Has Your Landlord Ignored Your Serious Housing Disrepair?
One of the joys of working from home is that you get to listen to the brilliant ‘You and Yours’ on Radio 4 at lunchtime. Last week the CEO of Clarion Housing, Clare Miller, was interviewed on the programme. As a disrepair lawyer, the interview made for depressing listening.
The programme heard from three listeners, all tenants of Clarion, living in three separate estates and all complaining of serious disrepair including sewage leaks, damp, and mice infestation. The CEO was apologetic, commenting that the conditions described were not the experience she wanted any Clarion resident to have.
She was questioned about the findings in a report produced by Clarion entitled ‘Eastfields Estate, Merton: Lessons Learned and Next Steps’ in September 2021. The report was produced in response to a social media campaign run by Kwajo Tweneboa, who experienced serious disrepair in his father’s property on the Eastfields Estate, and whose campaign about Clarion’s failure to address it was featured by the BBC.
The report’s Executive Summary states “The approach we had taken in managing homes nearing the end of their life was not robust enough. As a consequence we had some residents living in homes which were in poor condition. We were too reliant on residents reporting issues and chasing us to ensure the work was done”. The report goes on to highlight various actions the Clarion Group can take to ensure they “learn and improve”.
Sadly, the experiences highlighted on ‘You and Yours’ are all too familiar for those housing advisers dealing with disrepair and housing conditions cases. Day in day out we hear stories from tenants of a large number of local authorities and housing associations of damp, leaks, mould and rodent infestations. Among my current caseload are tenants living with severe damp and mould as a result of leaks from the roof, defective damp proof courses and leaking toilets. There are also tenants with boilers that do not work properly, so they have intermittent or no heating and hot water. Some properties are so damp they are infested with slugs.
How Hodge Jones & Allen can help?
In all cases there is a common theme, which is that tenants report disrepair but find that their landlords fail to take action. When tenants come to see Hodge Jones & Allen, it’s usually after they have been reporting disrepair for years, but with no action by their landlords. We help tenants to bring legal proceedings against their landlords to get repairs carried out. The legal action we take can often result in the court making an order for repairs to be done and for damages (compensation) to be paid, although the legal process can be lengthy.
Increasingly we are finding that landlords are failing to carry out those repairs properly, and tenants come back to us again when the leaks, damp and other issues return, only to have to commence legal proceedings a second time. Since the pandemic, my colleagues and I have also observed that we are having to issue enforcement proceedings more often against landlords that have failed to carry out repairs at all, even after the court has made an order for works to be done.
Hearing the CEO of Clarion apologise for their failings will ring hollow to those tenants of Clarion, as well as other housing associations and local authorities, who face the prospect of yet another winter living in conditions sometimes reminiscent of slum housing. In the 21st century this just isn’t good enough.