If you are a tenant in a social housing property managed by a Housing Association, local council, or non-profit commercial organisation, you are entitled to a good standard of living accommodation.
So, what can you do when your home falls into disrepair, and your landlord refuses to address the matter? Well, you have the right to file a social housing claim for disrepair damages.
Knowing how to make a disrepair claim against your landlord can indeed be confusing if you don’t have the right information. However, this guide will simplify what you need to know.
Read on to find out who is responsible for repairs in a social housing property, your rights & responsibilities as a tenant, how to report about disrepair, when to file a claim against your landlord, and what type of compensation you could get.
Who Is Responsible For Repairs In Social Housing Schemes?
All landlords in the UK, including those who offer social housing, are legally obliged to keep their properties in a reasonable and acceptable condition, i.e. a liveable and habitable state.
In most cases, tenancy agreements or handbooks specify the type of repairs that fall under the responsibility of a property owner.
Even if your lease deliberately omits something or includes what could be considered unfair clauses, there are legal provisions that clearly state what landlords ought to do when it comes to property upkeep and repairs.
As per the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 under section 11, any person who leases or lets a property to others is generally required to:
- Repair the exterior of a structure including external pipes, drains, and gutters
- Maintain and repair utility systems that provide a dwelling with water, gas, and electricity
- Keep sanitary installations like sinks, basins, and baths in proper working order and fix defects when needed
- Make sure that any central heating or hot water systems are in good condition and fixed in case of malfunction
- Keep in mind that the provisions above apply to short lets with a maximum period of seven years.
- For tenancies that commenced on or after 15 January 1989, the landlord’s responsibilities go on to include repairing and maintaining areas such as stairwells, lifts, shared entrances, corridors, and communal areas.
Your landlord would be required to take care of all the mentioned property upkeep and repair works without asking you to contribute in any way toward the cost.
What You Should Do As A Tenant
However, tenants also have a legal obligation to keep their rented spaces in a good state.
For instance, changing light bulbs or blown fuses are minor issues you would have to take care of by yourself. Other responsibilities that fall within the domain of a tenant include the following:
- Using the property in a ‘tenant-like’ manner
- Not causing any damage to the rented residence and making sure that guests do the same
- Keeping the property, including any outdoor garden, in a clean and presentable state
- Making responsible use of fixtures and fittings. For example, you are not allowed to flush items down the toilet that would block it and expect your landlord to do repairs.
Basically, If any damage caused to the property, grounds or fixtures and fittings has been caused by the tenants or their guests, then it would be the tenants’ responsibility to inform the landlord and pay for any repairs to rectify the situation.
How Do I Complain About Disrepair To My Social Housing Landlord?
By law, landlords can only repair problems that tenants report or issues they discover during regular inspections. If you have a problem in your rented property that needs fixing, then make sure whoever is in charge knows about it as soon as possible.
Typically, social housing schemes offer tenants procedures for reporting concerns, including notifying them of problems with the property etc.
Therefore, you should use these avenues in the first instance to report any disrepair issues you have. Their complaints policy should also clearly state how long it would take for your landlord to act.
While you could communicate verbally to your landlord or property agent about repairs, it is prudent to do this in writing instead (or as well as!).
If you don’t get a reply within the specified time after providing the initial notification, the next step would be to file a letter of complaint. Providing pictures of the problem that needs fixing might also be helpful. Remember to keep copies of all correspondence, including letters, emails, notes, or text messages.
Once your landlord is aware of the problem, then remedial work should be carried out within a reasonable period.
Property owners have the right to enter leased premises for the purposes of carrying out repairs, but they still need a tenant’s permission or to have given the correct prior notice (unless in exceptional emergency circumstances).
Typically, your landlord should furnish you with a 24-hour notice to allow for repairs. If the scheduling of the repairs happens to fall on a day when you won’t be home, then it will be imperative to make arrangements for providing access to the repair crew.
In situations where a social housing landlord is not acting on a disrepair complaint, here are a couple of steps you can take to have the matter addressed.
1. Involve An Intermediary
If attempts to get help about the disrepair through your landlord’s complaint procedure have yielded no results, you can involve an intermediary to try and find a solution.
