My rental nightmare: Charged £1K for a door handle

Luke’s story highlights the lack of protection for young renters in London  faced with unreasonable bills for household repairs.

Private renter Luke in his home in Lewisham Pic: Thames Menteth

Click here to read the other stories in or rental nightmares series, uncovering shocking treatment of tenants in ELL boroughs Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Luke*, a student living Hither Green, Lewisham moved into his house with four friends in July 2018. The landlady told them that the house had been done up to a “very high standard”, and so Luke was surprised to find that it had a damp problem and flimsy fixtures that broke easily.

The real issues started, however, when Luke and his flatmates bought a sofa and couldn’t fit it through the front door. They took it apart and got it inside but, in the process, scratched the handle. On a visit to the property a few weeks later, the landlady saw the door and “was absolutely livid”.

“A lot of these scratches weren’t even from us”, said Luke. Nevertheless, he received an email stating that the door needed to be repaired immediately and that it was going to cost them £1000. They felt they had no choice but to pay.

The problems didn’t stop there. In November, the boiler broke four times. Luke and his flatmates were without heating and hot water for up to four days between repairs. He eventually sent his landlady an email, appealing to her compassion; “it’s winter,” he wrote, “my partner needs to go to school and she can’t have a shower. This is not a way to live.”

“It’s been a nightmare…it was just so horrible for everyone involved. You feel so uncomfortable in your own house”

The landlady sent another repairman round from a different company, but “lost her shit” when she found out that Luke had gone upstairs while the boiler was being fixed. According to the landlady, Luke should have supervised the repairman.

That was the final straw. The landlady told Luke and his flatmates that they had to pay for the £300 boiler repair because she didn’t know if it had really been fixed, and that she would not be renewing their contract for the house the following year. “She was just yelling her head off at me”, said Luke, recalling a conversation where the landlady harassed them for two hours and made his flatmate cry.

“One of the things that she went on about was that she’d gone the extra mile for me as the owner to get this guy to come in to fix the boiler.” Only after Luke and his flatmates got their parents involved did the landlady drop the charges for the boiler.

The household is now waiting until their tenancy ends and suspect that they won’t get much of their £1900 deposit back. Meanwhile, broken window handles have yet to be fixed, most of the lights have gone, and there’s growing mould in the bathroom and kitchen.

“It’s been a nightmare…it was just so horrible for everyone involved. You feel so uncomfortable in your own house”, he said.

*All names and identities have been changed to protect those involved.


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