A growing proportion of the UK population rents their home from private landlords. The standard of these properties varies, with the level of maintenance and repair offered by their landlord equally variable. In some cases, properties are allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and requests for repairs to take place from tenants to landlords go ignored. When this happens, tenants may feel powerless and wonder what they can do to address the issue.
Not all tenants are aware of their rights when it comes to housing disrepair claims. Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants, and they’re required by law to keep accommodation in an adequate state of repair. In most leases, the landlord will be obliged to repair, insure and maintain the exterior, the structure, and the common parts of a building that has been divided into flats.
The leaseholder will also have a range of responsibilities for the property, usually internally, and the lease agreement should clarify how those obligations and responsibilities are divided between the parties.
If a landlord hasn’t met their obligations to carry out repairs under the terms of the lease, it may be possible for the leaseholder to make a claim for a court order along with damages.
What is housing disrepair?
Housing disrepair refers to rented property that is in clear need of repair in order to make it suitable and safe for tenants to live in. Landlords are required by law to ensure that:
- The property is in a good state of structural repair.
- The property is free from mould and damp.
- The gutters and drains are clear and working as they should.
- The property is fitted with a working heating system.
- The property provides safe access to electricity, water, and gas.
- The property includes working sanitation facilities such as toilets, sinks, and basins.
- The property is free from insect and vermin infestation.
If these conditions are not met, and the landlord fails to carry out any remedial work within a reasonable amount of time, then this could be considered housing disrepair.
Housing disrepair may include damp, mould, leaks, condensation, drainage, internal or external flooding, brickwork repointing, loose or missing tiles, structural cracks, vermin infestation, problems with boilers, poor ventilation, lack of heating, and no running hot water.
When housing disrepair occurs the responsibility for rectifying the problem falls to the landlord, whether they are a private landlord, housing association, or the local authority.
What is the housing disrepair protocol?
The Housing Disrepair Protocol sets the stages that tenants need to follow in order to make a compensation claim against their landlord in the event of housing disrepair issues at the property which are left unaddressed.
The Housing Disrepair Protocol is most commonly applied to tenants who are letting their property, either from a private landlord or social housing authority, but it can also apply to English and Welsh leaseholders.
The Protocol details the conduct that courts will expect the various parties to follow in a housing disrepair claim, in order for legal proceedings to begin. The aim of the protocol is to ensure that information is exchanged in a timely manner and to increase the chances of a quick resolution.
Before the Housing Disrepair Protocol can start, the landlord must receive notification about the disrepair, and then be given enough time to deal with it. The courts expect legal action to be the last resort and will expect parties to have considered mediation and arbitration in an attempt to resolve the dispute before it reaches the claim.
If alternative dispute resolution has been tried and the landlord has still failed to deal with the disrepair, then the leasehold may proceed to the Protocol. This will usually be done with the assistance of a solicitor.
How to make a housing disrepair claim
The Housing Disrepair Protocol steps that a tenant needs to follow are:
1. Early Notification Letter/Letter of Claim
This notifies the landlord of the claim when the full details of the claim haven’t been established. If the details have already been established, then this stage can be skipped. The letter should contain the name of the leaseholder, the address of the property, and details of the issues.
The letter should also include:
Details of any notifications that have previously been issued to the landlord, the effects of the defects on the leaseholder including any injury claim.
The name of a proposed expert who understands the issues, along with any instruction to them.
Details of special damages to bring the claimant back to the financial situation they would have been in if the issues hadn’t developed.
The leaseholder will also need to disclose if there are any relevant documents that are available. Requests should also be made for the landlord to disclose any relevant documentation they have in their possession.
2. The Landlord’s Response
Upon receipt of the Early Notification Letter or Letter of Claim, the landlord will have twenty days in which to reply. This reply should include relevant records or documents, as well as a response to the proposals set out by the expert. If the landlord does not respond, then the legal proceeding can be issued as soon as the leaseholder has adequate information.
3. Appointing an expert
The parties should attempt to agree upon the appointment of a single expert. If an agreement can’t be reached, then joint inspection will need to take place by experts representing each party.
4. Denial or admission of liability
The landlord has twenty days from the receipt of the expert’s report, the landlord is required to confirm whether liability is admitted or disputed. They may bring up any points about the lack of notice, or difficulty with access, send a full schedule of intended works, and make any offer of compensation.
If you’re renting a property with housing disrepair issues you may be able to make a claim for compensation. Whether your landlord is being cooperative or not, professional legal advice can help you negotiate the entire process.