Landlord Refuses to Give Upfront Rent Back After Water Was Contaminated

Anne McWilliams has been asking the landlord and agent for the refund of her £15K upfront rent for The Pightle in Bix for a year.  She had to leave the property owned by Mr Jamie Findlay after just a few weeks as Thames Water advised that the water in the property was contaminated with oil from a leak in the oil tank in the garden.

Anne rented the property through Hamptons International and moved in on 6 April 2023 after which she became ill and then discovered a petrol like odour in the water.  Thames Water were called and came out to the property on 9 May to take samples.  On 11 May Thames Water advised against using the water for drinking, cleaning teeth, preparing or cooking food and said they would investigate the mains water supply.  Thames Water investigated the communication pipe supplying the property on 17 May 2023 up to the property boundary and a valve was installed to protect the water network.

Anne said, “Mr Findlay sent me a letter on 17 May telling me to get out of the house within approximately 24 hours and if I did not vacate I would not have my £15,000 returned and he also insisted that I waive all my rights i.e. my serious medical claim.”

Anne, aged 87 who has serious medical condition decided she could no longer live there safely and moved out on 11 May.  Mr Findlay started work on finding the leak himself using a digger on 20 May.  Thames Water collected further samples on 2 June following the works and these showed no contamination.   On 6 June, Anne arranged for her belongings to be moved by a removal company.  She said, “On this day, the kitchen floor was flooded with dirty water which still smelt of oil (photo below).”

Since then Anne has tried without success to obtain a refund.  She had to pay the £15K for 6 months rent upfront as she had no proof of regular income.  Hamptons were advised and after a lengthy process she was returned her deposit from them in December 2023.

Anne explained, “I was poisoned with oil from Mr James Findlay’s oil tank that had leaked into his old rotten water pipes that went into the house – which I was drinking from. The oil caused me to get diarrhoea and mouth ulcers.   I have had the most horrendous time.  I went to Nettlebed Surgery who were brilliant. They had never had to deal with someone who had been poisoned with oil before and they gave me medication to prevent oil contamination.  I was seriously ill and they looked after me. Thames Water had a Government Directive to urgently cut off the water supply from The Pightle and put a back stop valve to avoid Mr Findlay’s oil contaminated water polluting the main water supply to Bix.  Hamptons should not have let the property as it wasn’t fit for human habitable purposes.”

Adam Fairweather, Regional Lettings Director at Hamptons says: “We do everything possible to establish and maintain positive relationships between our landlords and tenants. Whilst we were not the managing agents for this tenancy, so had limited day to day involvement with the landlord and tenant after the tenancy began, we were made aware of a problem with the water supply a couple of months into the tenancy. The issue was addressed promptly by the landlord, as we understand, and a subsequent agreement to release Ms McWilliams early, at her request, followed.

We were directed by the landlord to return the tenant’s deposit to her in full at that time, which we duly did. We now understand an outstanding dispute regarding rental payments has been referred to solicitors, and are hopeful of a swift conclusion for both parties in due course.”

“At Hamptons, we treat the health and safety of our tenants very seriously. Pre-tenancy checks are completed by a Hamptons team member before every tenancy begins. We adhere to legal requirements by ensuring the Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide alarms are all verified in compliance with statutory regulations. Water testing however, requires specialised expertise and equipment—neither Hamptons nor the property owner could have detected any related issues prior to the start of the tenancy. Nonetheless, upon notification of the water concern, the landlord acted quickly to investigate and address the problem. The tenant was kept informed, and the landlord offered to release the tenant from the lease early.”

Anne added, “If Mr Findlay had just said sorry for poisoning me with oil, rather than bullying an elderly lady.  He never made any offer to be civil or to help.  He was aggressive and hostile. I was only at the house for 5 weeks and now I have to go to court to get my money back.  It is not fair. I’m 87 years old and I’ve done nothing wrong except be poisoned by oil and made seriously ill.  Hamptons as acting agents did nothing to help with resolving the issues or getting my money refunded.”

After Anne moved out of the property and despite closing the accounts, she continued to be billed for electricity and water.  She also discovered in November that she had been issued with a court case summons for overdue Council Tax on the property after the original letters were not passed on to her by the landlord.

Jamie Findlay said, “Ms. McWilliams does not appear to have sent you the final water report. We have been advised by our lawyers not to make any further comment.”

6 comments
  1. Barry Reuter says:

    it is appalling that a landlord should demand a tenant leaves in 24 hours then refuses to give the prepaid rent back, after unintentionally making an elderly lady very ill with contaminated water, she could have died, where would he have been then prison for manslaughter? Mr Findley seems a very disagreeable person and Hamptons should behave better.

    Reply
  2. Eve says:

    Can’t believe this appalling behaviour from this landlord and Hamptons! Shocking to see that people can get away with poisoning the elderly! I hope she gets her money back. :(

    Reply
  3. Rosalie says:

    This is horrendous, completely unacceptable. The landlord should return the prepaid rent and show more concern that his tenant could have died because of his negligence!

    Reply
  4. Lillie says:

    This is awful. What a despicable greedy man. This is not just some trivial dispute over a rental, as a landlord he put her life at risk.

    Reply

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