If you are considering pursuing a housing disrepair claim, then it is vital you are able prove that; the property suffered from actionable defects, the landlord had notice of these defects, and that the landlord failed to remedy the actionable defects within a reasonable period of time once they had knowledge.
Actionable defects arise as a result of the failure to carry out repairs to:
- the structure of the property, for example walls, roof, windows and doors
- sinks, baths, toilets
- pipes and wiring
- heating and hot water, for example the boiler
- the safety of gas and electrical appliances
The obligation to carry out repairs arises once the landlord is aware of the problems.
The vast majority of housing disrepair claims are against social landlords and housing associations. These organisations have to follow certain rules, such as having a repairs and maintenance service who are supposed to carry out repairs to certain standards and within a reasonable period of time. In addition, they should keep a tenancy file which should detail every contact you have made with them and vice versa.
With private landlords, the likelihood is that they will not keep such detailed records. As such, this article will provide some helpful tips on bringing a claim when your landlord is not a big organisation.
As stated above, it is vital for the landlord to have notice of the problems in the property. It is understandable that you might get fed up of reporting the same issues without response or resolution but we cannot stress how important it is to keep reporting regularly. If you stop reporting the defects to your landlord, you are giving your landlord an excuse for not carrying out the necessary repairs. If a letting agent manages the property for your landlord, report the defects to them. They should pass the relevant information to your landlord and will be responsible for making sure your landlord does the repairs.
Report the issues as regularly as possible by making complaints by telephone, by text message and by email. We would advise you to list all defects every time you carry out any reporting. If you are reporting the defects to a letting agency and they are not responding, try sending a letter or email directly to your landlord to elicit a response.
Keep a diary of when phone calls were made (and what you reported) and, ideally, obtain any itemised phone bills showing when these calls were made. In addition, keep all text messages and emails as evidence. If your landlord does not agree that he was told about the problems, we can use your documents as evidence to help prove your claim.
Gather any other evidence that may help your claim, such as:
- Photographs of the defects;
- Letters of formal complaint to any third parties such as your MP, Environmental Health or even your GP if the defects in your property have caused health problems;
- Any reports obtained, for example from the council, an independent surveyor or contractor or from Environmental Health;
- Photographs and/or locate the original purchase receipts of damaged personal belongings – if items have been damaged or destroyed because of your landlord’s failure to carry out repairs, for example, clothing and bedding ruined by mould or furniture and carpets damaged by water leaks.
Private landlords may decide to evict their tenants rather than doing the repairs that are needed, sometimes called a ‘retaliatory’ or ‘revenge’ eviction. However, if your tenancy agreement started after 1st October 2015 you should be able to challenge such evictions in certain circumstances:
- Where the tenant made a complaint in writing (by letter or email) to the landlord or letting agent before being served with the eviction notice;
- The tenant complained to the local council because the landlord failed to remedy the disrepair; and
- The council sent the landlord a notice telling them to make improvements or that the council will carry out emergency work.
In brief, we recommend that you, at the very least, report the problems as often as you can, in writing if possible, and obtain a report confirming the extent of the issues.
For more information on bringing a claim against your private landlord, it is advised you speak with a Housing Disrepair Solicitor.