If you are living in rented accommodation you will know that you must pay rent or have this paid in full or in part by Housing Benefit.
You will also know that it is up to you to keep your home in a state of good repair and clean and tidy. Did you also know that your Landlord has obligations to you in return?
Everyone accepts that things go wrong with houses, plumbing, electrical, etc but if you rent then these problems may not be for you to deal with. Your rental agreement will set out who is responsible for what and you might find that if there is a leak for example or your heating stops working then it is generally up to your Landlord to fix the problem.
What can you do if the Landlord will not agree to make necessary repairs? Your Landlord only needs to carry out repairs that he knows are needed and he only needs to do those repairs within a reasonable time. It is therefore important that you contact the Landlord as soon as possible and if you experience problems in getting them to do anything make sure you keep a record of the times and dates of any telephone calls or copies of any letters. This is important as if you are to ask for legal assistance in getting repairs done it will be necessary to show that the Landlord was fully aware of the problems but had failed to deal with them quickly or at all. How long is a reasonable time will depend upon the urgency of the need for repair. If there is a dripping tap then a week might be reasonable but if the heating breaks down then you would expect a much quicker response.
A solicitor can help you to get things done when your Landlord will not co-operate. The Court can be asked to make an order to force repairs to be done and to provide for compensation if, for example, rooms become unusable. This is known as loss of enjoyment. It is important to keep paying rent during disputes of this type because the Court will reduce any compensation you get otherwise.
In addition to having work done and compensation for loss of enjoyment you can also seek compensation for cleaning costs or replacement of furniture and clothes if damaged. Also, in some cases it is possible to claim compensation for injury. Injury compensation is only claimable if the injury was caused by the failure of the Landlord to make repairs. Again the Landlord needs to be made aware of the need for repair before this can arise. Injury might be caused by falling down steps if they are broken or, and this is often more difficult to prove, for chest infections from living in damp conditions.
If you are being harassed by your Landlord you can gain protection from the Court under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This might be relevant when for example your Landlord lets himself in for surprise inspections or becomes abusive because you have made a complaint or requested a repair.
You should be aware that your Landlord cannot throw you out just because you and he have fallen out. He must give the correct notice which is usually two months. If you receive notice to move out and wish to dispute it you can seek legal advice because it may be that due to deficiencies in the form of notice that you will not have to.
The purpose of this article is to help create awareness of the things that you can do if you are having problems with your Landlord. Clearly it is not intended to cover every possible situation and you should also seek advice from your solicitor or the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux if in doubt.
Whether you are a Landlord or a Tenant, if you have problems relating to a tenancy Paul Finn Solicitors can help you. Contact our office on 01288 356256 and arrange to see Steven Ladhams or Martin Curnow.
Head of Litigation, Paul Finn Solicitors
Tel: 01288 356 256