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Housing and Disrepair: Your Rights!

Article Authors: Gabriella Wight & Jessica Joseph



Housing and Disrepair: Tenant’s Rights

- The Coronavirus Act 2020 introduced temporary restrictions on evictions under sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act 1998, and section 83 of the Housing Act 1985

- Between 29th August 2020 and 31st May 2021, landlords are allowed to commence eviction proceedings ONLY if they have given tenants 6 months’ notice. However, landlords are permitted to evict tenants with shorter notices if tenants have rent arrears of 6 months or more, domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour or where the tenant is unable to legally rent due to immigration laws.


- Thankfully, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 3rd March 2021 that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended until 30th September 2021. This extension is welcomed as it equips tenants who are facing legal eviction with financial support to find another property.


- However, it must be noted that landlords cannot evict their tenants there is an open claim for housing disrepair



Housing and Disrepair

Overview


- The Legal Remedy Centre is here to support you with any housing and disrepair issues

- Your property is in disrepair when your premises is unfit to reside in or falls into disrepair.

- Regardless of whether you have a private landlord, or your property is managed by a housing association or local authority, the law requires all landlords to fulfil the same duties.

- The law requires all landlords to repair and maintain your property throughout the duration of your tenancy. If your landlord fails to do this, they will be held liable for breaching their duty.

- Your landlord has a duty to ensure the property is fit to live in before you move into your property. This must be maintained throughout your tenancy otherwise your landlord will be held liable.

- If you have notified your landlord of the disrepair but your landlord has not resolved the issue, the court will require your landlord to fulfil their duties.

- The judges presiding your case will refer to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to determine when your landlord should be held liable for breaching their duty to repair, maintain and ensure your property is fit to reside in.

- Regardless of whether or not your landlord has attempted to avoid their obligations, the Legal Remedy Centre will ensure your rights as a tenant are upheld. For example, if your landlord has filed a Section 21 Notice to quit under the Housing Act 1988 and you have a pending claim for housing disrepair, the law would protect you from being evicted.


What can you claim for?


1. Compensation for living in a property which is in disrepair.

2. Damage of personal items caused by the disrepair.

3. Injury to your health in the event of a disrepair.

4. The inconvenience caused

5. Repairs needed to bring the property up to the legal standard.


Tenants Repairs (General) Rights


Housing disrepair issues that tenants usually complain about are:

- Mold

- Damp

- Water damage from leaks

- Faulty electrical appliances

- Brocken windows or doors

- Lack of hot water or heating


All landlords have a duty to promptly rectify and prevent these issues. Failure to do so would have a negative effect on your health and wellbeing and this will be exasperated the longer your landlord takes to act.


S11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act (LTA) 1985 stipulates entitlements for tenants if their tenancy commenced on or after 24th October 1961 as long as the maximum “term” is seven years. This also applies to tenancies that roll on from week to week, or month to month, even if a tenant has lived in their home from seven years or more.

S11 of the LTA applies to social housing/local authority tenancies, housing association tenancies and private tenancies.

S11(1) of the LTA places the onus on landlords to repair the property’s:

· Structure (windows, staircases, banisters, roof, floor walls and plasterwork),

· Exterior (guttering, pipes and drains), and

· Installations (plumbing and sanitary fittings - e.g. bath, toilets and sinks, electrical wiring, gas piping, water and central heating).

All landlords must complete repairs within a reasonable amount of time.

Certain repairs, such as blocked drains or gas leaks, should be actioned urgently.

Landlords are also responsible for reinstating internal decoration caused during the process of repair.

Note: Landlords cannot be held liable for breaching their repairing duty if they were unaware of the disrepair. They will only be held liable if they were aware and failed to carry out the necessary works within a reasonable time frame.

- An exception to this rule is if a tenant resides in a block of flats and the disrepair is in the exterior or ‘common part’ of the building rather than the flat itself. In that case, the landlord is liable as soon as the ‘disrepair’ occurs.

Note: Covid-19 has not changed these rules, so tenants should work with their landlord to make sure that any urgent repair happens safely. Follow NHS guidelines if the repair must happen.


Local Authority Tenancy

Repairs

Structure, exterior & installations (see detailed list below)

Qualifying Repairs

Qualifying repairs can be compensated for certain small repairs if they are not carried out within set time frames.

Qualifying repairs must cost no more than £250 according to the local authority’s estimate

If the contractor does not complete the repairs in time, the tenant can request that another contractor is found. If the second contractor fails to carry out work in time, the tenant can claim up to £50 in compensation for any one job (NB: this is not awarded if the tenant failed to keep an appointment with the contractor)


Examples of timeframes to complete repairs:

If the tenant experiences a total loss of electric power = 1 working day

If the tenant’s roof is leaking = 7 working days


Gas Safety

Tenants who do not have a shorthold tenancy agreement must have their gas appliances checked annually by the Council and may be entitled to free gas appliance checks if they receive means-tested benefits, and are over pension age, live with a disability or long-term health condition, live with young children or live in a property that has not had a gas safety check in the last twelve months.

