My new landlord is useless
August 23, 2006 5:05 AM   Subscribe

My new flat is not ready to move into after two weeks following the start of my new lease. Should I withhold rent or would that be starting off on the wrong foot?

The landlord had promised to have all the work completed before the beginning of the lease (9 August) and had assured me by telephone that the work had been done. When I went to look at the flat on Monday, the floor had not been laid, a wall suffering from damp had not been replaced, the oven had not been installed, the shower and curtain had not been put up. and the flat had not been painted.

I've had to delay my move after booking the movers, and the time in my old flat is running out (fortunately I'm not paying rent on it anymore). I don't want to piss off my new landlord unnnecesarily, and he assures me that the work will be completed by Friday, but by the same token I don't want him to think he can get away with his actions (or lack thereof).

I've already threatened to withhold rent and he does seem to be getting a move on, but I am not going to take this lying down. What should I do? I live in London by the way, and have a 12-month contract.
posted by cbrody to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Speaking from experience and assuming a reasonable amount of reasonableness on the landlord's part, I think phone the guy, tell him what you're going to do in a reasonable tone of voice, write a letter saying the same thing, keep a copy and go ahead and withold. He should be fine with this.
posted by Jofus at 5:11 AM on August 23, 2006

...I should add, "Speaking from the experience of having witheld rent from landlords twice over the past 4 or so years." not "Speaking from the experience of being in any way qualified to be handing out advice from a legal point of view."

But, this is Ask Metafilter. You knew that.
posted by Jofus at 5:13 AM on August 23, 2006

IANAUKL and this is not legal advice, but your lease will contain something about him being obliged to provide the flat in a liveable state. In a strictly legal sense you could probably not only refuse to pay for the rent so far but also sue him for some of the extra costs you have incurred in the meantime.

I don't think that would be a very good idea. But paying rent for time when the flat was uninhabitable is not only unecessary but gives him the idea that you're happy to have advantage taken of you. He can't seriously expect that you will.

Do you have a local tenants' union?

Also: get everything in writing, and document every conversation. Take photos if possible.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:34 AM on August 23, 2006

(Sorry, forgot to add this:)
It's not impossible that your landlord has contractors who have given him a date for the repair work to be finished and just not done it. He might not even know how slack they are. It's still his problem, but make sure he knows exactly what needs to be done. Being as polite as possible, of course.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:38 AM on August 23, 2006

I wouldn't even consider for one second paying rent for the time that the apartment is uninhabitable due to the landlord's negligence.

I would consider also withholding your extra expenses (cancelling the movers, etc.) from the rent.
posted by jellicle at 5:55 AM on August 23, 2006

Ask that the lease be amended for the date you moved in, not the date you didn't. Your lease should indicate when you moved in, not when someone else moved out.

Asking that it be amended means you aren't specifically mentioning money, which means if he's a cheap bastard that really does want to rip you off after all, he might not be prepared with a response to it and might just say "OK" off the cuff, not realizing that means he'll miss half a months rent. Also, by not mentioning money, a really good landlord won't feel like you're going to spend your time squeezing him for every dollar, and that all you want is for ts to be crossed and is dotted.

And if he refuses to amend it, well, you have a pretty tight case for a judge in small claims to say that the date on the contract is incorrect and it needs to be amended, IMHO.
posted by shepd at 6:31 AM on August 23, 2006

I was going to say exactly what shepd said. Asking to ammend the date doesn't have instant correlation of money being involved, and it sounds more than fair.
posted by unsigned at 6:32 AM on August 23, 2006

Check the tenancy laws in your area. Here in Nova Scotia, it wouldn't matter the reason, you'd still be obligated to pay rent. Your only recourse would be to take it up with the Tenancy Board (which is pretty pro-landlord here) and hope for the best. But you'd still have to pay. I'd hope not every jurisdiction has asinine tenancy laws like ours, but best check first.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:00 AM on August 23, 2006

shepd's suggestion is an excellent one. You might want to contact a tenant's union or somehow look for some free advice as to how to make sure the amendment is binding.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:03 AM on August 23, 2006

Shepd that's a fantastic suggestion. Thanks everyone.
posted by cbrody at 8:59 AM on August 23, 2006

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