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Private Renting, Disrepair and an Unsatisfactory Landlord

Around 5 million households in Britain are in private rented accommodation and a quarter of these households are families with children. It has been reported that this number is set to rise in the next five years. Unfortunately many of these households will at some point in their tenancy experience a problem with the condition of their home. When such a problem occurs, the tenant’s first port of call will of course be their landlord. If the landlord in question adheres to their obligations as per the tenancy and the law, then there should be no issue, the problem will be inspected and competently fixed within a reasonable period of time.

However issues will inevitably occur when a landlord does not fulfill their obligations. What if the landlord in question fails to respond to their tenant’s e-mails and phone calls complaining about the disrepair or makes false promises to fix the problem? What if the landlord fixes the problem “on the cheap” and does not permanently resolve the problem, or makes the problem worse? What then? The following steps will guide a private renter who finds themselves in this situation.

1. Is the problem disrepair?

Your landlord is not responsible for every problem that arises with the condition of your home. Therefore it is important to first identify whether the problem is disrepair as defined by the law. The law sets out the landlord’s responsibilities as:

  • To keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property – this includes drains, gutters and external pipes.
  • To keep in repair the installations in the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
  • To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the property for space heating and heating water.

2. Report the disrepair

Your landlord is obliged only to remedy those items of disrepair that they are on notice of. Therefore it is essential that you report all items of disrepair to your landlord as soon as you become aware of them. If you are not sure whether the problem is disrepair you should report it in any event. If you are reporting the disrepair to your landlord by telephone, it is important to follow this up in writing either by letter or e-mail so that there is a written record.

3. Keep evidence of your damages

If the disrepair is causing you or your family distress and inconvenience, it is important to keep a written record of this – a diary is a good way of recording the details of the distress and inconvenience on a daily basis. If the disrepair is having a negative impact upon your family’s health then it is important to see your GP to get help with this and document these complaints.

If the disrepair damages your personal belongings you should make a list of the items and set out exactly how each item was damaged. You should also take photographs of all damaged items. If the disrepair means you are spending money that you would not have otherwise spent, then it is important to document these costs too and the reasons for them.

4. Seek legal advice

If you have given your landlord a reasonable period of time to resolve all issues of disrepair and you have allowed your landlord access to your home to inspect the disrepair and carry out any necessary works but the disrepair remains then it is time to seek legal advice on your rights and any potential claim for disrepair you may have against your landlord.

Following the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, legal aid no longer covers a claim for damages in a disrepair case. However there are alternative funding options which also cover the damages element of a disrepair claim. We at Hodge Jones & Allen regularly represent tenants in claims for disrepair against their landlords under a Conditional Fee Agreement, known more commonly as a ‘No win, no fee’ agreement.