Repair issues are not always straight forward; nor is allocation of responsibility between landlord and tenant. Sharon Betton, landlord advisor with the Bolton Bond Board and author of The Landlord Good Management and Practice Guide had an interesting case that illustrates this perfectly.
The landlord accepted new tenants – man and wife, in their late 30’s and two teenage children. The tenants lived quite happily for 3 months but then they reported to the agent that a large crack had appeared in the shower tray, stretching from one side to the centre of the tray. This was an urgent problem, as it was the only bathing facility – the bath had been removed and replaced by a large and very nice shower cubicle. Neither the agent nor the landlord questioned how the crack had occurred, what exactly had been happening in the shower when the crack appeared, putting it down to ageing of the tray or a fault in the tray.
The landlady immediately instructed an experienced plumber to replace the shower tray. This he did and was satisfied that he had done a perfect job. There were no faults in the tray, nothing to indicate that this tray would not have a long life ahead of it, provided nothing untoward happened to it. It was explained to the tenants that the shower should not be used for 24 hours to allow the sealants to set completely. The job was done, the landlord had met his responsibilities and surely, nothing more need be said?
How about 14 hours later, the tenant making contact with the landlord to say that the same crack had appeared in the new tray? The tenant denied that the shower had been used, though his supporting photographs could be said to disprove this, soap and shower gels, shampoos and sponges being in place. The landlord was distressed and rang the plumber, who disputed that this had happened, if the tenant had done as requested. The agent accepted without a qualm that a brand new shower tray would split and advised the landlord he must replace it – again. The landlord wanted to evict as soon as possible, now believing the tenant’s behaviour had been at fault and caused the same repair to be needed twice in 4 months, though he was prepared to give 1 month notice.
Sympathy must be with the landlord, who had done exactly what was required of him but he needed to know that this is sometimes the risk that private sector landlords run. Advice given was:
- Discuss with the tenants how it happened. Be prepared to challenge them – if the shower had not been used, why were the bathing accoutrements in situ? A bit more information may make you feel more comfortable that this was just an unfortunate co-incidence;
- If you still have doubts, use a section 21 notice and get them out following the expiry of the tenancy; one month notice is never correct. A section 21 is the easiest manner of evicting them as no reason need be given. Failure to go through the correct legal procedure could result in cries of illegal eviction and harassment, so issue a notice to end on the last day of the tenancy (which must be at least 2 months notice) – that at least is the accelerated possession procedure – don’t proceed with it if further research shows that this could be an inherent fault with the tray;
- Try to get a second opinion. Contact the trays’ manufacturer. Has this happened before? Are they aware of other cases? If they acknowledge this has happened, they should be prepared to replace the tray and pay for fitting it;
- A cracked shower tray must be replaced, but is there any kind of repair that could be made temporarily, to allow the shower to be used in the short-term, until the wrecking tenants have gone? If there isn’t, then the lack of an alternative means of bathing facility means the landlord has no choice but to bite the bullet and get it replaced.
- Think about changing the agent to one who is prepared to look after the landlord’s interests.
Landlords should do what is required of them, but that doesn’t mean that they need accept without question or investigation when an unusual or unexpected repair occurs.
For advice on buy to let – Ask Sharon