As the tenant of a rented home, you have the right to live in a safe, well-maintained property.
It is, after all, your sanctuary and your landlord has a duty of care to ensure that your health is not affected by negligence in their property’s upkeep.
Your landlords – often the local council or housing association – are responsible for keeping your home up to scratch, ensuring it is safe and sanitary and that any repairs are properly carried out in a timely manner. Landlords also have a duty to ensure the structure and exterior of a property are of a decent standard.
We know that this doesn’t always happen and that delays, or substandard repairs, can have a detrimental effect on a tenant’s health.
Simply put, housing disrepair is the depreciation of your home into a condition of degradation. That could have been put even simpler – it must be habitable.
Your social housing home could be below acceptable standards due to accidental damage or because long-standing repairs or renovations are not being carried out.
And instances of disrepair might extend beyond the physical decline, such as infestation, mould or boiler issues. Any condition that prevents you from living safely and securely in your rented home comes under the broad heading ‘housing disrepair’.
If this has happened to you, you could be eligible to claim compensation.
If your badly-maintained home has contributed to you or a member of your family falling ill, damaged your belongings or caused you inconvenience then there may be a case to answer.
You could be eligible to start proceedings against your landlord if you have been reporting the need for repairs for at least six weeks and the problem is ongoing, either because repairs have not taken place or because the work has not been carried out properly.
The amount of compensation you may be owed in a housing disrepair claim comes under one of two categories – general damages and special damages.
Barings Law are experts in preparing litigation claims for general and special damages, maximising compensation for the damage and stress that housing disrepair can cause.
We can take on your case on a no-win no-fee basis so you won’t pay anything upfront.
To qualify, you need to have made at least one complaint about one of the following common problems:
- Damp or mould on walls
- Water damage from leaks
- Damaged or leaking roof and guttering
- Broken or rotten windows, doors and floorboards
- Broken appliances such as fridges and washing machines
- Broken bathroom fittings
- Internal damage to wallpaper, paint, carpets and curtains
- Damage to electrics or wiring
- Broken heating systems and radiators
- Damage to internal gas and water pipe work
- Mouse or rat infestations
Quality of life
General damages are awarded to reimburse a claimant for any stress, inconvenience and downturn in their quality of life caused by to the condition of their home.
To qualify you need to have previously made the council or housing association aware of the issues and given them a reasonable amount of time in which to carry out repairs. Roughly four to eight weeks would normally be considered enough time, though that does depend on the nature of the problem.
It is also essential to be able to prove that the repairs have caused the inconvenience, damage or illness with an inspection report.
In the case of special damages, documented evidence of your losses is essential. These claims cover spoiled decoration, damage to your furniture and possessions, any loss of earnings (if, for example, you missed a day at work for inspections or repair-related appointments) and an increase in utility bills (such as increased electricity bills due to the extensive use of dehumidifiers to dry out your property).
The evidence you will need for a special damages claim include receipts or an extensive written explanation.
Remember – it is your responsibility to provide evidence of losses. And you must also establish that:
- Your loss was caused as a direct result of the disrepair, with a clear causal link.
- .They are reasonable. Your council or housing association should recompense you but this may not necessarily be the actual amount of the loss sustained.
- You have endeavoured to keep your losses to a minimum.
Living in accommodation that is poorly maintained can bring a wealth of problems for you and your family.
A malfunctioning boiler means you may not be able to keep your family warm and hygienic while a home riddled with damp can cause respiratory issues. An unremedied leak could see your carpet ruined and extensive mould may affect your clothing or bedding. If you are unable to use a room due to severe damp you can make a claim for the inconvenience to your life the problem has caused.
Sub-standard structures, such as walkways and stairs, can lead to injuries while gas leaks or faults with electrical wiring present a viable threat to life, as well as potentially damaging your appliances.
It is important to bear in mind the key requirements of a compensation claim for housing disrepair. There needs to be an actionable issue which is reported to the landlord or their agent. If the works are then not completed within a reasonable timeframe (or carried out at all) such that it impacts how the tenant has lived in, or enjoyed, the property.
A landlord does have the legal right to access their property for repairs and inspections, and records should be kept should the tenant refuse them entry, as this represents a breach of contract.
Please note that this does not negate a social housing tenant’s responsibility to take care of the property – behaving in what is sometimes referred to as a ‘tenant-like manner’. It is important to communicate what expectations this covers and to keep a record of such discussions.
The phrase ‘tenant-like manner’ needs some clarification. It was coined by Judge Denning in the Warren v Keen case of 1953/54. The case centred around a landlord seeking to hold their tenant responsible after frozen pipes damaged the property they were living in.
In an often-referred-to summary, Lord Denning – who found in favour of the landlord, a decision that was later overturned by the Court of Appeal – said: “The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler.
“He must clean the chimneys, when necessary, and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste.
“In short, he must do the little jobs about the place which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house, wilfully or negligently; and he must see that his family and guests do not damage it; and if they do, he must repair it.
“But apart from such things, if the house falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time or for any reason not caused by him, then the tenant is not liable to repair it.”
To help you, as a tenant, decide if common household maintenance tasks would fall under the term ‘tenant-like manner’ consider if you owned the property. Would you call out, and pay, a contractor to carry out the task? If the answer is no, it’s most likely to be your responsibility.
Examples of tasks a tenant would normally be expected to carry out include (but are not limited to):
- Replacing light bulbs and batteries in smoke detectors
- Re-pressuring a combi-boiler (providing the tenant has been given instructions)
- Bleeding radiators
- Unblocking toilets, sinks and drains
- Keep grass cut and clearing leaves and garden debris
- Taking care of minor pest issues such as insects
- Clearing condensation moisture from windows and other surfaces
A tenant should also use all gas and electrical appliances correctly, abide by pet and smoking rules and keep the property to a reasonable standard of tidiness.
If you would like further information on your rights and your landlord’s obligations, or need some advice on the best course of action if your rented home has fallen into disrepair, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us on 0161 200 9960.
Our team of experts are ready help you claim the compensation you deserve.
Your landlord must ensure the home you rent is well maintained and safe to inhabit. If repairs are not carried out properly and in a timely manner you may have grounds for a claim.
Tenants of local council or housing association homes could be eligible to lodge a compensation claim if the living conditions deteriorate to the extent where it is affecting their quality of life.
Take photographs of the disrepair and keep any receipts for items you needed to replace. Keep copies of all correspondence such as texts, emails and letters as evidence of when you have notified your landlord.
You can recover compensation for damage to belongings, personal injury or any inconvenience caused by poor (or a lack of) upkeep to your home.
This depends entirely on your situation and the severity of the disrepair.
We offer a no-win no-fee service so that we can provide fair representation for any client, regardless of their financial circumstances. We ask for nothing upfront and in the unlikely event that your claim is unsuccessful, you won’t have to pay a penny.
Your council or housing association cannot make you leave just for asking for repairs to be done. They would have to follow an official eviction process.