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Short version

We wasted two days waiting for plumber who didn't come until the third day.

When he came, he did the job, but then came back and un-did it the day after (claiming the landlord hadn't paid him) - leaving the flat in a worse situation than beforehand.

Now we have to waste another day waiting for the plumber to come back to re-do the job.

We are tech entrepreneurs with seed investment ranging from ~£15k to £300k so time=money and we have had to waste a lot of time with this problem now.

We don't know who exactly is at fault here - what can we do to "encourage" the landlord to manage things properly, and the plumber to do his job? We don't really have time to take legal action - we just want a working flat so we can build our businesses. If there is some way we could create a perceived threat of legal action, it might help the landlord and/or the plumber to do their jobs. Assuming this problem continued another week, what courses of action may be available to us? What information should we record during that time?

To give an example of "encouragement" - in a past problem with a USA-based clothing seller, simply the mention of the phrase "small claims court" in a letter to them was sufficient to make them take us seriously.

Detailed info

Myself and two friends recently started renting a flat in London. We are renting from a previous tennant who is subletting (authorized by her landlord/owner). We are on an "assured shorthold tenancy".

Last week, we received notification that the flat below was taking on water from above. This was identified as a leaky pipe in our flat

  • We were told that a plumber would come on Monday to repair the pipe. I stayed home for the day, no plumber came.

  • We were told that the plumber would come on Tuesday. A flatmate stayed home for that day, but again - no plumber.

  • On Wednesday, the other flatmate stayed at home. The plumber came and repaired the pipe. The plumber claimed that he had only been ordered to do the job since Tuesday.

  • On Thursday (today), the plumber came and said that he wanted to do a "check up". The only flatmate in at the time let the plumber in. The plumber then turned the water off and took his pipes out. The flatmate protested, the plumber said that he hadn't been paid by the landlord so the pipes were his property, then he left.

One flatmate turned the water back on briefly - predictably, this resulted in water freely flowing from where a pipe had been removed.

We contacted the landlord and he said that he would pay the plumber on Friday (tomorrow) and that one of us would need to be in the flat to let the plumber in, and to verify that he had done the job properly.

We have no water in our kitchen and probably no hot water (I don't want to risk running the on-demand boiler if there's a chance that it the pipes will fill with air). We have wasted three days and now one of us needs to waste (at least) one more.

  1. How can we give the impression that we're prepared to take swift legal action if the situation isn't resolved within the next 24 hours?

  2. If the situation isn't resolved within a few days, what courses of action would be available to us, and what information should we be recording during that time?

We understand that this site is purely "friendly community advice" not "professional legal advice", and is no substitute for formally talking to a lawyer :)

5

This guide from Shelter lists the steps you should take.

It can be summarised as: if the landlord fails to arrange the repairs, contact your local council. If they can't help, you can arrange the repairs yourself and request that the landlord reimburse you. If the landlord still refuses to co-operate, then you can pursue legal action.

It's important that you document everything you're doing, and keep the landlord fully informed at every step.

The guide states that you can deduct the cost from future rent. But it also says:

You do not have the right to withhold your rent if your landlord refuses to do repairs. If you don't pay rent, the landlord could take steps to evict you.

...so you may want to get expert advice before going any further.

  • Great, thanks! Should be useful for in future (the pipes eventually got fixed at 1am Saturday morning) – Mark K Cowan Oct 21 '15 at 16:04
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Legal action is not worth it.

Write to the landlord give them 24 hours to fix the problem or you will and deduct the cost from the rent.

  • We just wasted another day waiting for a plumber who never came... do you know which piece of legislation I should look at to see what I can/can't do regarding the course of action you recommended? Thanks! – Mark K Cowan Oct 16 '15 at 22:46
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    That's a really, really bad idea. In England & Wales, if a tenant withholds rent - even if they have a good reason - they place themselves at risk of eviction. – Steve Melnikoff Oct 21 '15 at 14:32

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