Landlords must

Check that appliances provided continue to run safely and efficiently – saving tenants money

Provide a carbon monoxide detector in properties with a council-owned gas appliance, and show tenants how it works

Carry out a visual check of tenants’ own gas appliances and let tenants know if it needs to be serviced or fixed

Maintain and/or repair gas appliances that the Council provides

Ensure that a record in respect of any repairs made to appliances or a flue is retained for a period of 2 years from the date of that check, which should include information detailing the work done.

Electrical Safety

Currently, there is no specific legal requirement for landlords to carry out regular electrical safety checks at a rented property, save for private rented tenancies (see below)

Landlords must make sure that the electrical installations and wiring are safe when the tenant’s tenancy begins and are maintained in safe condition throughout. They must ensure any electrical appliances provided in the property are safe and have at least the CE mark. In practice, this means landlords should be carrying out regular basic safety checks at the tenant’s property.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Unfortunately landlords of local authority tenancies do not have fire and carbon monoxide safety obligations unlike private landlords (see below).

The Consultation on Domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: proposals to extend regulations aims to extend the expectation of private landlords to maintain smoke & carbon monoxide safety regulations to social landlords (both local authority landlords and housing association landlords). This consultation began on 17th November and ended on 11th January 2021 – await updates.

Contact us to speak to our solicitors to discuss your disrepair issues. We can usually resolve your problems on a no win no fee basis.



Housing Association Tenancy

Repairs

Structure, exterior & installations

Qualifying Repairs

Housing association tenancies do not need a qualifying repairs scheme but many landlords have their own form which operates in conjunction with the qualifying repairs scheme

Note: if a landlord has their own repairs scheme, this may afford the tenant additional rights

Gas Safety (see local authority section for more details)

Tenants who do not have a shorthold tenancy agreement must have their gas appliances checked annually and may be entitled to free gas appliance checks they receive means-tested benefits, and are over pension age, live with a disability or long-term health condition, live with young children or live in a property that has not had a gas safety check in the last 12 months.

Electrical Safety

· Currently, there is no specific legal requirement for landlords to carry out regular electrical safety checks at a rented property, save for private rented tenancies (see below)

Landlords must make sure that their tenant’s electrical installations and wiring are safe when tenant’s tenancy begins and are maintained in safe condition throughout. They must ensure any electrical appliances provided in the property are safe and have at least the CE mark. In practice, this means landlords should be carrying out regular basic safety checks at tenant’s property.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Unfortunately landlords of Housing Association tenancies do not have fire and carbon monoxide safety obligations unlike private landlords (see below).

The Consultation on Domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: proposals to extend regulations set out to extend expectation of private landlords to maintain smoke & carbon monoxide alarms/ safety to social landlords (both housing association landlords and local authority landlords). This consultation began 17th November and ended on 11th January 2021 –await updates.

Contact us to speak to our solicitors to discuss your disrepair issues. We can usually resolve your problems on a no win no fee basis.




Private Rented Tenancy

Repairs

Structure, exterior & installations

Qualifying Repairs

Private rented tenants are not eligible for the qualifying repairs scheme as their landlord is likely to have their own scheme

Tenants’ responsibilities

Tenants can carry out repairs only if the tenancy agreement permits

They cannot be forced to complete repairs that are their landlord’s responsibility

If tenants damage another tenant’s property (e.g. if water leaks into another flat from an overflowing bath), the former are responsible for paying for the repairs

Tenants are responsible for paying to reinstate any damage caused by their friends and family

Gas Safety

Landlords of a property let on a short-term or periodic basis must ensure that the gas piping, the flues serving the property and any gas appliances provided to tenants are checked for safety annually by an engineer registered with Gas Safe

Tenants are responsible for their own gas appliances.

Landlords must keep a copy of the inspection record for a minimum of two years and fix any problems reported by the engineer. Tenants must be given a copy of the record within 28 days of the check and a copy of the last record before they move in to the property.

Refusal to enter could lead to a court injunction giving landlord a right of entry

Tenants can contact their local environmental health department if their landlord fails to repair the gas flues – the environmental health department must take action if they think the problem could harm the tenant or cause a nuisance to others

Tenants must continue to pay rent otherwise landlords could start possession proceedings. Tenants may be considered as intentionally homeless and may not be eligible for housing assistance from the council if they withhold rent

Electrical safety

Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 applies to private tenancies – This Regulation legally requires landlords to ensure electricals are safe

Landlords must make sure that tenants’ property’s electrical installations and wiring are safe when tenancy begins and are maintained in a safe condition throughout. They must ensure any electrical appliances provided in the property are safe and have at least the CE mark. In practice, this means landlords should be carrying out regular basic safety checks at the property

S122 Housing and Planning Act 2016 provides stricter electrical safety standards for properties let by private landlords and housing associations.

