Over the last few years we have had a number of compensation claims due to disrepair where landlords refused to or delayed work needed that was their legal responsibility. This has mainly been from tenants on low income who have access to legal aid with nothing to lose but everything to gain on their part.
Solicitors advise tenants not to talk to the agent or the landlord and wave about inflated compensation figures to raise their hopes. In one case a tenant received £1,000 compensation and their solicitors got £15,000. There was a small fire in the hallway of the building and the tenant claimed that she was taken ill because of smoke; the solicitors were asking for £10,000 compensation. Our Insurance settled to pay £1,000 compensation for the tenant but had to pay the extortionate legal fees of £15,000 to the tenant’s solicitor.
We have professional Indemnity Insurance since 2003 without a claim until 2009. Over the last few years we have had number of disrepairs claims all from tenants on housing benefit. Professional tenants don’t usually take claims to these extremes.
Compensation culture is here and our indemnity insurance has shot through the roof. We are advised by our insurers to tell landlords if they refuse to do or delay the work that is legally their responsibility then they will be liable for any compensation claim. We would strongly advise landlords to be on their guard when meeting their obligations for repairs, especially with housing benefit tenants.
Continued habitability of the property is your legal responsibility and any works needed to maintain this should be carried out as soon as possible, if that is not done, tenants can:
- Request compensation or a reduced rent
- Withhold rent until the repair is actioned
- Report the repair to the Private Sector Housing Group who can inspect your property, assess the work and issue enforcement notices followed by fines which lately they’ve become incredibly aggressive at doing. If tenants go to the Local Authority for an issue they are obliged to check for 29 hazards under health and safety. In one case where a landlord refused to pay £150 to draught proof windows, the Local Authority got involved and found out electricity was old, pipes were lead etc and it cost the landlord £35,000 for extra repairs.
- Make a disrepair claim though solicitors which is free for housing benefit tenants under Legal Aid.
Not all tenants will take the above action, but it’s important that we advise you of the possible repercussions of not to carrying out repairs. If you need advice or a reliable and inexpensive contractor, please call our maintenance department on 020 7033 0311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.