Housing disrepair occurs when the house has deteriorated to a point that it is considered unsafe to live in. We provide legal help for tenants and landlords in these difficult situations. Contact Creative Legals today for a free consultation.
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What is a housing disrepair?
What is a housing disrepair is a question that is objective though some of its elements may vary depending on who is looking at it. The law, however, answers what is a housing disrepair in a simple manner by stating that a housing disrepair is when the house or property you are renting is in need of repairs. A housing disrepair would require repairs to ensure that the property is safe to live in.
What is classed as housing disrepair?
What is classed as housing disrepair is a matter that landlords and tenants may not necessarily agree on. The landlord defines what is classed as housing disrepair differently from the way a tenant defines housing disrepair as both parties seek different remedies from what is classed as housing disrepair. The law seeks to define what is classed as housing disrepair so as to settle the different opinions and minimise disputes between landlords and tenants.
Housing disrepair refers to property that has deteriorated and requires repairs to be safe and suitable to live in. The property should be safe for occupation by the tenant if rented.
Therefore if the property is not suitable to live in as it may cause damage to the occupier, that property will be classed as a housing disrepair.
Housing disrepair claims criteria
The law governs housing disrepair claims criteria. Housing disrepair claims occur when the tenant has reported the issue to the landlord, given them sufficient time to carry out the repairs, and failed, neglected or refused to carry out the required repairs. To fall within the housing disrepair claims criteria, the tenant must have informed the landlord about the disrepair, and there is a need for evidence.
Before taking court action, the matter has to meet housing disrepair claims criteria, and you’ll need to have information and evidence to help support your case. This includes:
- a copy of your tenancy agreement
- copies of any correspondence between you and your landlord
- photographs of what needs repairing
- a list of or photographs of belongings that have been damaged and copies of receipts if you had to replace damaged items
- copies of medical reports or a note of medical visits if you were injured or made ill·
- any expert evidence you have, for example, reports from a surveyor or an Environmental Health Officer.
However, before issuing a claim, even though it meets the housing disrepair criteria, there is a need to consider Alternative Dispute Resolution methods to solve this. The Pre-Action Protocol on such matters suggests Mediation. Court proceedings should be the last resort. For court proceedings, the tenant must first send the Tenant’s Letter of Claim and request necessary documents from the landlord.
Notes on the housing disrepairs claims criteria
- The property has to be rented
- The tenant must have notified the landlord
- Tenant must request relevant documentation
- The landlord has failed to do the repairs.
What are considered uninhabitable living situations in the UK?
What is considered an uninhabitable living situation in the UK is governed by legislation. This is best as landlords always seek to minimise what is considered uninhabitable living situations, whilst tenants, seeking to maximise profit, will stretch what is considered uninhabitable. Legislation, therefore, states what is considered uninhabitable living situations in the UK. Section 10 Landlord and Tenant Act state:
In determining, for the purposes of this Act, whether a house or dwelling is unfit for human habitation, regard shall be had to its condition in respect of the following matters—
- freedom from damp
- internal arrangement
- natural lighting
- water supply
- drainage and sanitary conveniences
- facilities for preparation and cooking of food and the disposal of wastewater
- any prescribed hazard
and the house or dwelling shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.
Why are tenants eligible for disrepair claims?
Why are tenants eligible for disrepair claims? This is a tricky question for most people. The simple response to the question “why are tenants eligible for disrepair claims” would be that the law places a duty on the owner of the property to ensure that their property is suitable for occupation. The other simple reason for the question “why are tenants eligible for house disrepair claims” would be because, as the occupiers of the property, they are bound to be affected the most by the disrepair.
The landlord has a legal duty to keep the rented property in good repair. Tenants are thus eligible for disrepair claims if the landlord has failed to execute that duty. For tenants to be eligible for disrepair claims, certain activities must occur. The law places obligations on the tenant for the duty to repair the landlord’s property to be triggered. The Defective Premises Act state that the said duty is owed if the landlord knows (whether as the result of being notified by the tenant or otherwise) or if he ought in all the circumstances to have known of the relevant defect. Should the landlord not be aware of the disrepair at the property, a tenant will not be eligible for disrepair claims. To be eligible for disrepair claims, the tenant must notify the landlord or ensure the landlord is aware of the disrepair.
A tenant is eligible for disrepair claims if they have not caused the said disrepair. If a tenant, through omission or commission, causes a defence on the property, that tenant ceases to be eligible for disrepair claims. For example, a tenant who breaks down a door because they lost their keys cannot turn and claim that the landlord is responsible for not repairing the broken-down door.
