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Tenancy problems, where do we stand

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« on: February 05, 2021, 11:51:37 AM »

Hi all, first time posting and first time renter here so please bear with me.

I wrote out a very long and detailed rant and panicked that our landlord would find it and it would somehow work against me so I think iíll keep it short and sweet.

What are my options in a flat where weíve had unresolved pest problems for 4 months (pigeons on balcony and mice indoors) both i existing due to structural problems and lack of proofing which existed before we moved in. Pest control have treated the mice situation to no avail and we still have droppings daily on furniture and dining table. Pigeons never been treated, they make a huge mess and racket so I donít ever use the outside space. Have proof of LL saying they cannot afford to pay out any more - what are our rights as tenants in this case? Sufficient to report higher up at council level, even if we arenít physically ill (yet)? Mental state is obviously awful, iím crying every day because of the problems but not sure if this is something they consider. Weíve had no rent reductions but have paid out significantly ourselves to mouse-proof the flat, e.g buying containers for all our food, buying traps and cleaning products and replacing house plants that have been destroyed.

Finally we have severe damp and mould in bedroom, floorboards by the damp patches are soaking wet in the mornings so I have to mop it all up. LL said theyíve had this complaint from previous tenants, conclusion was that we have to have heating on all or most of the day as a solution, but our heating system is extremely inefficient and expensive as we donít have GCH. Costs about £10-£20 a day to have radiators on low. We donít have the income to afford this so we are suffering with the cold at the moment, however we do open windows and try to keep the place well ventilated so I donít think it is our problem to fix as it could even be rising damp from the look and location of it.

Basically I am hating every minute of living here and it has only been 4 months. Our landlord hasnít ignored us but hasnít been proactive as itís been 4 months and problems still exist. Seems to me that the cheapest solution is always their preference which just means nothing gets done properly. Where do we stand legally on trying to get out of this place? No break clause, fixed term tenancy with 14 months left on the lease :(
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2021, 11:52:57 AM »

This definitely isnít short and sweet, but you should have seen the first draft!! Sorry for that. Here to answer any questions where I havenít given enough details.
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2021, 02:20:50 PM »

Have you been told by a professional that the problems are down to structural damage? If so,I would get them to put this in writing for you. You should then copy this to the landlord,saying that you can no longer live in such conditions,and tell them you wish to serve notice.18 months is a long time to sign for,did the landlord insist on this? Contacting the council would,if they backed up your complaint,get the work done,and also almost certainly get the landlord to agree to you leaving without penalties.
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2021, 02:35:39 PM »

Hi, thank you so much for replying! Weíve been told by the pest control who visited several times that the problems are down to the structure of the property and the way in which the kitchen has been installed witho it any proofing. They said there is nothing more we can do as tenants to stop the mice so itís not down to us. Weíve got multiple written reports stating this which have already been sent to our landlord. We also had a builder come and visit the property who agreed that the only way to really get to the main cause of the problem is to have the kitchen out and fill the wall cavities. The pest control technician did say that the treatments and proofing he did would sort the problem, and we were happy to accept this as a solution before we forced LL to do serious repairs but turns out this isnít enough so now I think serious (and expensive) work is the only solution. Highly doubt our landlord will agree to this!

The letting agency initially told us the landlord was looking for someone to sign for 3 years. We were desperate to find a place to live and running out of time, and the letting agent suggested if we offered to sign for 18 months or longer weíd have more of a chance of getting picked. Obviously in hindsight I now completely understand why the LL was looking for someone to commit to live here for 3 years and no break clause.....thank god we didnít fall for that!!

Sounds like we canít really lose anything by going to the council then, if they deem the place to be in disrepair then the landlord can pay out or allow us to leave with no fees. If they donít think the landlord must do repairs urgently then weíre no worse off really. The threat of eviction if LL is offended by us reporting them doesnít really scare me as I donít want to live here as it is currently  ;D
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2021, 02:36:51 PM »

I'm going to ask a question about the mice... they're persistent little blighters and can get through the smallest holes... but not no holes... so have you even identified where they're coming in? If so... or you have suspicions, is it not better to absorb the cost of buying some Deep Gap Filler and just get those holes filled in nice and quick?

