22 Nov 2022
Two law partners at a legal firm have outlined a five-step process which tenants can use to complain to their landlords about alleged disrepair of their property.
Sophie Bell and Farzana Chowdhury – who are described as “experienced housing law partners at Hodge, Jones & Allen” – says that recent government data shows that whilst 31 per cent of social renters considered making a complaint from 2019-2021, one in six of those did not actually end up making a complaint. And amongst private tenants, some 17 per cent considered making a housing disrepair complaint, yet nearly a quarter of those ultimately did not.
The lawyers claims that private renters were concerned about the repercussions, with 19 per cent concerned about causing problems with their landlord, 17 per cent saying it was ”too much hassle to complain” and 18 per cent saying they believed nothing would be done as a result of a complaint anyway.
The pair say tenants should not withhold rent but should follow this five-step process to complain.
“1. Determine the disrepair – Before making the complaint, you need to determine if the issue you are facing is due to disrepair, as a landlord is not responsible for all problems in the home. The landlord is responsible for the structure and exterior of the building and also the supply of water, gas, and electricity. Issues such as leaks, dampness and mould may fall under the disrepair depending on their cause. If in doubt, seek legal advice.
“2. Notify your landlord – It’s vital that you inform the landlord about the disrepair issues in your property as no claim can be brought unless this has been done. This is referred to as providing your landlord with ‘notice’ and should be done in writing via letter, email, or text message. Keeping records of correspondence can be important down the line if a claim is needed. The hope is that the landlord carries out the repairs at this stage, but it’s not always the case.
“3. Letter of claim – If a reasonable time has passed, you have not had a response, or your landlord refuses to carry out the necessary works, the next step is to send a ‘letter of claim’ to your landlord. This would usually be asking for repair work to be carried out and to pay some compensation. You can draft this letter yourself or you can instruct solicitors at this stage to send a letter of claim on your behalf. This letter invites the landlord to put forward proposals to settle the case without the need to go to court proceedings. They have 20 working days to respond.
“4. Obtain an expert report – After 20 working days without a response, you can get your legal representative to instruct an expert to inspect the property and produce a report of the disrepair. The expert will advise on how long the works will take and a schedule of repair can be produced.
“5. Make a claim to the county court – If the matter cannot be resolved through contact with the landlord, or they have refused to carry out the works or pay compensation, the disrepair claim can then be issued in the county court.”
Bell and Chowdhury add that “the ideal scenario for renters is that the disrepair issue is resolved in the initial stages of the complaint when you provide the landlord with notice. If this does not take place, you may be entitled to compensation for the delays.”
They go on to say that tenants may claim compensation for any reasonable financial loss and expenses incurred as a result of the disrepair, including damage to belongings; distress and inconvenience suffered due to the disrepair; and “any personal injury you or a member of your family have suffered, as a result of the disrepair, though the evidence of causation will need to be very strong.”
As a caveat, the pair remind tenants that if unsuccessful at court, they may be required to pay their landlord’s legal fees.
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