When you’re renting your home from a landlord and things go wrong, clients often ask us “How much can I sue my landlord for?” A client of ours was recently awarded £4500.00 after living in a property in disrepair for almost 4 years. Here’s how.
The property had both defective guttering and a roof outside, which resulted in penetrating damp that was passed off as black mould or condensation by the management agent.
Despite repeated attempts by our client to seek a resolution, he sought our assistance in July 2018. Unfortunately we had to issue Court proceedings against his landlord in order to put pressure on the Landlord to make repairs and seek compensation. We settled his claim for around £4500.00 with repairs to be completed within 4 weeks.
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What to do if your rental property needs repairing
Firstly you should make your landlord aware of any issues either verbally and ideally in writing as well so you have a record. Hopefully your landlord will take your complaint seriously and resolve the issue.
You should not be concerned about being made to leave the property as the result of a complaint to your landlord as they would still need to go through a full eviction process and have to have grounds to get you evicted.
Double check your tenancy agreement as it should make clear which repairs the landlord is responsible for.
Types of disrepair
Firstly, understand which types of repair are the landlord’s responsibility and which are yours. For example, minor repairs such as changing a lightbulb are your responsibility. However, major repairs such as faulty heating, plumbing, pipes and guttering fall under the responsibility of the landlord.
Bear in mind the difference between upgrading the property and carrying out repair work. For example, the landlord is under no obligation to upgrade the boiler providing it is safe for the tenant, however if the heating system has a leak resulting in poor performance and even creating a health and safety issue, then the landlord needs to arrange a repair.
Other common types of housing disrepair include:
- Mould and damp
- Leaking water or gas pipes
- Broken step or stairs
- Gas installations and appliances
- Faulty heaters, cookers or other electrical appliances such as dishwashers, that the landlord agreed to provide
You may also be able to claim compensation if your personal possessions are damaged as a result of disrepair.
How to claim against your landlord for disrepair
Did you know that if your property falls into disrepair, it is your landlord’s duty to fix it!
If your landlord is not helping as much as you think they should, here is some advice to follow
- Collect evidence of the damage – ensure your landlord is made aware of the issue(s) and send photos where relevant.
- Make contact with your landlord or letting agent to explain the problem. This can be done verbally, but it is also a good idea to do it in writing so that you have a record.
- Keep evidence of all correspondence – this includes text messages, emails and even letters to your landlord.
- If the issues with the property are causing you to be ill, ensure you keep notes from the GP.
- In instances where you feel forced to make the repairs yourself, make sure you keep the receipts as evidence.
How long should the landlord take to make repairs?
In the case of all repairs, the landlord should agree to repair within a reasonable amount of time.
In most cases if the landlord has given 24 hours notice, the tenancy agreement will give the landlord the right to enter the property and inspect its condition or carry out maintenance.
The severity of the problem will determine how quickly a repair is carried out. For example, a burst water pipe will need attention straight away.
Are damages affecting your health?
In serious cases, your local environmental health department can carry out an inspection and provide a report on any issues. You should contact your landlord before you take this step and then if they are not responsive or even slow to respond consider contacting the health department.
If the disrepair is considered serious enough, the council can issue a notice to the landlord to get it fixed called and improvement notice.
Can I claim compensation for damp?
If you notice damp in your property, you should check your tenancy agreement and speak to your landlord before you make significant steps to fix it.
If you have paid to have the damp repaired, keep the receipts and your landlord should be able to reimburse you for the costs.
Keep a record of improvements you’ve made and save your receipts. If it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix, they should reimburse you.
What if the landlord refuses to make repairs?
If you have explained the situation to your landlord and they are refusing to make repairs, then you can seek legal advice from a solicitor specialising in landlord repairs law.
In most cases you should consider mediation as your first step. This means you can avoid taking the case to court and find a faster resolution. A mediation service can help both parties to reach an agreement and if the case does end up going to court, this process will also form a basis for your case.
Taking your landlord to court
This should be your last resort and an experienced solicitor will be able to advise you if you have a case.
If successful a court may order your landlord to
- Make necessary repairs
- Pay you compensation for damage to your personal property or health
- Pay part or all of your legal costs for going to court
You’ll need to provide evidence that the landlord has not taken their responsibility seriously.
Claiming compensation from your landlord
You may be entitled to compensation from your landlord if your personal property has been damaged as a result of disrepair to the property.
You can also ask your landlord for compensation if repairs are not carried out in a reasonable time-frame.
In cases where you can prove that your health has been affected by the property disrepair, you may also have a case for personal injury compensation.
There may be instances where damage has resulted in you not being able to use part of, or in extreme circumstances, all of the property. This may result in you being entitled to a rent reduction or being able to claim compensation for the inconvenience.
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