Broken oven - landlord not responding

Hello all,
My partner & I moved into an apartment in Uccle in January, and immediately found that the oven didn't work.
We reported it to the landlord / letting agent via the relocation agency that helped us to rent the apartment and, initially at least, they were making efforts to repair it. Ultimately though, the technician declared it irreparable and told us the oven had to be replaced.
At around this point, the landlord / letting agency changed the company that they use for maintenance issues, and we seemed to be back to square one.
We are still without a working oven and we are now getting no response to repeated communications asking for it to be resolved - both directly from ourselves and via the letting agency.
We feel like our last resort is to withhold the rent payments temporarily as a way of getting the landlord's attention, but I'm sure that this would be a legally dubious course of action in the UK where we're from, and I imagine it it's not much different in Belgium, but I haven't been able to find much information about our rights in these circumstances.
Can anyone advise on our best course of action please?

Hello,

Let's analyse the situation point by point

Belgian law requires that a detailed inventory be made at the entrance and exit of the rental property.

Article 1730 of the Belgian Civil Code establishes three main conditions to be fulfilled in order to obtain an inventory in good and due form.

3 criteria for a good inventory
It must be detailed
It must be made contradictory and signed by both parties
It must be at common expenses


Point N°1 at entrance

What is an inventory of fixtures? When should it be done?

The inventory of places of entry is an administrative formality that should not be forgotten or botched when signing the lease. Indeed, it will be compared to the inventory of places of exit at the end of the rental of the property. It is thanks to the inventory of the places of entry that the owner will be able to determine if the tenant must answer or not of damages or degradations, and if it must return to the tenant the entirety or only a part of its rental guarantee .

To be valid in the eyes of the law, the state of entry must be:
established "in an adversarial manner", that is to say that both parties (or their representatives) must be present;
dated and signed in person by the tenant and the owner;
accurate and detailed.

The law provides that it must be done no later than the end of the first month of occupation by the tenant. However, it is better to do it if possible before moving in, because it allows better to see the damage, besides that damage could be caused during the move. The tenant and the owner can draw up themselves the state of the places of entry, this solution known as "amicable" is free. They can also call on a neutral expert (architect, specialized real estate agency, land surveyor ...) to avoid any risk of litigation. The cost of at least several hundred euros will be paid for half by each party.

A clause in the lease agreement that both parties recognize that the rental housing is in good condition is not worth as inventory. It must include both an inventory of all parts of the home, and everything in it (number of rooms, materials, appliances, furniture, number of keys, type of flooring, etc.) and a descriptive part detailing the state of the rooms and the dwelling. So take enough time to properly examine each piece and go through it systematically.

The inventory must be registered in the same way as the lease contract. It is up to the landlord to do this within two months after the signing of the lease agreement. He can go with the signed copies to the relevant registration office for the address of the house. Was this done?

Point N°2 at exit

What is an inventory of fixtures? What is the goal?
When a tenant leaves his home, he is required to return it in the same condition as that in which he was at the beginning of the lease and all equipment must be in good working order. Therefore, at the end of the rental furnished or unfurnished, a new contradictory inventory must be established. Both parties must be present during the drafting of this inventory of places of exit.

The purpose of the inventory of fixtures is to compare the first document to the second one in order to check if the tenant has caused damage during the rental. In this case, he must in principle compensate the owner. Attention, this applies only to the real rental damage, not for what results from normal wear or the dilapidated. For example, it is normal for the owner to repaint the walls after nine years.

What happens in case of litigation?
If the tenant and the landlord can not agree on the damages and compensation to be paid, the dispute may be brought before the justice of the peace. Sometimes the tenant refuses to sign the inventory of places of exit or to be present during the report. Tenants who have caused extensive damage sometimes resort to this strategy in the hope of escaping the payment of this damage.

If you fear that your tenant will do you the blow, call the recommended by the inventory and call a bailiff who will see the damage: given its independence, its findings will be more valuable than those of a simple expert that you would have mandated yourself. You will not be able to retain part of the rental guarantee on your own. For that, you will need the approval of a justice of the peace. In this case, a report bailiff will allow you to have a weight advantage.

If the rental guarantee - in principle, maximum two months rent - is insufficient to cover the damages, ask the justice of the peace also to decide on this question.

Point N°3 in case of Litigation between landlord and tenant:

Whether you're dealing with a careless tenant or a recalcitrant landlord doing work, do not leave the situation as it is. Inform the other side of the problem and the need for work or repairs. If you do not receive a good reception, send a formal notice very quickly, so that we can not blame you later for being late to report the problem.

If the other party continues to turn a deaf ear, do not hesitate to submit the dispute to the justice of the peace. Especially if you are a tenant, since it is you, finally, who are the first victim of the situation.

Do not do justice to yourself

Many tenants faced with a recalcitrant homeowner to do some work are considering doing the repairs themselves and then sending the bill to the homeowner. However, we do not recommend this solution. The owner can in fact challenge the need for the work at this time. It may also challenge the amount of the invoice.

Other tenants think they can put the owner under pressure by not paying any more (part of) their rent until the work is done. This may be an interim solution, provided that you have first sent a formal notice by registered mail and have not responded. But do not let the dispute drag on for too long. To prove that you are in good faith and willing to pay the rent if the problem is solved, you can even pay the retained portion of the rent into a special account. That said, be aware that proceeding from authority to work or withhold part of the rent is rather frowned upon by the judges. Avoid to the extent possible to resort to such extreme situations.

In conclusion, if your landlord and/or representative does not move, even after sending an official letter of formal notice, contact a bailiff or the Justice of the peace in the legal district you depend on.

Thank you for the detailed and informative reply

Your relocation agency must have been paid by your company's HR Dept, so I would get them involved & to complain. That should get them moving if they value business from your company.
Also send the landlord a registered letter detailing the problem & how long you've been waiting for resolution. It's a step you need to take in case you escalate the matter to the Justice de Paix.
I would advise against withholding the rent until you have done that & waited at least a week for a reply. That way you stay in the right.
Good luck.

Thanks cmabey - a few days ago we told the agency we planned to send such a formal letter if it wasn't resolved, and this appears to have had the desired effect. We were told a new oven has been ordered, so now we are just waiting for them to come & fit it - hopefully it will all go smoothly from now on. :)

Good stuff. Hopefully that'll be your last hiccup.

We have a new oven!!!  :D

Thanks again for the advice

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