Case Summary: Private Tenant affected by leaks settles for over £18,000 in damages

9 Nov 2020 | William Ford

Our client had a private sector tenancy for a flat located in a block owned by a local authority. Our client’s landlord had purchased the flat from the Council by exercising their right to buy.

There were significant issues with leaks in the block, which started to severely affect the client’s home from the end of April/May 2017. This was reported to both the landlord’s agents and to the Council. Initially the Council seemed willing to assist our client, but when they discovered that the property was not owned by them, they refused to take any action. The client was forced to move out of the property in July 2017 when the flat became uninhabitable. At this point, our client, her partner and their 2 children spent their time between staying with friends and having to pay for short lets or hotels, using up their meagre savings. They also had to maintain their rent payments as the landlord would not agree to waive the rent despite the flat being uninhabitable. At this time the client thought it may be possible to return to her home if repairs were completed.

Osbornes obtained an initial report from an expert in 2017 which confirmed that the flat was uninhabitable. It appeared that the leaks were emanating from areas under the control of the Council, thus giving rise to a claim under the law of private nuisance (which is where an act on one person’s land causes damage to another person’s land). We then used this report to try and reach a settlement with the Council and asked them to accept liability for the disrepair. The Council’s offer of settlement was far too low to be adequate compensation for the loss suffered by our client. The Council also refused to accept liability.

In November 2018, with assistance from Osbornes the client managed to secure a Council property through the Council’s housing register. This just left the issue of compensation.

Due to the complexity of the potential causes of the leaks, in September 2018, we instructed another surveyor to carry out an in depth inspection of the property and the building in which it was situated. The report clearly set out the likely causes of damage to the property, the majority of which were caused by the Council’s failure to repair the areas in the block for which they were responsible. We sent this report to the Council but, once again, they refused to accept liability. As a result of this, we instructed a barrister to advise on the case, who confirmed that there was a valid claim to be brought against the Council. However, this was a complex case. Although liability lay primarily with the Council, it was arguable that some of the items disrepair also fell under the landlord’s responsibility. We therefore wrote a further letter of claim to both the client’s landlord and the Council to try and settle the case without the need to issue multiple party litigation.

Ultimately, the Council accepted liability for the disrepair and, following negotiations, William Ford, partner at Osbornes Law, secured damages for the client in the sum of £18,750, plus costs.

This case demonstrates the potential for complexity in demonstrating liability, especially where it is not immediately clear who is responsible for the disrepair. In these cases, it is essential to have a sufficiently detailed report from a surveyor. After 3 years, we were able to finally secure compensation for our client and get the Council to accept liability for the disrepair which was caused by their failure to maintain their property.

If you have a housing disrepair issue in your rented property and would like to discuss with a member of the Litigation team at Osbornes Law, call 0207 485 8811 or complete an online enquiry form.

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