You are the Judge – rent dispute


The fifth scenario in our You are the Judge series is a conflict situation between a tenant and their landlord. These are regular occurrences (in fact your writer went through a very similar circumstance just a couple of years ago) and can be a source of real despair. They should always be taken seriously, and thankfully can often be resolved fairly simply.

What do you think the correct answer is in this situation?

Rental dispute


Rebecca’s flat has not had heating for several months.

She has tried contacting her landlord, Ted, but he has not responded to her letters or phone calls. In desperation, she decided to withhold rent from Ted.

This did prompt a reply from Ted - he is taking her to court to try and have her evicted.

At the time she was served with the court papers, there were three months' worth of outstanding rent. Rebecca has the money to pay it, but does not want to until Ted agrees to pay for her heating to be repaired.

Who has the strongest position, and what do you think Rebecca should do?

The answer

Ted is breaking the contract by not maintaining the flat in reasonable repair, but this does not allow Rebecca to withhold rent. Legally, tenants are not entitled to withhold their rent and continue occupying the property.

If she does not repay Ted before the case comes to court, the court must evict her for being more than three months in arrears. This is according to Section 7 of the Housing Act 1988.

However, if Rebecca repays Ted, she can start her own claim for the repairs. Alternatively, she can give him notice that she will have the repairs completed at her expense and recover the cost from the rent.

Landlord and tenant issues can be tough because it only takes one difficult character to cause a problem. Communication is key.

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