When a defect in the premises arises from the failure of the tenant to carry out an obligation stated in the tenancy agreement, such as cleaning the property and keeping it ventilated, the tenant shall not be eligible for disrepair. To be eligible for disrepairs, the tenant must have kept its contractual obligations.
What is Section 11 of the Housing Act
Section 11 of the Housing Act relates to the improvement notices relating to category one hazards. Category 1 hazards are hazards where the most serious harm outcome is identified, such as death, permanent loss of consciousness or paralysis, severe fractures etc. If a local housing authority is satisfied that the said hazard 1 hazards exist in the property, Section 11 of the Housing Act gives the local authority the course of action to be followed in relation to the hazard. The person served an improvement notice under section 11 of the Housing Act by the authority is to take such action as is specified in the notice. A notice served in terms of section 11 of the Housing Act cannot require action to be taken in parts of the building or its external parts that are not included in the residential premises of which hazards have been found. Section 11 of the Housing Act states that the remedial action required to be taken must ensure that the hazard ceases to be a category one hazard.
What is a section 82 Housing disrepair?
Section 82, housing disrepair, generally refers to section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act. Section 82 has been used by tenants to address housing disrepair; however, it is used mainly for what is termed statutory nuisances.
The Environmental Protection Act mainly governs or makes provisions for the control and elimination of ‘statutory nuisances. Tenants use these provisions to obtain improvements and/or repairs to their housing conditions. A tenant who wishes to use Section 82 statutory nuisance provisions has to give written notice to the landlord of the intention to take action. Section 82 housing disrepair proceedings brought by a tenant under the statutory nuisance provisions against a landlord are criminal proceedings, and the case is tried in a Magistrates Court.
Council tenants can’t enforce section 82 housing disrepair proceedings using the local authority’s environmental officers as the officers cannot take action against their own council. In normal circumstances, when tenants are using section 82 housing disrepair proceedings, they ask the local authority’s environmental health officers to take action to deal with conditions which make their premises a statutory nuisance. Section 82 of the Act allows any aggrieved person to start proceedings in the magistrates’ court. This would mean that even council tenants can approach the magistrate court to take action for themselves. It also allows others who are not tenants in terms of the lease agreement, such as occupiers and visitors, to take action where they are affected by the statutory nuisance. If, on hearing the case, the magistrates are satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists and that the person accused is responsible, then an order requiring the responsible party (usually the landlord) to eradicate the statutory nuisance and carry out any works necessary to control it. An order of costs and one awarding limited compensation to the aggrieved party may also be made. The court may also impose a fine, as these are criminal proceedings.
In section 82, housing disrepair proceedings, the standard of proof will be the criminal standard as these are criminal proceedings. This would mean that the tenant will be required to show beyond a reasonable doubt that there is a statutory nuisance at the premises at the time of the hearing or when the summons was issued and that the defendant is responsible for the same.
How long do landlords have to fix problems in the UK?
How long do landlords have to fix problems in the UK is, unfortunately, a question that cannot be given a black-and-white answer. The time required for landlords to fix problems in the UK depends on several factors. Therefore, one cannot answer how long landlords have to fix problems in the UK” without knowing the specific details of the matter.
The law does not necessarily give specific timelines on how long landlords have to fix problems but requires landlords to fix problems within a reasonable time. This would mean that the seriousness of the problem and the type of the problem will determine how long the landlord will have to fix the problem. However, when a tenant makes a complaint to the landlord, the time the landlord has to fix the problem must be given to the tenant. The time the landlord has to fix the problem must take into account the nature of the problem and should not be determined by the nature or scale of the remedial works. This would mean that the landlord must recognise that certain repairs must be done first before others. For example, where electrical gadgets are not working, one would require the landlord to fix the electrical gadgets needed before fixing the carpet.
How much can you claim?
As a tenant, you have the right to claim from the court an order forcing the landlord to repair the property and compensation for the damages suffered as a result of the landlord’s failure to repair it. A tenant can claim the following monetary damages, and the question of how much you can claim will depend on the damage you are claiming.
