Living conditions for private rented and social housing tenants have been thrust into public debate over the past 12 months for obvious reasons. Recently, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill passed its second reading through the House of Commons as parties across the political divide seek to improve the living conditions of private rented and social housing tenants around the country.
After understanding what you should expect from your living conditions, what do you need to do to bring a claim against your landlord?
Reporting the disrepair to your landlord
To be able to bring a successful disrepair claim against your landlord you will need to show that your landlord has breached their repairing obligations. To do that you will need to show they knew or ought to have known about, the problems and failed to carry out repairs within a reasonable time. Putting your landlord on notice of the defect is therefore essential.
You should contact your landlord immediately about the disrepair. If your landlord fails to carry out the repair within a reasonable time you should continue to report the issue and complain to your landlord. If there are periods when you do not complain about the issues, perhaps because you are frustrated that your landlord is not doing anything to resolve it, the court may draw inferences that repairs have been completed, or that it was not causing too much inconvenience.
One of the difficult aspects of a disrepair claim is often proving that your landlord had notice of the defects. Evidence is important. Local authority landlords and housing association will usually keep records of complaints and works completed at your property but these are not always complete and may have information missing.
Tenants should keep their own records of complaints. If you are contacting your landlord by telephone you should keep a call log including the following: the date and time of your call; the issue you are reporting; who you spoke with; a reference number; what you were told. If you use text messages then keep the messages.
Written complaints are often easier to evidence. When possible, you should make complaints in writing either by email or by letter and make sure that you retain copies.
Other evidence can also be helpful, for example, if your MP has written to your landlord on your behalf, or other parties such as your GP, health visitor or social worker.
Photographs and Videos
Photographs and videos can be a good way of documenting the issues and can be used as evidence to support your claim. If you are using your mobile phone to take the photographs and videos then the time and date will be automatically saved. Take as many photos and videos as possible showing the issues over a period of time.
Often tenant’s personal belongings are damaged because of disrepair. For example, furniture might be damaged because of mould and you decide to throw it away. You should take photographs of the belongings which you throw away. If you purchase something to replace a damaged item then make sure that you keep the receipts. You might be able to claim against your landlord for these items.
Issuing a claim
If you have complained to your landlord but they have failed to carry out the repairs then the final option might be to issue either a civil claim against your landlord at the county court or alternatively a claim in the magistrates court.
Getting the repairs done
This is most important aspect of any disrepair claim. A claim against your landlord would include an application for a court order to require your landlord to carry out the repairs within a specified timeframe.
You might be entitled to compensation (“damages”) from your landlord if you can prove that they have breach their repairing obligations.
You can claim compensation for ‘pain, suffering and loss of amenity’ for the inconvenience and distress caused by having lived in a property in disrepair. These damages will be calculated as a percentage of your rent and will vary depending on the severity of the disrepair.
You can also claim for any expenses incurred as a result of disrepair. These could include the replacement of furniture damaged by mould or the increased electricity costs caused as a result of your heating system breaking down. To satisfy the court of these losses it is important that you have evidence of your losses.
If you think that you might have a disrepair claim against your landlord then you should contact Anthony Gold for more information. We can advise you about your claim and discuss what funding options are available for legal advice.