the appearance and location of the mould will often indicate the cause and who is responsible for this. This can be a difficult situation if the tenant believes that the Landlord/agent is responsible for this and they disagree.

We find that in the majority of cases Landlords/agents believe that the appearance of mould is a result of condensation caused by lack of ventilation, and inadequate heating and that you, as the tenant are responsible for.

If this case, you will be responsible for sorting this and any cost to ‘make good’ and remove the mould or this could be taken from your damage deposit at the end of the tenancy.  

Often the contract will list responsibilities and it is always worth checking your contract to see what the situation is. Always take photographs

Exeter council mould and damp factsheet

How can I prevent damp and mould?

We would recommend that

  • Not drying clothes indoors, on radiators
  • Open windows as much as possible
  • Try to have the heating on a constant so that the house does not get too cold
  • Always make use of bathroom or kitchen extractor fan/system

I am doing all I can and there is still damp, what next?

If you believe that the mould is caused by a structural problem with the building you should contact your landlord to make them aware of this and see if they can make changes to your home to improve the situation such as:

• providing an extra heater  

• fitting ventilation  

• adding insulation  

It can be the case that Landlords/agents are reluctant to accept that this is a fault of the building and therefore not their responsibility to fix, or that this these solutions have made no difference.

In this case it would be best to get professional advice to see if there is an underlying problem that is causing the mould and that information could then be used to force agents/landlord to take action.

What are my rights?

Landlords have responsibilities under the Fit for Human Habitation act to ensure that the property is safe and healthy so that the tenant can live in them free from harm.

This legislation recognises poor conditions that tenants could be living in and allows them to raise this without retribution in threats or actual evictions and in some cases be able to seek compensation.

Of the 29 problems that are identified is “damp and mould growth” which could be because the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition or another reason for a serious damp problem. So if you have a mould or damp problem, this is included.

Guidance on HFFHH Act 2018

How do I get professional help?

You can ask the local council to carry out an inspection to check for health and safety hazards in your home. If the damp problem is serious enough, the council can order your landlord to carry out remedial works.  

If you want to have the house inspected you will need to contact the Private Sector housing Team at Exeter City Council, telephone 01392 277888 or email environmental.health@exeter.gov.uk

It can also be useful to check your tenancy agreement to see what clauses you could use to support your case.

factsheet from Exeter Council

REPAIRS AND POOR CONDITION

Hopefully you saw the condition of the property when you were viewing and you were happy with it when you moved in so any repairs or poor condition will be minimal and easy to rectify.

If you have just moved in, have a look at out moving in pages for more information.

As a general rule your landlord is responsible for maintaining and repairing the:

  • structure and exterior of the building, including the walls, windows, doors, stairs, roof and chimneys
  • sinks, baths, toilets including pipe work and drains
  • heating and hot water
  • electrical wiring
  • gas supply and any appliances provided by the landlord.

In the first instance, you should report this to your agent or landlord as soon as possible. We would always recommend that you put this request in writing. If you have any conversations about the repairs, follow this up with a text or email to confirm what you discussed as it might be useful for evidence further down the line if there are any problems.

Try and get an idea of a timeline of when something will be fixed or someone will come to take a look.

Nothing is being done

If the landlord or agent doesn’t respond to your complaint within a reasonable time it is important that you write to them again. Give the landlord reasonable time to respond but state that if the repairs are not carried out within 21 days that you will take further action.

If you believe your landlord is not fulfilling their obligations, you can take action. If the lack of repair work is affecting your health or safety, you can contact the Council’s Private Rented Sector department, who may be able to come out and examine the issues. They have the power to order the landlord to carry out repairs, or in extreme cases, carry out the work themselves and bill the landlord.

If your landlord is refusing to carry out repairs we may be able to help you, there is a Private Rented Property Complaints form on the council’s website. However, before contacting the Private Sector Housing Team you should always report repairs to your landlord or letting agent, keeping all copies of correspondence.

The property is not safe and I am worried about my health

You can contact the Private Sector Housing Team on 01392 265147 to ask for help and advice especially if you think that the property is unsafe and potentially a risk to your health and safety It is important to keep records of the issues that may have been caused e.g. photos, keeping damaged property, doctor’s notes etc. that show the impact of the problem.

You need to be sure that you are willing for the council to speak to your landlord. You will need to give details of your landlord or agent including how to contact them.

An assessment of the property will be made to decide if the issue comes under current housing law. If the repair issue is not a risk to health or safety we will not be able to assist with resolving the problem.

What action can the council take?

The options are:

  • Serve a notice on the landlord requiring that the work is carried out within a specified time. If the landlord does not act, the council can do the work and recover the cost.
  • Make a legal order controlling the occupancy of the dwelling.
  • Take emergency action if the defect needs immediate attention.

