Must a Landlord Pay to Re-house Tenants Whilst Property Being Re-wired?
I live in Yorkshire and rent my previous home in Surrey through a lettings agency.
Following a recent rodent problem I have been informed by the letting agency that my house is not earthed and needs to be fully rewired, a job that will take 2 weeks.
The agency initially told me that the house was not safe to inhabit until the electrical situation had been resolved and that the tenancy agreement must therefore be ended with immediate effect; the agency told the tenants that they must move out immediately, which they did that night under protest. I was also told that the tenants (who are/were 9 months into their 2nd year-long tenancy) would like to return to the house once the work has been completed, whereupon a new tenancy agreement would be put in place. This all happened on Tuesday 20th October.
3 days later on Friday 23rd October the agency rang to say that, as the contract has ended, I must return the overpaid rent for the month to them so that they could reimburse the tenants along with their security deposit; I paid the agency immediately over the phone. The agency then informed me that they were taking legal advice to establish whether I am liable for the hotel and moving costs associated with re-housing the tenants under these circumstances.
A few hours later the agency called again to say that they cannot just end the contract immediately (as they had done) as 4 weeks’ notice is required to do so and would therefore be refunding me with the overpaid rent I’d paid them earlier in the day.
I rented my house through a professional agency and followed all their pre-rental procedures. My questions are therefore:
1) When preparing my house for rental (for the 1st time) was I supposed to have the wiring checked? I had lived at the house for several years immediately prior to letting it out and had no reason to suspect that there was a problem. If so, was the agency obliged to inform me of this and check that I had done so?
2) Does the agency have a legal right to order tenants to leave a property immediately under these circumstances even if the tenants want to stay (which they did) and have paid the rent? Further, is old, unearthed wiring grounds for immediately vacating a property?
3) If the agency decides unilaterally to evict tenants in this manner, or the tenants decide they do not want to live in the property until it is “made safe”, am I liable for the hotel and moving costs, the rent lost etc?
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