Every month Citizens Advice Kingston share a story about what has happened to one of their clients, the problems they have had and how CAK have helped them to overcome difficulties. They also share the facts and figures about their service - key statistics about what they have been doing in our local community.
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The main story
Monica is in her 60s and has rented from the same landlord - in two properties - continuously for around 30 years.
Over the past six years Monica has raised with the landlord her concerns about damp and mould in the flat. However, the landlord does has failed to taken any action to address the issue and Monica feels that her concerns are not being taken seriously.
Monica came to us when the landlord announced that he was going to raise the rent. She does not have much in the way of a tenancy agreement, having been with the same landlord so long, and feels that it is wrong to ask for higher rent when the flat has deteriorated with damp and mould. Monica was understandably upset and didn't know where to turn for advice.
We looked into Monica's situation and established that the rent being proposed by the landlord actually falls below local averages and is therefore likely to be lower than the rate a Rent Officer would fix.
We therefore needed to work with Monica on budgeting and how she might afford the new rent. We also needed to address her concerns about the condition of the property, so we took advice from Shelter who have great experience in such cases.
Shelter believed that Monica could claim to be a 'Protected Tenant'. They advised that recent legislation - the Fitness for Habitation 2018 Act - in conjunction with the existing Landlord and Tenant Act, could help resolve the problem and ensure Monica can get the repairs done to her home.
We suggested that Monica had an independent building surveyor look at the property. The surveyor's report recognised the problem and identified that the damp was being caused by poor repairs to external walls. On receiving this report, we helped Monica draft a letter to her landlord, detailing these findings and requesting he undertake the repairs required to rectify the damp problem.
In addition, we worked with Monica to look at her options and consider how she might budget to pay the rent rise. We established that she could claim some welfare benefits which would make it easier to manager her money.
The ongoing worry about the condition of the property over six years, with the added issue of the proposed rent increase, had contributed to Monica becoming stressed and distressed. With our help, Monica was able to access free information and expert advice that enabled her to both improve her living conditions and her state of mind.
Who we helped last month:
- 357 clients
- 219 people with quick queries
- 469 people used our information room and reception
- 2441 people used our online self help materials
- 41% of the problems people had were related to welfare benefits
- 9% of the problems were debts
- 12% of the problems were housing
Find out more on the Citizens Advice Kingston website
Find out more on the Citizens Advice Richmond website