Friday, January 25, 2008

Tell me, what is "reasonable"?

My faith in "law" is diminishing. Where is the justice?

When two parties are involved, the law always seems to protect the more "powerful" party.

Employment laws: To what extent are employees protected? To what extent are disabled employees, young mothers etc are protected? Although there are "acts" in place, they are pretty useless, as there are so many loop holes. "Reasonable adjustments" for disabled employees. How do you define "reasonable"? It is all up to the employer to define, with so many excuses about hurting the company efficiencies etc.

Housing and tenancy:
I have just called on behalf of my friends to find out about their rights. They have just moved into a new rented flat and found out that there are no water supplies. No water supply= no boiler= no heating. No water supply= no sanitation.

Is this flat fit for occupation?

They called the housing agent who managed their flat immediately, only to be told that the "person in charge" is not around. Call again, and they seemed to drag their feet again. So, where are they going to stay today? It is really cold today, and my friend has health problems- mild lupus and bad peripheral circulation. I have seen her fingers and toes turn blue when she did not keep warm enough in winter. I have seen them bruised, and painful because of exposure to cold.

I called and ask some questions, and was really fuming about the laws of this country.

What does the law say about provision of water and electricity? In this case, the tenants have just move in.
The landlord need to do the "repair" within "reasonable" time.

How long is reasonable?
It can be days, weeks. It is very difficult to define.

So, what will happen to my friends? Tonight will be particularly cold, and I cannot imagine them living there. They are miles away from me, and they might need to pop into a B&B/motel if it gets really cold tonight.

Could they get some sort of compensation for all these problems? For example, not pay the rental for yesterday and today (the days where they flat is clearly not ready/fit for occupation??) or some sort of compensation for needing to seek alternative accommodation?
No, they law does not have any provision for compensation to tenants who are given an accommodation unfit for living. However, the law says that the tenant must pay full rental, and ensure no arrears even when repairs are not carried out, otherwise, they are considered defaulting. They can ask the landlord to reduce rental for the period the problems exist, but the landlord have no obligations to fulfill it.

Don't the landlord & management agent have an obligation to ensure that they flat have basic supplies such as water and electricity connected before renting out?
They may claim that they were "not aware" of the situation. It is very difficult to "contest". For example, the water supply might have been cut off because the previous tenant did not pay up, or there is a broken pipe. This will not be considered the landlord's fault.

So, what can the tenants do?
Negotiate with the management agent to get it done asap. If they still drag their feet, involve the local council. The local council can act as a "mediator". If all these do not work, and the problem is prolonged, they can speak to the local environment office, who can then look into the matter and have the power to take actions -"ordering" a repair.

?????? Can you believe it??? Gosh, I think i should just get a property and rent it out, since my only obligation seems to be carrying out repair within "reasonable" time whenever my tenants complain. I don't even have an obligation to check that the house is in good condition, with basic things like water and electricity provided!

In other words, my friends are on a lose lose situation. They will have to wait for then landlord to carry out the "repair" within "reasonable" time. Days later? A week later, since it is the "weekend now"?

I find that these are all totally ridiculous. If you have no water supply to your house, and you are freezing cold, I bet you will call they plumber immediately. I bet you will try to get someone to repair it within the next couple of hours. I bet you won't think nothing can be done since it is weekend.

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