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I received a letter today from Citizens Advice on behalf of the tenant.
Some of the items on the list of issues we are aware of and are trying to fix and others have never been mentioned. The issue that surprises us most is the mention of dampness and mould in the bathroom (a little bit on the sealant and we asked her to open the windows) and kitchen (kitchen is caused by guttering we are in the process of fixing) but when we last saw it there wasn't much. It is also mentioned in the letter about insects and slugs in the bathroom. We have never seen the insects but have seen a little evidence of slugs in the kitchen, where we were trying to see where they come from. She has only been in the property 2 months.
The letter says we have to respond within 20 working days and not to do any repair works (which means we had to cancel the plumber). It also mentions about an expert going in to do a report and you have guessed it, compensation.
They also want all my records. I have never done this before as only own a couple of properties but is this a lession learnt that I should keep a record of all contact and all issues with resolution on them as well.
My concerns are
1 - I have never heard of the housing disrepair protocol as I thought they would start with the council.
2 - What power do they have - eg legal
3 - Do I have to deal with them and I am legally bound to provide all my documentation as mentioned
4 - I assume any compensation will be via the courts and cannot be enforced by this letter.
Any thoughts (even negative) are welcomed.
Taking this point by point:
No one has the legal right to prevent a landlord carrying out repairs in a rented property unless the tenant refuses access - this is their legal right. If they do prevent access, when you have called in a contractor, ask the contractor to write on his letter headed paper to tell you the time that he called and the fact that the tenant would not grant access to carry out the works. I am assuming that you have already given the tenant the legally required 24 hours written notice. In this situation I give the tenant written notice and book the contractor again. I know that this is frustrating but it will give you written evidence that you tried to deal with the issues and were prevented - no compensation for the tenant.
Make sure that the guttering is fixed urgently and you will have a copy of the invoice to prove that if it goes to court
There is a guide to dealing with mould in the Knowledge pool here http://www.landlordreferencing.....ion-mould/
In a nutshell there is no point is telling a tenant to open windows - it's good advice but they probably won't do it. We cannot force them and therefore we have to prevent mould. Painting the walls with the product listed in the link above (Glixtone Funghishield) is the best way to stop mould this paint really works and I don't use anything else anymore. You need to clean the mould off with bleach first.
Use HG Mould and Mildew Remover to get the mould of the silicone and/or tiles- available from Homebase and other similar stores
To prevent slugs put down salt. It's as simple as that just put it all around the skirting of the room, you only need a little and it will kill them and prevent them from returning.
You don't mention what other types of insects are present. If you mean silverfish - common where there is a humidity - First dry and vacuum the area to remove the eggs. Make sure that food is kept in sealed containers. Remove any newspapers or books. Fill up any obvious holes. By some citronella - you will find it on Amazon - put a few drops around the area where the silverfish have been seen. It needs to to topped up regularly to keep them away but it works.
When you have done all of this write back and tell them. If the tenant will not grant access for you to do all of this, write back and tell them that you have taken advice and want to deal with the bugs issues but that the tenant will not grant access therefore you cannot. - No compensation for the tenant. Whatever happens do not ignore their letter because they will use that as evidence against you.
From you post you've got a tenant who is attempting to gain money from small issues, this is not uncommon but I know that it's stressful. Good luck please report back on what happens
Mary Latham Landlord
Follow me on Twitter @landlordtweets
Thank you Mary for your in depth answer and i have taken notes re Mould details
Contacted CAB eventually who had made it difficult by not putting a direct phone number or email on their letter. I informed them that the builder was going round as he had been booked in advance. They said OK and when asked about the other parts of the letter including compensation, they said it was just a standard letter. Before I contacted them I did receive another copy of the letter, this time forwarded by the Estate Agency who performed the tenant find. I did find it annoying that CAB had sent them this as it is nothing to do with them.
The builder fixed the guttering and some other issues the tenant had reported, but the damp in the kitchen is also caused by damp in the chimney breast and party wall which will need a full damp course. I am glad I know about this now rather than later should we can fix this issue before it gets worse and more expensive.
As for the insects, the builder found one dead Woodlouse, not bad for a 100 year old house.
Hopefully when the damp course and the few remaining issues are resolved I can put this behind me, but I have learnt some invaluable lessons which include keeping a list of issues and resolutions (using excel) and creating a stand alone email address for my tenants to raise issues on (if they report via phone they need to raise on email) which means we both have the full details and no one can report phone calls that were not acted upon or received. If we come across a tenant who does not use emails, then we will find another solution to ensure no confusion can exist on what issues have been raised, when and when fixed.
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