Whether you or a loved one has been infected with the coronavirus disease or not, the pandemic will affect your life in some way. If you are a landlord or tenant, you may now be adjusting to a new normal when it comes to housing. Before the pandemic, many landlords – particularly housing associations and local authorities – were already having a hard time fulfilling their repair obligations towards their tenants, probably due to the increasing maintenance costs or ageing housing stock. But how has the pandemic played a role in housing disrepair claims?
This struggle is set to increase as landlords come to terms with the challenge of carrying out repairs and complying with government guidance. When the ‘exit plan’ from the lockdown was set by the Prime Minister on 10 May 2020, people who could not work from home were encouraged to go to work only if they believed it was safe to do so. Shortly after, the Minister of State for Housing addressed the issue of repair and maintenance in a letter sent to social housing residents in England. The letter states that “landlords should be able to carry out the routine as well as essential repairs for most households.
As far as repair and maintenance obligations go, nothing has changed. Landlords are still required to carry out works “within a reasonable time” once there is a defect. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, “reasonable time” should be taken into account. The courts are now employing a practical approach to resolving claims for disrepair. However, if you encounter disrepair issues as a tenant, you should notify your landlord the usual way.
While there is a decline in disrepair claims due to the current restrictions, the number of tenants taking landlords to court will likely increase as the situation eases. Good communication and record-keeping between tenants and landlords will be crucial.
The Landlord’s Responsibility
Landlords have a duty to ensure their tenants live in clean, safe and habitable conditions. This means an adequate supply of water, gas, and electricity, especially with the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, it is your right as a tenant to report any issues affecting your living conditions.
The Ministry for Justice’s Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Conditions Cases (England) provides a guidepost concerning how landlords should handle repair and maintenance works. However, the current COVID-19 climate means following these guidelines to the letter will be affected by:
- 2m physical distancing
- furloughed workers
- tenants, housing officers, tradesmen and surveyors self-isolating.
Once a letter of claim for disrepair has been issued by a tenant, the landlord is expected to respond within 20 working days of receipt of the letter. If the landlord fails to respond within 20 working days of receiving the letter of claim, he/she has breached the protocol and disrepair solicitors can act on behalf of the tenant to issue proceedings against the landlord.
Existing Housing Disrepair Issues
Where a housing disrepair issue was reported to a landlord prior to the lockdown, “reasonable period” will now depend on when the issue was reported.
For instance, if a tenant reported a disrepair problem in January and the landlord failed to carry out the necessary inspection and repairs before the COVID-19 enforced restriction on 23 March 2020, the landlord will be deemed negligent. A reasonable landlord could have acted promptly and completed the maintenance work before the lockdown; so, despite the current situation of things, the tenant may be able to pursue a claim for disrepair.
If, on the other hand, the tenant reported an issue only a few days before the restrictions were put in place, the landlord would likely request for more time as they did not have a “reasonable period” to undertake inspection and maintenance works before the lockdown.
Housing Disrepair Claims During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Since the severity of rental property damage is on a case by case basis, it is the duty of a landlord to determine whether repair or maintenance work is urgent. In light of the current situation, here are a few factors that relevant parties in a disrepair case should consider the following:
- Risk assessment should be done to determine whether a repair is urgent or can be postponed to a later, more practical time. For instance, the tenant may have to vacate the rental property during the repair process; doing this at this time when social distancing is crucial may be impractical. Therefore, the landlord may request more time, stating the reason for the delay.
- Whether the alleged disrepair is detrimental to the health and safety of a tenant or poses a long-term danger. Repair works should be done to eliminate those risks.
- The availability of building materials and when repair works can be completed as a result.
Contact Housing Disrepair Solicitors
If you are a tenant – whether this is in a council, housing association or private property – it is the duty of your landlord to keep your house in a good state of repair. If you have reported disrepair to your landlord, and he/she has failed to carry out the works, causing you inconvenience or even health problems, then you may be entitled to a claim for disrepair.
At the peak of the pandemic, landlords were required to give urgent attention to issues like leaks in the roof, security breaches (broken windows, external doors, etc.), and heating or hot water problems. With the government’s planned four-week lockdown ahead of the festive period, your landlord’s responsibility remains the same. They must ensure your rented property is safe and habitable.
We work with a panel of specialist housing disrepair solicitors who have the knowledge and experience required to act on behalf of poorly treated tenants, even at this difficult time. They will handle your case with great care and professionalism.
No Win No Fee Housing Disrepair Claims
Our specialist solicitors will likely offer to work with you on a No Win No Fee basis if you have suffered harm as a result of your landlord’s negligence. A No Win No Fee agreement simply means that you wouldn’t have to pay any legal fees unless your case is successful. This allows normal members of society to be able to pursue housing disrepair claims without having to worry about the cost of funding a claim.
A No Win No Fee agreement gives you the confidence that our no win no fee housing solicitors will do everything possible to ensure your claim is successful, as we would not receive anything if you lose. If your claim is successful, you will be required to pay a success fee to your chosen law firm. The success fee is a percentage of your final compensation award – and the amount will be agreed upon between you and your solicitors at the start of your claim. It ranges from 0-25% of your compensation award.
Contact Us Today
At housing disrepair claim, we offer expert legal support and advice on housing disrepair-related matters, including how to claim compensation from landlord at this difficult time posed by the pandemic. Our disrepair solicitors will be happy to discuss details of your case, and provide answers to any questions you may have as regards making a No Win No Fee housing disrepair claim.
During these trying times, it can be challenging to determine what could qualify as a potential ground for a claim. Our expert solicitors will help you understand what steps you need to take at this time and, if a claim is made on your behalf, keep you fully informed about the progress of the claim every step of the way.
For specialist legal support on pursuing a No Win No Fee housing disrepair claim following negligent treatment from your landlord, do not hesitate to give us a call in confidence on 0800 999 7440.