How to make an effective housing disrepair complaint to your landlord
- One in three (31%) in social housing want to complain about housing disrepair to their landlord and one in six private tenants (17%), however nearly a quarter of these also avoid it.
- Reasons behind renters not making complaints range from not wanting to cause issues with their landlord to believing landlords won’t fix the issues anyway.
- Depending on the response of the landlord, there are a number of steps to follow to ensure you get the disrepair corrected at your property.
- Sophie and Farzana detail how tenants can legally dispute housing disrepair and receive the compensation they may be entitled to.
- Further information can be found here.
Sophie Bell and Farzana Chowdhury, experienced Housing Law Partners at Hodge Jones & Allen outline the many worries tenants face when thinking about complaining to their landlord about a disrepair issue and list the most effective steps to follow when making a complaint.
Damp, water leaks and no hot water are among many housing disrepair issues that occur frequently across the country. These issues can be very frustrating and distressing for a tenant, but how many actually end up making a complaint to their landlord?
Recent government data1 has revealed that whilst nearly a third (31%) of social renters considered making a complaint from 2019-2021, one in six (17%) of those did not actually end up making a complaint.
The situation is the same for private tenants, with one in six (17%) having considered making a housing disrepair complaint, yet nearly a quarter of those (23%) ultimately deciding not to. But why?
Social renters did not complain for two main reasons.
- Half (51%) did not complain due to it being too much hassle and taking too much time and,
- one third (36%) thought it was pointless as nothing would be done.
The reasons for not complaining were slightly different for private renters2. They were more concerned about the repercussions, with one in five (19%) concerned about causing problems with their landlord. One in six (17%) thought it was too much hassle to complain and nearly a fifth (18%) thought nothing would be done.
Before we delve into the key steps to take when making a housing disrepair complaint to your landlord, it is worth noting that although it may feel unfair, we would advise tenants not to withhold their rent payments even if suffering from disrepair in the house. It is a high risk strategy and should only be taken after seeking legal advice. Non-payment of rent can leave a tenant at risk of possession proceedings and potentially losing their home.
As mentioned above, many both private and social renters thought it was too much hassle to complain and that no action would be taken. At Hodge Jones & Allen our teams help people to understand their rights. So, we have created five step process to follow to when making a housing disrepair complaint to your landlord:
- Determine the disrepair
Before making the complaint, you need to determine if the issue you are facing is due to disrepair, as a landlord is not responsible for all problems in the home. The landlord is responsible for the structure and exterior of the building and also the supply of water, gas, and electricity. Issues such as leaks, dampness and mould may fall under the disrepair depending on their cause. If in doubt, seek legal advice.
- Notify your landlord
It’s vital that you inform the landlord about the disrepair issues in your property as no claim can be brought unless this has been done. This is referred to as providing your landlord with ‘notice’ and should be done in writing via letter, email, or text message. Keeping records of correspondence can be important down the line if a claim is needed. The hope is that the landlord carries out the repairs at this stage, but it’s not always the case.
- Letter of claim
If a reasonable time has passed, you have not had a response, or your landlord refuses to carry out the necessary works, the next step is to send a ‘letter of claim’ to your landlord. This would usually be asking for repair work to be carried out and to pay some compensation. An example can be found here3. You can draft this letter yourself or you can instruct solicitors at this stage to send a letter of claim on your behalf.
This letter invites the landlord to put forward proposals to settle the case without the need to go to court proceedings. They have 20 working days to respond.
- Obtain an expert report
After 20 working days without a response, you can get your legal representative to instruct an expert to inspect the property and produce a report of the disrepair. The expert will advise on how long the works will take and a schedule of repair can be produced.
- Make a claim to the county court
If the matter cannot be resolved through contact with the landlord, or they have refused to carry out the works or pay compensation, the disrepair claim can then be issued in the county court.
What outcome can renters hope for?
The ideal scenario for renters is that the disrepair issue is resolved in the initial stages of the complaint when you provide the landlord with notice. If this does not take place, you may be entitled to compensation for the delays.
Complaints may be resolved during any stage of the protocol above. However, sometimes a settlement is not possible and, it will take court proceedings to decide the order for works and amount of compensation the tenant is entitled to claim.
You can claim compensation for:
- Any reasonable financial loss and expenses incurred as a result of the disrepair, including damage to your belongings. It’s advisable to keep receipts for damaged items along with photographs for evidence.
- Distress and inconvenience you have suffered due to the disrepair.
- Any personal injury you or a member of your family have suffered, as a result of the disrepair, though the evidence of causation will need to be very strong.
What should renters be aware of?
A tenant should always bear in mind that if they are unsuccessful at court, they may be required to pay their landlord’s legal fees.
You should always consider whether you can get representation to bring a claim at court. Should you require advice or assistance from a housing disrepair solicitor to deal with your disrepair matter, you can ask a solicitor to assess whether you’re eligible for legal assistance under the legal aid scheme or whether you will be eligible for a no-win no fee agreement.
If you are eligible, you will not only have legal assistance, but you may not have to pay any legal fees up front.
To find out the estimated damages you may be entitled to receive due to your landlord’s failure to keep your home in a good state of repair, you may wish to use HJA’s disrepair calculator or get in touch on 0808 252 5231
Further information can be found at: https://www.hja.net/expert-comments/blog/housing-help/can-i-take-my-landlord-to-court-if-my-house-or-flat-is-in-disrepair/
1https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/english-housing-survey-2020-to-2021-private-rented-sector & https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/english-housing-survey-2019-to-2020-private-rented-sector