Tenants deliberately falling into arrears to punish landlords

Published: 11/12/2013

A quarter of a million tenants are not paying their rent in a conscious attempt to punish their landlords for failing to fix urgent repairs quickly enough.

The survey of 4000 tenants and 5087 landlords was commissioned by emergency call-out firm Homeserve and found that one in the three tenants had experienced a home emergency – such as central heating and boiler faults – in the last 12 months. Of that 11 per cent had refused to pay their rent because of the time it had taken the landlord to resolve the problem and, as a result, had fallen into rent arrears.

A further 50 per cent said they would be willing to do the same should their landlord fail to fix repairs in adequate time.

The overwhelming majority of tenants (81 per cent) believe dealing with home emergencies efficiently is a key part of a landlord’s role. However nearly a quarter of tenants surveyed (23 per cent) have experienced repair delays of over a week. This included being left without hot water and/or heating.

But can a tenant legally withhold rent for repair delays? Rob Denman, Head of GW LET, comments:

“Providing there is an Assured Standard Tenancy (AST) agreement in place, a tenant cannot refuse to pay their rent on account of slow repairs.

“That said landlords have a legal obligation to provide tenants with a safe environment in which to reside. This includes ensuring all reported faults are dealt with in a timely manner, particularly when it comes to urgent problems such as boiler repairs in winter.

“There is no official time limit in which a landlord must respond to a tenant request. However sooner is definitely better. Landlords are encouraged to put themselves in the tenant’s shoes; if the same problem was to occur in their own home how quickly would they deal with it?

“Dealing with tenant issues promptly can only improve the landlord/tenant relationship, minimising the risk of rent arrears and potentially encouraging the tenant to reside in the property for a longer period of time.”

Content correct at time of publication

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