UK Property Law
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If the property is genuinely uninhabitable then this would be a repudiatory breach of contract by the landlord. This is a breach which is so serious that it goes to the heart (ie. The root) of the contract so as to deny you the whole or substantially the whole of the benefit of the contract.
The issue with terminating on these grounds is proof. If you can prove on the balance of probabilities that the property was uninhabitable then you will have a defence to any claim made by the landlord for rents under the tenancy.
You need documentary evidence. So this is photos of the issue and correspondence from you to the landlord (with proof of posting/emailing) stating that you consider this to be a serious breach of contract which makes the property uninhabitable.
The ideal form of evidence would be in the form of a declaration of uninhabitability by the environmental health department of the local authority. You should speak to them and ask for an inspection. If they attend then make a declaration then you have good evidence of inhabitability and could rely on this, the photos and your correspondence to the landlord as evidence to terminate.
Your son should write to the landlord stating that the problem still persists and that they require it rectified otherwise they will consider it a repudiatory breach and terminate the tenancy. Depending on what the environmental officer says, the photos your son can get and whether the issue is solved by the landlord following further prompting he may be able to terminate on the basis of inhabitability
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Can I just clarify, he is having to live there because he as no other accommodation. Once the pest issues are cleared up then he will be happy to stay. I just wondered whether the landlord should give a rebate or partial rebate of the rent already paid (ie a month and counting) for living in the property whilst it is still having pest problems, and for having to put up with those conditions in the first place.
I would have thought that the house should have been pest free on moving in??
The fridge and freezer not working the landlord attributed to the fact that he had not had time to realise after the last tenants left that they were not in good order. Although that was not good, we accepted that as they were replaced after about a week.
The landlord is not very pleasant, and can be aggressive over the phone. My main argument with him is the presence of the mice and cockroaches. My son (and his fellow students who have now just moved in) found it distressing as droppings were all over the kitchen areas etc
So I guess Im asking: Do we have reasonable grounds to ask for a rent reduction for the days in which the house is plagued with pests? And should they not have been cleared prior to my son moving in?
The Property manager (who seems to be the estate agent I think) agrees the landlord should give a rent reduction, but I feel I need something legal like a statement of tenancy law or something with which to do battle with the landlord, as he will just dismiss us out of hand if he can
I am happy to involve the environmental health dept if necessary
The landlord's duty is to provide a property that is habitable and to take appropriate remedial works to make the property habitable if it is not.
The issue with a reduction in rent is that in order to claim rent abatement in this way you would have to prove that parts of the property are unusable (eg. if a quarter of the property was unsusable then you would be able to argue that the rent should be reduced by a quarter).
If there are rats etc then though this is a repair issue unless it means that the area is unsuable then you would not be able to claim rent abatement unless the landlord is willling to agree to it. You can enforce the repair by writing to him asking for the repair to be made stating that you will pay for a proper pest controller to carry out the appropriate action and then suing the landlord to recover the costs of this if he does not carry it out.
I would attempt to negotiate a reduction for the time being in consideration for you not yet contacting the environmental officer and the landlord again instructing the pest controller to take appropriate action but stating at the same time that if the issue is not dealt with because he will not pay the pest controller to take further costly action then you will either 1) pay for it yourself and recover the money from him, or 2) contact an environmental offcier to make an inspection with a view to terminating the tenancy.
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