- General damages are assessed as the loss of value of the tenancy to the tenant, that is, the loss of comfort and convenience resulting from living in a property in disrepair. These can be calculated either by a notional deduction in rent for each week of disrepair or by a global award for discomfort and inconvenience. This notional deduction ranges from 25%-50% of the rent, depending on how much the court deems fair. Therefore, one can ask if your rent is £1,000 per month and the disrepair has occurred for six months, How much can you claim? The simple answer is you are likely to be compensated 25% of £1,000 =£250 ×6 months which is equal to £1,500 to 50% of £1000 = 500×6, which will equal £3,000
- Special damages are compensation for items lost or damaged because of disrepair, e.g., carpets or curtains ruined by dampness. It also includes other losses capable of specific calculation in monetary terms, like cleaning costs or extra heating costs. Therefore, how much can you claim can be answered by the question “how much can you prove?”. One would require invoices and proof of the cost to prove these damages.
You can further claim interest to be paid on the compensation, the general and special damages awarded.
How much will it cost?
How much it will cost for the housing disrepair claim depends on several factors; it will also depend on one asking themselves how much it will cost for different parts and stages of the claim. How much will it cost to issue the claim in court? How much will it cost to hire expert evidence, as this is a necessary part of the proceedings? How much will it cost for legal representation? All these are questions that can be asked when looking at the cost of a housing disrepair claim.
Generally, it is costly to issue a housing disrepair claim, and the court fees will be charged depending on how much you are claiming, and the more you claim, the higher the court fee. You will be required to pay for expert evidence as this is needed to confirm that, indeed, there is house disrepair.
FAQs on Housing Disrepair
Who can claim for housing disrepair?
Any tenant affected by housing disrepair can claim disrepair. A tenant who has since moved out of a property that was affected by housing disrepairs can also claim for housing disrepairs damages. In terms of the Defective Premises Act 1972, any occupier or visitor affected by the disrepairs at the property also has the right to claim for disrepairs if they can prove that they have experienced loss due to the same.
What repairs should a landlord be responsible for?
The Law governs what repairs a landlord should be responsible for. In terms of the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Landlord has a legal duty to:
- To keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
- to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
- to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
Therefore, the landlord has a duty to ensure that all structural parts of the property are in good order and make sure all installations are working. The landlord will have no obligation to repair anything the tenant should remove from the property. It is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure installations that make a home function is working properly, and the structure cannot cause damage to the occupiers of the property. Repairing any defects can mean that sometimes the landlord has to completely renew or replace part of the structure if merely repairing the defect is not going to provide a practicable or lasting remedy for the disrepair.
In summary, the landlord is always responsible for repairs to:
- the property’s structure and exterior
- basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains
- heating and hot water
- gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- electrical wiring
- any damage they cause by attempting repairs
The landlord is also usually responsible for the common areas, for example, staircases in blocks of flats. This is most likely to be classified in the tenancy agreement.
Can I refuse to pay rent if there is mould in the UK?
Disrepair does not automatically remove the right to pay rent. The law does not give the right to the tenant to withhold paying rent until the disrepair is made. Therefore the existence of mould does not mean you can withhold rent. Such a claim will have to be made to the court and an order along those lines. Mould may also exist due to the tenant’s fault; therefore, it is best to acquire a court order before withholding any rentals. You are therefore required to continue paying the rentals. However, if a claim for disrepair has been made, the court may make an order setting this off with any unpaid rent.
What can I do if my landlord refuses to make repairs?
If your landlord refuses to make repairs, you have the option to report him to the Local Authority.
Contact the environmental health department at your local council for help. They must take action if they think the problems could harm you or cause a nuisance to others.
Furthermore, if you believe that your home could be unsafe, contact the housing department at your local council. They’ll do a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment and must take action if they think your home has serious health and safety hazard.
You may make the repairs and claim reimbursement from the landlord. However, this is common practice but not one of the steps governed or directed by the law. You do not have a legal obligation to make the repairs that are the responsibility of your landlord. To succeed in the claim for reimbursement in this matter, you will have to have written to your landlord advising him of the disrepairs, giving him enough time to rectify the housing disrepairs and that you shall be making the same and claiming reimbursement.
Do landlords have to pay for alternative accommodation?
Suppose the landlord requires the tenants to leave the property to be able to repair the same. In that case, the landlord and the tenant must agree on how long the work will last, the tenant’s right to return, and details of alternative accommodation. A landlord cannot repossess the property to do repairs. The landlord can, however, apply to the court for an order for the tenants to leave the property whilst works are being done; the court’s chances of granting this without alternative accommodation are very slim. Therefore there is an unwritten obligation to provide alternative accommodation for the tenant if the landlord requires the tenant to leave the property to do repairs.