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Thomas, Lawyer
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 7620
Experience:  BA (Hons), PgDip, Practising Solicitor
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I viewed a flat in East Dulwich and on the strength of that

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I viewed a flat in East Dulwich and on the strength of that signed a tenancy agreement with an estate agent. Having signed the contract I went to the flat to move in. On arrival with vacant possession it was apparent that the furniture of the previous tenants had hidden a serious damp problem with extensive arears of mould growing on a number of internal walls. I immediately returned to the estate agent. I said the flat was uninhabitable. After this I waited several weeks for the Landlady to fix the problems but nothing was done. During this time she turned down several quotes to address the problems. We returned to the flat in the company of the Estate agent to show the extent of the damp and it was agreed that the damp problem rendered the flat uninhabitable. On the strength of this wished to terminate the tenancy agreement. The estate agent contacted the owner who has refused to end the contract. I understand that the flat has now been painted, hiding the mould, but my understanding is that the structural problem causing the damp has not been dealt with. At no stage did I move into the flat. Am I legally justified in demanding that the agreement be terminated and getting my deposit and first month's rent back.

Also the estate agent is simply acting as a 'post box' and is not acting as a managing agent. Even so what duty of care do they have towards me? They had not visited the flat until I told them of the problem. They then returned to the flat with me and agreed it was uninhabitable.

Thank you.


What money have you paid in respect of the flat?


Kind regards.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.

We have paid the first month's rent (£500 each, £1,000 in total) and a deposit of £1,153.85.

The next month's rent of £1000 is due on Monday 18th, but we have not yet set up any way to pay it as the estate agents were advising her to release us from the contract.



So for how long have you actually had occupation of the property and what, in monetary terms, do you seek from the landlord?


Is the tenancy agreement an assured shorthold tenancy? When did the term commence?


Has the deposit been placed in a tenancy deposit scheme?



Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Our contract was signed on 18/09/10 however we never moved into the flat as the condition was, we felt, uninhabitable. We returned to the estate agents within the hour to tell them this and we also emailed them the same information.

At this point (18/09/10) we asked the landlady to fix the problem and return the first week's rent to us. However, this wasn't done and the landlady repeatedly turned down quotes to fix the problem (this information about the quotes comes from the estate agents). Therefore on the 02/10/10 we went into the estate agents and asked to be released from our contract. Acorn ltd agreed that they would advise the landlady to release us from our contract and return the first month's rent and our deposit.

This means that we are seeking the return of the first month's rent of £1,000 and the deposit of £ 1153.85.

Total: £2153.85

The tenancy agreement is and assured shorthold tenancy agrreement. The term commenced on 18/09/10

The deposit has been placed in a tenancy deposit scheme. ( Administered by The Dispute Service ltd)


Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your reply.

The position is that you can terminate the tenancy if the property is unfit for human habitation. This is a repudiatory breach of contract by the landlord; a breach of a contract term that is so serious and fundamental that it goes to the root (ie. the heart) of the contract so as to deny you the whole, or substantially the whole of the benefit of the contract.


If the property is so unfit then you are entitled to unilaterally terminate the contract and for the rent and deposit monies to be returned to you. It is obviously crucially important that you are able to prove the breach. If you have photos and a statement in writing (eg. correspondence from agent) agreeing that the damp is of such a nature that the property is unfit for human habitation then this would help.


If you feel that no progress is being made by the agents then you should see a local landlord and tenant solicitor taking what documentary evidence you have. They will write a letter confirming the circumstance and that you are terminating the agreement and require the monies to be returned to you. It will state that if the money is not returned within a fixed time (eg. two weeks) you will issue a claim in the small claims court against the landlord. Hopefully this will prompt his compliance.


It should cost around £40-50 for the letter, if you do not wish to spend this money you can write in the form above yourself. It may be that a solicitor's letter carries more weight though.


If you are confident in the evidence you will be able to produce then you can issue the claim yourself by using It's fairly cheap and very easy to use.



You may also wish to speak the local authority's environmental health department to ask for an inspection to be made. If they find it unfit they will issue serve this as a notice upon the landlord and you can use this as further evidence. Alternatively you may use the threat of this as leverage before seeing a solicitor to see if you can get any traction.


You can find local landlord and tenant solicitors by using the Law Society search engine:-


Make sure you dealings with the agent are only in writing (eg, email) and keep copies of everything, this will help in any claim you issue in the future.


If this is useful please kindly click accept so that I may be rewarded for my time. It will be gratefully received and you will be free to ask follow up questions.

Kind regards,



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