In April 2015, a group of over 80 UK charities and community groups, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Save the Children and Unicef, came together as the Just Fair Consortium to publish a report into homelessness and the cost and quality of rental accommodation in the UK. The report entitled ‘Protecting the Right to Housing in England: A Context of Crisis’ argues that the British Government is breaching its human rights obligations under international law by failing to provide its citizens with an adequate standard of living.
The report states that 33% of private rental accommodation in the UK does not meet ‘basic standards of health, safety and habitability’ as defined by the Government’s ‘Decent Homes Standard’, meaning that one on three tenants are currently living in unsafe conditions and properties that are unfit for habitation. The same issues apply to the social housing sector. The report goes on to say that tenants are often unwilling to complain to landlords about the state of their accommodation due to fears that they will be evicted or that their rent will rise in retaliation.
If you are living in a property which is in a state of disrepair the first step is to write to the landlord detailing the problems. Under the Housing Disrepair Protocol 2003 a landlord will be obliged to address your concerns within 20 working days. If a landlord fails to address legitimate issues raised by a tenant concerning the state of a property, they may be liable to a compensation claim for disrepair. Tenants in this situation who have been injured by the disrepair can call our solicitors about suing a landlord for personal injury. Unfortunately, we are unable to help if the claim is for disrepair only. For a claim to succeed a qualified surveyor or environmental health officer will need to examine the property, and expert medical evidence may be required to prove that disrepair to the property has been the primary cause of an injury, or that a risk to health exists.
Another area of disrepair relates to services provided at a property, such as gas, electrics and water. An unrepaired boiler or faulty radiator may lead to extended periods without hot water or heating. A defective gas fire may even poison a tenant by letting out carbon monoxide fumes. All such systems and appliances must be working, in a state of good repair and safe to use. Landlords must also make sure that the external visage of the property is well maintained, including roof tiling and drainage piping. Compensation awards for disrepair are also likely to be high if a property has been infested by rodents or insects.
Depending on the terms of a lease, either the landlord or tenant will have a duty to keep a rented property free from ice and snow, and in a safe state for visitors. Where an injury on private property is caused by the negligence of either party in failing to clear ice and snow, it will often be possible to claim compensation.
Much will depend on whether the landlord or tenant has household insurance, and if not, whether they have the personal means to pay any compensation awarded by a court. If the negligent party has neither the insurance nor the means to pay, it will be very difficult to make a personal injury claim against them, though it will still be possible in some cases.
For a personal injury claim to succeed after a slip on ice accident on private property, it will be necessary to show that the owner or occupier knew, or should have known through reasonable inspections of the property about the hazard, yet failed to take the necessary measures to deal with it.
Under the terms of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, the owner or occupier has a duty of care to visitors, and must take all reasonable measures to ensure their safety while visiting the property. If the landlord or tenant's negligence in this area has directly caused a visitor to slip over on ice and get injured therefore, and it will often be possible to make a personal injury claim against them.
The legal responsibility of owners and occupiers for accidents caused by ice and snow at rented properties will depend on the individual circumstances of each case, and the duty of care they owe their visitors will not be absolute in terms of maintaining safety at all times. Generally speaking, the courts tend to take a realistic approach in cases involving slips on ice and snow on private property, usually in favour of the owner or occupier if they have failed to clear snow and ice. In some cases however, the owner or occupier may act negligently if, for example, they clear snow from a path and fail to grit it, only for dangerous black ice to form, resulting in a visitor slipping over on it and injuring themselves.
Mr and Mrs J agreed to rent a property for themselves and their two young children, but were unable to move in for longer than expected while a housing contractor carried out essential repair work on the property's roof and guttering. When they did finally move in they found that building materials, including scaffolding poles and planks, had been left in the grounds by the contractor. Over the next few weeks they asked their landlord repeatedly for the building materials to be removed from the property, due to the obvious risk they posed to the couple's young children, yet no action was taken. One evening their children were playing in the garden when one of them tripped over a scaffolding plank, banging and cutting his head on a stack of metal poles. He was knocked unconscious in the accident, and despite making a full recovery, sustained a deep cut that is likely to leave a permanent scar on his forehead.
After talking to our lawyers, Mr and Mrs J decided to act on their child's behalf in a no win no fee compensation claim against their landlord (minors must be represented by adults in order to make a claim). The central point we made to the landlord and their insurance company was that when tenants move into rented accommodation, they have the legal right to expect that the landlord will have left the property in a reasonably safe state. In this instance, the discarded building materials in the grounds of the property represented a clear hazard, particularly given the presence of two young children. Had the landlord taken action when informed about the issue, instead of ignoring it, the accident could also have been prevented. We were able to secure an admission of liability before the matter reached the court staged, and a compensation settlement of £4,500 was agreed.
Tenants are now able to take legal action against their landlords for a wider range of potential problems at rented accommodation under a new law which came into force in March 2019. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 requires that ‘residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation; and for connected purposes’. The Act makes landlords legally responsible for carrying out the necessary maintenance of rented properties, covering areas including repair, stability, damp, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage, and cooking and waste facilities. If a landlord fails to do so, they risk being taken to court, where an injunction may be issued to force them to carry out the necessary work on the property in question.
The issue of tenants being housed in poor quality and often unsafe rented accommodation has become increasingly significant in recent years, with more and more people living in rented flats and houses, but with few legal remedies available to them in the event of a landlord failing to comply with best practices in terms of upkeep and repair. Apart from general property disrepair, the new Act covers damp, mould, ventilation and infestations (insects such as bed bugs as well as vermin), problems which tenants now encounter on a regular basis due to landlords unscrupulously avoiding the cost of maintaining their rented properties in a decent state. Tenants now have a clear legal path available to them if their landlord fails to comply with their responsibilities, and should be safer from being injured or made ill due to substandard rented accommodation as a result.
We can help you claim compensation from your landlord. Our specialist solicitors can also help claim compensation from a housing association or from the council housing department. We can claim compensation for a personal injury caused by housing disrepair and we can claim compensation for suffering caused by housing disrepair. So, if you, your family, or friends have been hurt by housing disrepair call us today. Call us today and find out how to sue a landlord for personal injury with our no win no fee agreement.