A post from The Landlord Law Blog:
This is a question to the blog clinic fast track from Doris (not her real name) who is a tenant
Tenancy dated 1st July, 1988 (rent registered and governed by Rent Officer). We have never had an electricity inspection (!). We have no certificates and plenty of trailing wires.
The electrician who inspected the house and has won the tender told us he had never seen a house where the upstairs lighting was unearthed. The house will now be completely re-wired next week but the landlord is refusing the re-wire the outbuilding.
This has an electricity supply (for more than 20 years) and the tumble drier and more importantly freezer are kept there. Landlord will disconnect the supply as electrical company deems it unsafe.
We will be given time to make alternative arrangements (or pay for the Rewire ourselves, which involves digging a trench) on our return from annual leave. We were told this two days ago even though the work was schedules a couple of months back.
Question: Is it legal for the landlord to cut the supply to the outbuilding (included in the lease according to the original map) for which rent is paid and refuse to rewire?
This will be a protected tenancy under the Rent Act 1977 and you have long term security of tenure. This means that you can be a bit more robust in enforcing your rights as your landlord cannot evict you using section 21!
The first point to make is that if your electricity wiring is so awful you must be entitled to compensation from your landlord under the landlord’s statutory repairing covenants in s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
The main question though is whether the landlord is obliged to re-wire the outbuilding. My view is that he should, although I am not 100% certain of this. My reason for saying he should is that the property has been provided with electricity (albeit of a poor standard) for the past 20 years or so and it is therefore, arguable that he should continue to do so as you rely on it for your appliances – in particular, the freezer.
The Housing Act 1985 in s16 says
“lease of a dwelling-house” means a lease by which a building or part of a building is let wholly or mainly as a private residence and “dwelling-house” means that building or part of a building;
The Outhouse seems to come within this definition as you use it for keeping necessary appliances. Presumably, because there is no room for them in the main house.
I can however, see that there may be an argument to the contrary as the outhouse is not absolutely essential for living and is (presumably) separate from the main building. And no doubt it will be expensive to re-wire the outhouse and the landlord clearly does not want to incur this expense.
I would be interested to see what views others have, and particular if you have any experience of this situation (which I do not).
I would also be interested to know a bit more of the background to this case – for example, why is the landlord doing the re-wiring – he has volunteered to do it or is he being forced to do it, maybe under pressure from the Local Authority?
What options are open to you?
Ideally, you want the landlord to include the work of re-wiring the outhouse with the rest of the re-wire work.
If your landlord is doing the re-wire under pressure from the Local Authority, you could have a word with them and see what they think about the issue of re-wiring the outhouse. They may tell the landlord he has got to do it.
Otherwise, you could always point out to the landlord that you have a claim for compensation for the poor wiring all these years but that you will agree to waive your rights provided he carries out the re-wire to the outhouse (assuming the value of your claim is equivalent to the cost of the re-wiring – you would have to take advice on this).
If the landlord refuses point blank to agree to pay anything towards the outhouse re-wire, you can always get it done yourself and then seek to deduct it from the rent. If you do this though, there is a procedure to be followed which I describe here.
If your landlord refuses to accept this, the only thing he can do is bring a claim against you for the outstanding rent. If this happened, you would need to defend on the basis that you are offsetting the cost of essential repair work (for which you would need to prove that you had carried out the proper procedure). You could also take the opportunity to bring in a counter claim for compensation for all the years of poor wiring.
It would then be up to the Judge to decide whether he considered the outbuilding should be treated as part of the ‘dwelling house’ or not.
The best thing to do is to take some professional advice before going further. Ideally from a solicitor in a Shelter Office or Law Centre – see my post here for more information.
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