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.
Damage to property, and the resulting need for repair may relate to the structure of the house, the state of internal appliances, or a general lack of maintenance. One common disrepair problem is where roofs, windows or gutters leak, causing water to penetrate the inside of the property. If disrepair of this kind is left unattended, damp may spread through wooden structures such as window frames, causing them to rot. Damp in itself is an unpleasant problem to live with and over-exposure to it can cause asthma. Mould resulting from damp can also cause a variety of medical conditions.
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.
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.