What should I do if my property is in disrepair?

21 Mar 2020

The damage caused by storms Ciara and Dennis has been estimated to cost insurers £360 million.  Even if your property was not directly damaged by the storms, the winter months often expose or exacerbate underlying disrepair issues in the home including mould, leaks and subsidence. Insurers may not reimburse you if somebody else is legally responsible.

In addition to your landlord’s express obligations under your tenancy agreement, there are a number of implied terms in statute and common law.  Most tenancies will require your landlord to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property (section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) and ensure the property is reasonably safe from relevant defects that may cause personal injury or damage to your property (section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972).

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force last year and will apply to the majority of tenancies from 20 March 2020. The legislation amends section 8 and 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and will require all rented properties in England to be “fit for human habitation”.

If your property is suffering from disrepair, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  • Promptly report the issue to your landlord and keep a record of each time you make contact. Your landlord should be afforded a reasonable opportunity to repair the damage, however should it be necessary to bring a disrepair claim in the future you will be required to establish notice.
  • Take photographs of the disrepair and damage to your personal items. Keep receipts for the items you have had to replace and ask your landlord to reimburse you. If it is not possible to retain the items until you have been compensated invite your landlord to inspect them. You should also keep a record of any associated losses such as higher heating bills or loss of earnings.
  • Retain correspondence from your landlord and its contractors and keep a diary of attendances. You are able to obtain a copy of your housing file from your landlord which should include this information however there may be omissions and it may lack sufficient detail.
  • Provide access to your landlord and its contractors. Most tenancies will include a term requiring the tenant to provide access upon notice. Failure to provide access will prevent your landlord from complying with its obligations and may result in your landlord applying for an injunction. If you are unable to provide access when requested, propose alternative dates.
  • If there is a risk to your health, inform your GP and report the issue to Environmental Health. Local authorities have powers to take enforcement action against private landlords. You may be at risk of a retaliatory eviction however there are protections in place if an improvement or emergency remedial action notice is issued. If your landlord is a local authority, it may be possible to bring a private prosecution.
  • Your local MP may be able to apply pressure to your landlord and if you are on a housing register you may be awarded additional priority for poor living conditions.
  • In limited circumstances, you may be able to withhold rent to pay for repairs however this is not advisable without legal advice as it may result in possession proceedings.

If your landlord fails to respond adequately there are a number of options available depending on your desired outcome. You may wish to raise a complaint or instruct a solicitor to bring a claim for disrepair. Taking the above steps will assist any legal challenge and hopefully bring about a swift settlement that is advantageous to all the parties.

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