Have you given sufficient notification of the defect to your landlord?
In the UK, four million households live in rented social housing, which is just under a fifth (17%) of all households in the country. In 2019-20, 10% (2.4 million) of all households rented from housing associations, and 7% (1.6 million) from local authorities. In light of the vast majority of the UK population living in rented accommodation, it remains more important than ever to maintain an amicable relationship with your tenant or landlord.
Under the most standard tenancy agreements in the UK, an obligation is placed on the landlord to ensure that the property is kept free of disrepair and put into repair when a defect occurs.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
In any event, Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 implies a term that the lessor (the landlord) has a duty to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house, the installation for the supply of water, gas and electricity, and the installations for space, heating and water. These implied terms are binding on the landlord and pursuant to Section 12 of the Act, a landlord cannot contract itself out of a statutory obligation, for example by a tenancy agreement.
In addition, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 states implies a term that the condition of a house is fit for human habitation.
Therefore, if you are a tenant that lives in a property that suffers from significant disrepair, you may be able to make a claim for losses arising from living in disrepair against your landlord provided your landlord has been made aware of the issue for some time and has not rectified the disrepair.
All of the elements in the above paragraph are fundamental to a claim for housing disrepair however the element of paramount importance is the requirement of notice of the defect to the landlord. This obligation is pursuant to section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 as the obligation on a landlord to repair only arises when notice is given to the landlord.
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 a landlord is allowed reasonable time to carry out repairs on receipt of valid notice. The definition of ‘reasonable time’ depends on the nature of disrepair; there is no legal formula for this. Therefore, a housing disrepair claim is borne out of the landlord’s failure to repair a defect which they know exists.
In a housing disrepair claim, the burden of proof is on the claimant and therefore the claimant will have to prove the landlord’s knowledge of the defect by demonstrating the notice given. The court will generally place emphasis on complaints set out in the repair history/ housing file. Therefore, complaints made by written correspondence (such as emails or letters) are most effective however a tenant may also be able to evidence logs of calls made to the landlord.
As well as being able to demonstrate the notice given, the notice must be sufficient to put a reasonable person on enquiry as per the case of O’Brien v Robinson 1973 however it need not particularise the degree or extent of the repairs required.
Therefore, the court is really looking for a demonstratable chain of correspondence which shows the tenant making repeated requests for repairs, which have remained unrectified by the landlord, without good reason. Once a tenant finds themselves in this predicament, they should consider making a housing disrepair claim.
Whilst giving notice a tenant should be aware of the limitation period applicable to housing disrepair claims. This is 6 years from the date of breach of repair obligation. Breach in this respect arises when a landlord is given notice of a defect and they have failed to carry out repairs in reasonable time.