We were tenants with Wigwam for 5 months before we resorted to requesting a break in contract. They were very eager to get us into the property at the start, which we later construed was due to the fact that we hadn’t been able to view the property in person, and so hadn’t picked up on many issues that may have been more obvious in person. Warning bells went off as soon as we went to collect the keys and saw damp penetrating an area of the wall in one of the bedrooms. The check-in clerk told us this had been a long-term issue. At this point, it just looked like the fresh coat of paint hadn’t dried properly. When we moved in a month later, the wall had deteriorated significantly. I took photos and sent these to Wigwam - which was the point from which we started to learn that this company is completely inert when it comes to their legal responsibilities for the welfare of their tenants. Other problems quickly revealed themselves (some of them superficial, some more hazardous), that became innumerable “we will sort it out” situations, followed by radio silence.
About two months after we moved in, we started hearing vermin in the walls and under the floor. After reporting this also received no action from Wigwam, we investigated where their possible entries might be, and found traps under the kitchen counters. In other words, this was clearly a persistent issue that had not been dealt with before we moved in. We were both horrified at this, given that we were told nothing about it, and should one of the traps have caught something, we would be none the wiser.
It increasingly started to feel to us that since we had paid 6 months’ rent up front, Wigwam had exploited our situation (moving from a long distance, and needing a lease that would allow cats). After months of repeated requests for repairs and pest control, mould and damp, an unfinished staircase, sulphurous, poorly plumbed pipes and dodgy light fixtures - a floorboard under the carpet caved in (this was the last straw for us).
Wigwam consistently blamed their management company rather than admitting any liability themselves. However - as soon as we made it clear to them that, while we are polite tenants, we are not pushovers, and our request to break contract was more than reasonable - we miraculously had visits from both pest control and a surveyor within a couple of days (actions we had been chasing for months!).
To break contract and get a reference form Wigwam for our new tenancy, we had to pay another three months’ rent. Wigwam even framed this proposal as a “goodwill” gesture, which is remarkable. Repeatedly, we explained that the property should not have been let to us, given its problems, and that the recurrent issues were not dealt with in a timely manner. Waiting over a month for pest control is shocking. Waiting six months for someone to come and clean the garden, make the decking safe to walk on, and have a surveyor look at damp - is just unbelievable. A fair resolution would have been to allow us to leave (we were already willing to forfeit the last month of our up-front payment), so that all these issues could be properly dealt with.
Were it not for the fact that we needed the reference and were desperate to get out, we would have pursued a resolution for this total mess via TPOS, and are currently considering reporting Wigwam to Trading Standards. Frankly, we feel like we were exploited, and treated as nothing more than cash-cows.
My advice to other tenants would be: always agree to an initial 12-month lease and don’t allow the letting agent to pressure you into something longer (which is what happened to us – and we now interpret this pressure as a warning sign, to lock us into a long-term contract for a faulty property); always view the property in person if you can (Covid stopped us), as letting agents may not give you a comprehensive picture of a property - and if it’s Wigwam, expect them to be deceitful from the start.
10th Jun 2021 (25 weeks ago)