On the first day of the tenancy, Mr C, the tenant, found that the boiler was not working and
immediately reported the matter to the Agent, explaining that he was unable to live in the property until the problem was fixed. The Agent advised the landlord straight away and arranged for a contractor to attend the property the same day. However, upon investigating the problem the contractor found traces of a rat infestation. The complications in dealing with the two connected issues eventually led to the landlord agreeing to terminate the tenancy with Mr C being refunded his rent and deposit. However, Mr C considered that the Agent could have done more to prevent the situation arising and promptly complained.
The Agent acknowledged that they had been managing the property for three years and that six months prior to Mr C moving in, the previous tenants had reported hearing scurrying noises. The matter had been reported to the local environmental health office who had investigated the matter and produced a report which was sent on to the landlord to enable her to take the appropriate action. The Agent stated that they had received assurances from the landlord that the problem had been resolved and argued that, in any case, as the property was vacant prior to Mr C’s tenancy, they were not managing the property therefore the responsibility lay wholly with the landlord to ensure the property was free from vermin and fit for purpose. Whilst it was clear that the Agent was not managing the property during the vacant period, their file notes contrasted with their statement by recording that contact with the landlord indicated that she had not managed to resolve the rat problem prior to the tenancy starting.
I considered that the Agent acted correctly in promptly arranging for the boiler issue to be
investigated and agreed that the responsibility lay with the landlord to ensure the property was free from vermin and fit for purpose prior to the start of the tenancy. However, in the circumstances, I pointed out that the Agent had an obligation under Paragraph 4f of the Code of Practice to disclose any material information of which they were aware during
marketing and especially before Mr C agreed to proceed with the tenancy. This information included the fact that there had recently been an issue with rats at the property which had led to the involvement of environmental health who had indicated that the landlord should take action. The fact that this action was ongoing should have been divulged. I, therefore
supported the complaint and made an award of £350, which took into account the tenancy application fee paid to the Agent.
Whilst the landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is fit for purpose and complies with the appropriate safety legislation, if there are outstanding issues which may affect the decision of a potential tenant to view, make an offer or agree a tenancy on that property, the information should be divulged by the agent as soon as is practical and in accordance with Paragraph 4f of the TPO Code of Practice.