In late October 2018, we organised with a student tenant who was being messed around with a disrepair issue by a well-known student lettings agency. We’d beaten this agency before via a direct-action campaign – this time all it took was the delivery of a demand letter to get this tenant compensation. Below, the tenants tells the story of the dispute.

One of our toilets was out of action for the best part of six months. If used, faeces would back up and overflow out of the toilet. This plumbing damage was caused by a fire that wasn’t disclosed to us. Although we had use of another toilet, the toilet that was overflowing was directly next door to the kitchen that meant alongside being inconvenienced, it was quite a disgusting and hazardous living situation prior to calling the plumbers to fix it.

We had tried to negotiate an amount we thought reasonable. Given that our toilet was out of action for over five months and it was one of the five communal rooms, we requested that we be given a fifth of five-month’s rent each, which equalled one month’s rent each. The agency and our landlord rejected this offer because they said dealt with the issue as quickly as they could, and stopped contacting us after I asked for written confirmation as to why. Following this, I went in to the agency in person to request this yet again, and a month later and no response.

SolFed firstly helped me draft a letter to request the initial amount. For this, I had to gather evidence of their neglect and our continual attempt to contact them regarding the toilet, and it was satisfying to use this information to counteract their claims suggesting we were at fault for the difficulties we experienced with this loo. After little success and no response from the agency, we handed in a demand letter stating how our contract had been breached. The demand was for one month’s rent in compensation for each tenant.

Five days after handing in the letter, the agency offered £2200 – just under the total amount of compensation we had demanded – which we accepted. I’m very happy, and it was very reassuring to see that they offered us a considerable amount more than when we tried negotiating without mentioning our contact with SolFed. Clearly, self-organised tenants put fear into the heart of letting agents!

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This article was published on 17 February 2019 by the SolFed group in Brighton. Other recent articles:

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