Whether you are big on Christmas or not, it is a time of family re-union, not least because children may return from University and family and friends gather to hear about the new experiences they have had.
We visited friends whose daughter had returned from her first term at a prestigious university in London. Her first time away from home, we were anxious to hear how it was going. Her studies were going well, but she didn’t like the cockroaches. Cockroaches! Had she spoken to the landlord? Yes, but so far, he had given no indication of what he intended to do about it. Whilst my reaction to what the student said was “Ugh!”, in considering the landlord’s position, it was “aargh”.
Our friend, mother of student, was incensed and started muttering about withholding the rent. First things first – advised that this was not a good idea, that the right to repair has a set procedure to go through, which involves a minimum of 3 letters to the landlord, the third giving a time period during which repairs must be completed; if they are not completed, then the tenant will have the work done and withhold rent until the cost has been recouped.
Most tenants I have spoken to over many years are rarely in a position to pay for the repair and then re-coup the cost. It is also probable that in a house in multiple occupation, cockroaches will be throughout the structure and therefore expensive to eradicate.
I advised a sharp letter to the landlord, asking for a response within 7 days, making reference to the HHSRS legislation introduced by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 5th May 2008 and the fact cockroaches come under category of Vermin and that their presence can cause:
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Spread infection
- Food spoilage and infections caused by food spoilage
If there is no satisfactory response, then involve the Enforcement/Public Health section of the local council; discuss with the accommodation officer of the University. No landlord should welcome complaints to the local authority as it will affect their reputation.
My work is with landlords so it goes against the grain to advise a tenant, even one I have known all her life, but no landlord should ignore reports of infestation by cockroaches. If as we are told cockroaches will survive a nuclear attack, treatment for them must be taken seriously and probably, over a protracted period.
Tenants have told me about infestations by ants, mice and various other pests, but none, other than rats, make the flesh creep in quite the same way that cockroaches do. Get them seen to without in-put from the local authority; even one report of cockroaches colours the opinion that the public have of private sector landlords.