The action that the Private Sector Housing team can take depends upon a number of factors including:

  • the nature and severity of the defect
  • whether it can be remedied
  • and the overall condition of the house or flat.

The officer will let you know what action is appropriate in the circumstances.

Can I stop paying my rent?

We would not advise you to do that as you are still liable for the rent. If the problem is not resolved then you may be able to look at compensation and get your rent back that way. Or if you are working with your landlord they may offer a reduction in rent while the problem is being sorted.

My letting agent is useless, what can I do?

All letting and managing agents are bound by secter standards and need to be acting appropriately. You should be able to make a complaint internally to raise the issue. If you are not happy with the outcome, you may wish to raise your complaint to one of the redress schemes.

Letting and managing agents are legally required to be a member of a redress scheme. These schemes are in place to deal with complaints made by tenants or landlords about agents. The three Government-backed schemes are;

The schemes provide a free, independent service for resolving disputes between letting agents and their customers. Exeter City Council can issue a fixed penalty fine of up to £5,000 to a letting agency if it fails to join one of the schemes.

If you think you would like to make a complaint, please speak to one of our advisors for help.

Ombudsman Services Property

The Property Ombudsman

(TPO)

The Property Redress Scheme

HOUSEMATE PROBLEMS

Ideally everyone in the house will get on brilliantly and have a fabulous time, however we realise how impactful it can be when there are problems and conflict in the house or flat.

Working and living from a shared space at often stressful times, it is very normal to find differences and for the vast majority of students this can be worked through with understanding, compromise and good communication.

Sharing a home can be stressful at the best of times, let alone with the added pressure of studying. If you are having ongoing issues with a housemate/s that you are unable to resolve, this can have an impact on your studies and wellbeing.

FAQ

My flat mates never clean up and I am doing all the work

Ideally everyone does their fair share and cleans up after themselves and it is good to agree how to share and live considerately before you move in. To avoid resentment building up it is best to bring up any concerns at the begining rather than doing extra and being unhappy about this.

If you can not agree and you have the funds, to avoid arguments it could be an option to get in a cleaner.

However many students are on a tight budget and will need to agree a rota so that everyone does their fair share.

I want to leave my Accommodation - how do I get out?

You will need to contact your landlord or accommodation provider to see if you can be released form the contract. ost studnets contracts do not have break clauses, meaning that you are committed to a fixed term contract and unable to get out of it. The first step is to ask the question and explain the situation that you are in and then if the answer is no, you will need to find a replacement tenant. The landlord can charge you a resonable amount (£50) to do this, but if they are trying to charge more, this would be a prohibited amount.

We would reccomend student pad for advertising your accommodation.

I want my housemate to leave- how do I get them out?

You are not able to force someone to leave their accommodation and it is important not to make that individual feel bullied by other housemates. You are all living together and will need to work out how to co-exists rather than how to get rid of someone.

They may be looking to find a replacement tenant and move out, but if not then you may wish to consider this or try to resolve the issue.

If you are at risk from another housemate you need to let someone know.  please contact Estate Patrol on 01392 723999, your own GP, NHS 111, or the Samaritans on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org

You are welcome to come and talk to us in advice about this.

I’m worried about my housemates, their behaviour has become really concerning and it is impacting the rest of us.

Often housemates will be the first to notice when a housemates behaviour has become concerning and the important thing is to reach out for support, rather than trying to deal with this on your own. If you feel the situation is affecting your wellbeing, you can contact the University Wellbeing Centre for support. They also have online, self-help resources you can access. You are also welcome to contact advice@exeterguild.com

It can be best to gently communicate this and try not to focus on the behaviour that is concerning and how it impact you rather than criticising the person.

If you have significant concerns of risk for your housemate or yourselves and are concerned for your wellbeing,  please contact Estate Patrol on 01392 723999, your own GP, NHS 111, or the Samaritans on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org

My Housemate won’t pay their share of the bills

This can be a difficult situation. Ideally when you start the tenancy you contact the energy provider and put all your names on the bills so that you are all liable. If it is only in one persons name (normally the most responsible person who has nominated themselves to sort the bills) then if there is outstanding debt then the energy company will look to them to pay it.

If this is the case the next step is to contact the housemate and request payment giving a clear time frame for them to respond to you.

If they refuse to do this then your options are to accept this or to look at taking them to small claims court to reclaim the money. There is no guarantee that you will be successful and there is a cost involved with this, although you can claim this back if you are successful.

It would be important to show that the other housemates are also responsible for the payment, by proving that the person who took out the contract did so on behalf of the other tenants.

The link below shows how to make a claim.
Making a court claim for money

The link below may also be useful if you would like further assistance.

Exeter community law clinic