I realise you might have a default position of the Landlord should resolve... but if you're crying about it every night... https://www.toolstation.com/deep-gap-ready-mixed-filler/p94663 ...a £5 investment and an hour or two of DIY could help you out significantly. I would do it, I think. It might work... assuming the mice aren't already living in your bed or something.

No-one likes other creatures stealing their food.

Pigeons and balconies is a different ballgame.

Where do you stand legally? Not much you can do. You surely had time to view and ask the questions you wanted to? You then agreed a fixed term tenancy. The Landlord must've been jumping for joy when you either asked for, or agreed, 2 years. That said... you could try to buy your way out... but what Landlord in their right mind would agree to that in the current climate? Even if you said you'd assist with the costs of finding a new Tenant the Landlord doesn't gain anything. You have become (what no-one ever wants to become) a warning to others. I promise you - you'll never make the same mistake again - an unfortunate life lesson. If you are on good terms with the Landlord possibly constructively discuss the ideas about the mice to him... no holes of potential ingress should equal no mice... it could even be a Handyman job if the Landlord is amenable. And then break down the issues one-by-one... resolving each one as you go... you might end up enjoying it there as you make progress... but, no, you can't just walk out of your contracts.
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2021, 02:50:59 PM »

Hi Hippogriff, thanks for replying. Weíve had a handyman and a pest control expert treat the holes. At first there were visible holes all over the place which weíve filled with expanding foam. Under the kick boards has also been filled but somehow theyíre still getting in! We see them disappear under the kickboards so there must be somewhere deep behind, either the dishwasher or in the wall itself that they are getting in and out. I canít visibly see any holes so not a DIY fix unfortunately, trust me we have tried.

The pictures of the balcony mustíve been done after a deep clean as there were no signs of any pigeons / waste etc. When viewing we didnít see any pigeons so didnít think to ask - it was only when we moved in that we noticed a resident pigeon who did not move from its perch day or night, and had built up a huge pile of waste in one spot directly below the railing it perched on. Since then weíve just had more and more pigeons show up and make a mess everywhere. As I type this there are 6 pigeons flapping about there! Every other flat on our block has netting so itís clearly a known problem, thatís why itís frustrating that we now have to deal with it.

I feel utterly stupid that we agreed to offer 18mths, was naive and a mistake I def. wonít make again. I now have a long list of questions which I will always ask upfront before renting anywhere! I think we will have to just approach the LL and say that if proper work isnít done to sort the damp and mice inside the flat, we would like to leave and will be reporting to the council.
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2021, 03:22:13 PM »

Weíve been told by the pest control who visited several times that the problems are down to the structure of the property and the way in which the kitchen has been installed witho it any proofing. ... Weíve got multiple written reports stating this which have already been sent to our landlord. We also had a builder come and visit the property...

On the face of it, at least, and using your own words, it seems, to me, like the Landlord has been doing a lot to try and get to the bottom of things. You may be right that the Landlord might not want to rip out the kitchen... but, I'd ask, who would?

When you're diagnosing a problem with something you always build-up to stuff... you never press the nuclear button at the outset... so maybe this is a situation where things need to build up? I have read your thread here and you certainly do not say that your Landlord has either a) ignored you or b) refused to do anything... it's just that there's a difference in approach - or of opinion - as to how to go about it. You now talk about going to the Council... but I don't see that you've exhausted the normal avenues - directly with your Landlord - at this stage. You're just saying that the Landlord has not been proactive... well, to be fair, many aren't... they're reactive... and reluctant to spend money (especially when there might be a cheaper option to get an acceptable result).

You can possibly bring that up... without sounding threatening and hostile... you know - "well, shall we get an objective third party in, possibly the Council?" and see if that puts a rocket under your Landlord but without it sounding like you're a high maintenance Tenant. There is still a chance you'll be there for a long time and I'm suggesting it might not be the best to burn your bridges if it can be avoided by playing the game with a foam bat, rather than a wooden one.

Unless... of course... you just want out... no matter what, now... then you'll take your own path because actual resolution is not your primary focus.
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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2021, 04:14:27 PM »

Hiya, you are absolutely right that our landlord hasnít been unresponsive and has agreed to try and help. The pest control included follow up visits as standard so that was helpful but did not solve the problem at all. The builder visit wasnít paid and was a favour for us. The main worry for me now has come from receiving a message from the LL outright saying they cannot afford any further work to remove the mice and offering no other solution. So far itís come to about £250 for everything which in the grand scheme of things is not that much when youíre taking well over a grand a month on rent, and the fact that this property has structural damage and damp that has existed without repair for at least the last couple of years looking at previous inventory photos. It definitely worried me to hear it so bluntly that they canít afford to pay out any more as we have got so many months left to live here.

