What Can I Do About Disrepair In My House?
At Hodge Jones & Allen we understand that your house is not just a property but also your home. Poor housing conditions affect not only the way your home looks, but can also have a negative impact on both the physical and mental health of those living within a property. If your home is in disrepair, you don’t need to suffer in silence as tenants have rights too. You may be entitled to compensation and to an order to have works carried out.
What is disrepair?
‘Disrepair’ is a term which encompasses a variety of problems and poor housing conditions in your home. Your landlord is not responsible for dealing with all of the problems in your home, but action can be taken in relation to the following:
- Your landlord is obliged to keep in repair the structure and the exterior of the property and the installations in the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity, and the space heating, heating water and sanitation. There are also other legal obligations which may apply.
- From 20 March 2020, your landlord has a responsibility to ensure that your home is free from hazards that render it unfit for human habitation.
Examples of disrepair for which your landlord may be responsible to carry out the repairs for include, but are not limited to:
- Broken or faulty installations
- Cracking in walls
- Drainage issues
- Damage to skirting boards
Importantly, your Landlord must first be notified of the disrepair before they become responsible for carrying out repairs to your home. Therefore it is very important that all disrepair is reported to your Landlord as soon as possible.
How should I report this?
You will first need to notify your landlord of the disrepair in your property. This can be by letter, phone call, or email, either directly to the Landlord if you are in direct contact with them, or through an agent such as an estate agent or property management team. You should keep a note of any phone calls reporting problems in the property, and keep copies of any written correspondence detailing these problems. You should ensure that you provide a full list of all disrepair to the Landlord as they will only be responsible for carrying out repairs if they are aware of the problem.
It is best to speak to your Landlord first, as if this may mean the problems can be resolved without relations between you and your landlord becoming unfriendly. If you have a good relationship with your Landlord they may be more willing to arrange for repairs to be done, potentially speeding up the process.
What do I do if my landlord refuses to carry out repairs?
If your Landlord is unresponsive, or refuses to carry out the relevant works, you might be able to complain to your local council, who may be able to inspect your home and order your landlord to do the repairs.
Where you have a social landlord, it is also possible to make a formal complaint. However, such complaints processes can take an extremely long time, and if the problems remain ongoing or if the Council are unable to help you, you may need to take legal action against your landlord. You can seek legal advice to assist you with a potential housing disrepair claim even if you have not yet received a response to a formal complaint.
What is the process for pursuing a housing disrepair claim?
The process for pursing a housing disrepair claim is usually as follows:
- Once your Landlord is notified of the disrepair they should arrange for relevant repairs to be carried out.
- If a reasonable period has passed and the repairs have not been carried out, you have a potential claim for disrepair in court.
- The first step is to write to your Landlord notifying them of your claim and inviting them to put forward proposals to settle your case without the need for Court proceedings.
- If after 20 working days your Landlord has not responded, your legal representative can instruct an expert to inspect your property and produce a report.
- If the expert report reveals further disrepair which had not previously been identified, it is possible to write against to your Landlord setting out the further disrepair and again inviting them to put forward proposals.
- If your matter cannot be resolved through contact with the Landlord, you may pursue your disrepair claim by starting proceedings in the County Court.
What remedies are available to me legally?
If your claim is successful, you may be entitled to compensation and for an order to have works carried out.
Order for Works
The court can make an order that the Landlord carry out a schedule of works within a certain period of time. If the work is still not completed and your Landlord does not have a reasonable excuse then action can be taken to enforce the order.
You are generally entitled to claim damages for the period of time that there has been disrepair and your landlord has failed to address this despite being on notice. The maximum period of time you can claim for is 6 years prior to the date of proceedings being issued in Court.
You can claim compensation for:
- Any reasonable financial loss and expenses incurred as a result of the disrepair, including damage to your belongings.
- Distress and inconvenience you have suffered due to the disrepair.
In addition, you may be entitled to claim compensation for:
- Any personal injury you or a member of your family have suffered as a result of the disrepair.
It is very important that you keep documentary evidence of any expenses you incur, e.g. receipts and bills, as you will have to prove each item that you claim for.
Although facing disrepair issues in your home can be very difficult, tenants do have legal rights and your Landlord may well be responsible for ensuring repairs are carried out. There are a variety of options available for resolving these problems and returning your home to a good condition.