For instance, you can contact a designated person like your local councillor or MP and ask for some intervention. Alternatively, you could try escalating your complaint through the housing ombudsman, which is an entity that offers mediation services to try and resolve disputes between tenants and social housing landlords.
2. Make A Public Health Complaint
When the state of disrepair becomes a health hazard or makes your home unsafe for habitation, the environmental health department can step in for assistance.
For example, you could request your local council to carry out an inspection if a damp and mould problem is causing health concerns, or perhaps you have a vermin infestation, upon which they should investigate and create a report.
If those investigations reveal that your home is dangerous to live in, the council will provide a notice to your social housing landlord requiring them to carry out repairs within a specified period. The public health local authorities also have powers to carry out emergency repairs and charge the property owner, if necessary.
When Should You Seek A Social Housing Claim For Disrepair?
If your landlord still refuses to carry out repairs after raising a complaint, providing adequate time to have the matter resolved, and exhausting all intermediary options, you can take further action by filing a social housing disrepair claim with the help of a solicitor. You could even go to court if:
- You or loved ones are getting ill, due to the state or type of disrepair
- Your landlord continues to ignore complaints about repairs
- Inspections were conducted, but nothing else happened afterwards
- There was a very slow response in carrying out the necessary repairs to your home
- Your landlord did a shoddy or unacceptable repair job
Before filing a disrepair claim because of unsatisfactory results, it is essential not to confuse improvements for repairs. Your landlord is required by law to fix any existing fixture or fitting to make it work or safe again for use.
On the other hand, the property owner is not necessarily required to make upgrades when carrying out repairs. For instance, your landlord can respond to a complaint about leaking windows and perform basic repairs, but would not be obliged to install something better like double glazed frames.
What Compensation Can I Seek In A Social Housing Disrepair Claim?
When seeking compensation from your local council or social housing association for disrepair damages, the compensation that you could get in a successful claim can cover several things.
For one, if you can prove the landlord shirked their responsibilities, you would be legally owed what you had to spend to carry out the repairs yourself. A judge could order the amount to be deducted from your future monthly rental payments or other service charges.
- Besides the cost of repairs, your claim may also include compensation for:
- Damaged personal possessions you’ve had to repair or replace because of the state of disrepair in your home
- Expenses for alternative accommodation in case you had to temporarily vacate the premises to allow for repairs
- Medical costs for treating anyone who fell ill as a result of the state of disrepair in your home
- Lost income if you had to miss work while taking care of a loved one who got sick due to the state of disrepair
- Mental and emotional trauma for the inconvenience caused
It will be necessary to provide evidence that supports your social housing disrepair claim. Therefore, make sure to keep any letters from your doctor if the problem made you ill.
Other forms of evidence that will help your case include receipts for all items you have had to replace or fix, expert reports from an environmental health officer, photos of damaged belongings, and records of conversations with your landlord.
Will My Landlord Take Action Against Me For Making A Social Housing Disrepair Claim?
Your landlord owes you a duty of care to ensure that you do not incur personal injury or damage to your personal property caused by defects in their rented dwelling. Your rights to a safe and habitable living environment are well protected in the Defective Premises Act 1972.
Therefore, tenants have a right to file social housing claims against landlords who fail to respond to disrepair complaints or refuse to carry out necessary repair and maintenance work to keep a property safe.
Simply put, you should not shy away from filing a disrepair claim against your landlord when there is good reason to, just because you fear retaliatory actions.
As long as you follow the rules and guidelines in your tenancy agreement and have made every effort to engage and solve the issues directly with your housing provider, then you should not be afraid to act.
For instance, your landlord cannot retaliate by raising your rent without just cause and there are limits in place to keep rents for social housing affordable. Also, it is illegal for your landlord to evict you for making a disrepair claim, so you are protected.
Need Help Filing A Social Housing Disrepair Claim?
Housing disrepair can negatively impact your health and wellbeing, including that of vulnerable loved ones like elderly persons and children.
If your social housing residence is in a state of disrepair and your efforts to have it fixed have been all in vain, you don’t have to feel powerless about it any longer.
A solicitor can help you file a compensation claim against your social housing association, local council or private landlord. Fill out the form below to get in touch with a claims advisor who will offer free, no-obligation advice regarding your case.