I agree with you though in that I donít want to get nasty. I think approaching the idea of getting in the council as a 3rd party is great, its not threatening but does show that weíre serious. After living with it for 4 months I am not as easygoing as I was at the start and I just want it sorted, and if it isnít going to get sorted we will have to try and leave.
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2021, 04:19:43 PM »

Sure... I'm not saying don't do it... just pointing-out that most Landlords would see the Council becoming involved as very threatening. As a Landlord I'd like to think I had been very intractable if a Tenant had to go that route. Council droids and my letting business are things that I don't even want to find out if they mix... I just presume they're like matter and anti-matter. Most Landlords will probably agree with me. Even if a Council droid comes to visit a property... and finds nothing wrong (like, it's not one of those dangerous falling-apart health-risk houses you see on the TV programmes) you don't think they'll go away without making some recommendations(?)... or laying down the law? No Landlord wants to be on the Council's radar. So please be careful and diplomatic if you're seriously seeking a resolution.
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2021, 04:23:01 PM »

The Landlord is likely to have just paid his tax bill too... so maybe nod to that... "I know you've probably just paid your tax bill, and I don't want to be unreasonable with putting monetary pressure on you, but can we please re-circle back to this pest problem as soon as you feel it's manageable?"

I know there are terrible Landlords out there. But no reasonable one should be happy with mice in their property. The pigeons I'm less sure about. Pigeons are pigeons, funny guys and gals.... did you know they're one of the few birds that can drink liquid without having to tilt their head backwards to 'pour' it down their throat? I bet you did know that.
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2021, 06:32:41 PM »

One way to reduce the number of pigeons might be to start feeding them.Hear me out.I have had them nesting in my house for a few years,which is fine by me.I gave them names,and they started asking for food.This is spread on the roof of the shed every morning for them,and Mr and Mrs have driven away all other birds.Some other pigeons have tried to muscle in,but they have great flapping displays and stare each other out,so it has been just the one pair for months now.Also,now I feed them they must go elsewhere to shit.I think it is their way of saying thank you,bless them.Another thing has happened as a result that pleases me ( I am a nutter admittedly) is that the sack of bird food in the shed is being nibbled by a solitary mouse.

If this really goes against the grain for you,then why not get some netting like your neighbours ?
I mentioned the council as a last resort, because once you do that,the landlord can't get rid of you fast enough if that is what you really really want.

   
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2021, 09:13:06 PM »

HeavyKarma, thatís really interesting!! I have to admit Iíd never have thought feeding them would make it better but the reasoning makes sense. I donít actually mind pigeons, itís the mess that bothers me the most and I know it can be quite toxic. I considered just paying to get some netting done but it turns out that itís quite expensive, and I canít do it myself because of the way the balcony is built - also would be worried about losing deposit money if I did a crap job. After the pest control man told us it was the landlord who is responsible it did put me off forking out for it myself, I think weíre paying enough on rent as it is and it would be an expense we canít really afford.

Hippogriff, itís really interesting to hear your point of view as a landlord. I hadnít considered that they may have just paid out on a big tax bill so that could definitely have made them resent paying any more money for pest control, maybe in a few weeksí time theyíll see our perspective and consider getting someone else in to do repairs.

Totally taking on board both your points and good to know that once it gets to reporting to the council our bridges will basically be burned. Will keep it in mind as a last resort if it gets so bad that we actually want to move out ASAP. I have decided to try and explain how this is making us feel and be honest in how horrible itís been to live with to try and encourage LL to get the necessary work done. I donít want it to get nasty, my ideal outcome would be for the problems to be resolved so we can enjoy the rest of our time here.

I only have one question still which I hope you might be able to help me with. In terms of the damp we have in our bedroom: if our LL tells us that they will not pay for any damp proofing or repairs, and tells us we have to have the heating on all day to try and prevent it getting worse, are we obligated to do this or can we say that itís not feasible? It makes me feel sick thinking of the likely electricity bill, not exaggerating it would cost us hundreds of pounds a month. The radiators are just crap and I donít think the flat retains heat very well either.
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