A short time ago my landlord decided to change the water tank at my house. This left us without running water for nine days. As I was left without a basic amenity, is it reasonable for my landlord to still demand rent?
Most people that rent privately and don't share their home with their landlord are assured shorthold tenants, so the following advice is based upon this.
As tenants, you can't withhold your rent, even if certain repairs haven't been done. A tenancy is a legally binding contract in which you agree to live in your home and pay rent. If your landlord isn't meeting their repairing obligations, there is action that you can take. This includes action you can take yourself or getting other bodies involved, such as the environmental heath officer, or taking your landlord to county court.
You may be able to negotiate a rent reduction with your landlord because of the inconvenience you've suffered. However, your landlord is not legally obliged to do this. If your landlord does agree to reduce your rent, get this confirmed in writing so you both know where you stand. Alternatively, you may be able to claim compensation from your landlord.
In order to take action against your landlord, you'd need to show that they hadn't carried out their repairing responsibilities. Landlords are normally responsible for carrying out repairs to hot water systems and the law says they must take reasonable steps to put things right within a reasonable period of time. If you went to court, the court would decide whether nine days without water was reasonable.
If you were claiming compensation of less than £1,000, you'd use the small claims court. You can find out more and download relevant forms on the website of Her Majesty's Courts Service. Small claims court procedures are designed to be straightforward and you wouldn't usually need the services of a solicitor. However, it may be worth getting further advice and help from a local advice service to prepare your case. If your claim is for more than £1,000, you should get legal advice as you may not be able to use the small claims court.
You need to bear in mind that court action can be time consuming and expensive and it's hard to say how likely you are to succeed. If you do go to court, though, it will be helpful that you've saved all the relevant paperwork.
Do be aware that assured shorthold tenants can usually be evicted quite easily and the landlord may not have to give a reason. If you threaten your landlord with court action, they may decide to evict you.
If you are having problems negotiating with your landlord, you may want to seek advice from a local advice service to see if you can come to an agreement.
Question answered by Shelter