This blog post focuses on disrepair and offers our advice on what social landlords should be doing to keep claims for disrepair to a minimum.
We have had a number of disrepair claims cross our desks in the past few weeks, with canvassing for claims in areas of high density social housing on the rise, disrepair claims are being brought more and more frequently. Disrepair is an extensive area of law shaped by complex case law, and so it is important to ensure that the basics are not being forgotten; with that in mind, here are our top tips to ensure social landlords are in a stronger position when it comes to disrepair claims.
1. Know your obligations
The legal obligations of social landlords with regard to disrepair can be found in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; however the tenancy agreements of many social landlords often go beyond what is legally required.
If your tenancy agreements or policies require you to do more than you are legally obligated to, you must ensure that you follow your responsibilities under the tenancy agreement; alternatively, you may wish to consider redrafting. Many social landlords are looking carefully at what they are and are not obligated to do in light of the current financial constraints and are seeking advice to ensure they are not exposing themselves to potential claims.
2. Be consistent
Is all the information provided to tenants in your tenancy agreements, policies, and procedures consistent? For example, do tenants know how repairs need to be reported? If not, the landlord’s obligations and procedures may be open to interpretation and you may not be sending a clear message to your tenants.
3. Know if you are on notice
Once a tenant has put you on notice of a repair that needs to be undertaken, go out to the property for an inspection, identify if a repair is needed, if so, make arrangements to get the repairs done, ensure that any repairs are carried out within a reasonable time and keep a record.
Don’t forget, if you visit the property for any other reason and see something that may need repairing – you are on notice of the issue!
4. Keep a thorough record
- Have any repairs been requested? What were they?
- Have any visits been undertaken?
- Has the tenant provided access? If not has this been followed up?
- If a property visit was undertaken, what decision was made? Was any advice or information provided to the tenant?
- If no repair was required, why not?
Good quality records can mean that a claim is successfully defended; bad quality, inconsistent or incomplete records can lead to disrepair claims succeeding, even where the landlord may have done everything right.
5. Consider the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases
Following the Pre-Action Protocol is vital in disrepair cases; there are costs sanctions for late / non-compliance so it is essential that it is followed carefully. It is worth remembering that any letter received needs to be dealt with in the relevant timescale laid out in the Protocol, but do not simply concede your position without carefully considering the case; even if repairs are needed, that does not necessarily mean there is a claim. If you appear to accept liability, or concede anything in an open letter, you may be faced with a claim for damages.
While many Registered Social Landlords will have disrepair matters dealt with through their insurers, it is important that the claims are dealt with by someone with the relevant specialist landlord and tenant knowledge and experience to deal effectively with disrepair claims.
The Housing Management team are well equipped to deal with disrepair claims and offer specialist advice and training on disrepair, as well as a review and drafting service for policies and tenancy agreements – please do get in touch on 029 2066 0589 if you feel this could be of benefit to your organisation.