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April 2015

Question

I am currently living in a private rented property. There are a number of issues with the property. For example, my daughter’s bedroom has a considerable damp problem and I am worried it is affecting her health. I have asked the landlord repeatedly to fix these issues; however, so far he has not done so. I am considering withholding the rent until he does but I am worried this may have some unintended consequences. Is this okay and if not what could I do to make sure the landlord deals with these problems?

 

Answer

It is not easy or fair to be living in and paying rent for a property that may be unhealthy to live in and may not be fit for habitation. The ongoing maintenance and repairs of a property are a frequent source of disputes between landlords and tenants. Your landlord is legally responsible for the maintenance and repair of the property and is obliged to ensure that the property meets certain minimum standards.

These standards specify that roofs, roofing tiles, slates, windows, floors, ceilings, walls, stairs, doors, skirting boards, fascias, tiles on any floor, ceiling and wall, gutters, down pipes, fittings, furnishings, gardens and common areas must be maintained in good condition and repair. They must not be defective due to dampness or otherwise. It would seem from your question that the property isn’t compliant with these standards.

Dampness can be caused by a number of factors. Usually, the dampness is due to a lack of proper ventilation in the property. This is more common nowadays as people dry their clothes internally and don’t always remember to open windows. In your case, it could also be the result of a leak from another property.

It is not advisable to withhold the payment of rent and I would strongly suggest you keep paying your rent until you are properly advised. You don’t want to give the landlord any grounds for non-performance of the lease/contract, so keep yourself totally compliant.

The two authorities that provide support in the private rented sector are the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), a statutory body which provides a dispute resolution service to both landlord and tenants, and Threshold.

In the first instance, I would suggest that you write to your landlord detailing your issues formally. You should also agree to make suitable arrangements to allow your landlord to access the property to carry out the repairs.

If your landlord doesn’t carry out the required repairs within a satisfactory timeframe, there are a number of options available to you. It may be possible for you to arrange to have the repairs carried out and for the landlord to reimburse you afterwards. If you have a lease, you can present to your landlord, within 28 days, a written notice of termination for breach of obligations or you might consider making a complaint to your local authority which is responsible for ensuring that rented accommodation meets these standards.

You could also consider contacting your solicitor if your concerns are not adequately dealt with by the landlord.

Felicity Fox is a chartered residential agency surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (MediKids) Residential Agency Professional Group