Gives the Secretary of State powers to impose new electrical safety duties on these landlords, such as a duty to ensure that a qualified person checks electrical installations and fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by the landlord at specified times

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Private landlords have fire and carbon monoxide safety obligations. They must install a smoke alarm on each storey of a property where there is ‘living accommodation’ (including bathrooms and toilets), and a carbon monoxide detector in each room used as living accommodation containing a ‘solid fuel burning combustion appliance’

Private landlords must check the alarms are in proper working order on the first day of a ‘new tenancy’, which is a tenancy that is not a renewal of a previous tenancy

These obligations do not apply if tenants live with their landlords or their family, or live in a hostel, refuge or care home. They do not apply if tenants have a tenancy with a fixed term of seven years or more that does not have a break clause.


Contact us to speak to our solicitors to discuss your disrepair issues. We can usually resolve your problems on a no win no fee basis.




House in Multiple Occupations (HMO)

If tenants live in a rented accommodation and share a kitchen, toilet or bathroom with other tenants who are not their family members, it is likely they are living in a ‘house in multiple occupation’ (HMO). Common examples of HMOs are shared houses/flats or houses converted into bed-sits.


The law puts certain duties on ‘managers’and occupiers of HMOs, set out in the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.


The manager is the person who owns or leases the property and receives rent payments from the occupiers, or would do had they not entered into an arrangement whereby another person receives the rent payments.

Repairs

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 requires managers of a HMO have a duty to repair/ maintain:

Water supply and drainage (s5)

Gas and electricity (s6)

Common parts, fixtures, fitting and appliance (s7)

Living accommodation (s8)

Waste disposal facilities (s9)

S10 states occupiers of a HMO must:

conduct themselves in a way that will not hinder or frustrate the manager in the performance of their duties;

(b)allow the manager, for any purpose connected with the carrying out of any duty, at all reasonable times to enter occupiers’ property.


Occupiers must:

(c)provide the manager, at their request, with any such information as he/she may reasonably require for the purpose of carrying out any such duty;

(d)take reasonable care to avoid causing damage to anything which the manager is under a duty to supply, maintain or repair under these Regulations;

(e)store and dispose of litter in accordance with the arrangements made by the manager under regulation 9; and

(f)comply with the reasonable instructions of the manager in respect of any means of escape from fire, the prevention of fire and the use of fire equipment.

Contact us to speak to our solicitors to discuss your disrepair issues. We can usually resolve your problems on a no win no fee basis.


Hazardous Homes

Note: The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 does not provide new obligations for landlords of private and social housing, but ensures that landlords adhere to the minimum standards to let domestic properties. Thus, there is an implied agreement between the tenant and landlord at the beginning of the tenancy that the property will be fit for human habitation

Application:

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 applies to:

Tenancies shorter than seven years granted on or after 20 March 2019

New secure, assured and probationary tenancies (on or after 20 March 2019)

Tenancies renewed for a fixed term (on or after 20 March 2019)


From 20 March 2020, the Act will apply to all periodic tenancies. This is all tenancies that started before 20 March 2019; in this instance landlords will have 12 months from the commencement date of the Act before the requirement comes into force. If a landlord is in breach of implied agreement (contract), the court may order specific performance of the obligation.

Criteria

The courts will decide whether a property is fit for human habitation by considering whether:

the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition

the building is unstable

there is a serious problem with damp

it has an unsafe layout

there’s not enough natural light

there’s not enough ventilation

there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water

there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories

it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up

or any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005







References [1] s11(1) of the LTA 1985 [2] see s3(1) Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations 1994: secure tenants whose landlords are local housing authorities are entitled (a) to have qualifying repairs carried out, at their landlords' expense, and (b) o receive compensation from their landlords if qualifying repairs are not carried out within a prescribed period; s 121(1) – (3) Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 also stipulates Secretary of State can entitle secure tenants of local housing authorities to have qualifying repairs carried out; s96(1) Housing Act 1985 [3] See Schedule Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations 1994 for list of days of prescribed periods (working days) [4] See s3(3) Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations 1994:  these Regulations shall cease to apply in relation to a repair if (a) he tenant informs the landlord that he no longer wants the repair carried out, or (b) the tenant, although he has been given a reasonable opportunity, fails – (i) to provide details of the arrangements for the contractor to obtain access to the dwelling-house, or (ii) to provide access for an inspection or for the repair to be carried out. [5] See s36(2) The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998: every landlord shall ensure that there is maintained in safe condition – (A) any relevant gas fitting; and (b) any flue which serves any relevant gas fitting [6] S36(3) The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998: A landlord shall - ensure that each appliance and flue to which that duty extends is checked for safety within twelve months of being installed and at intervals of not more than twelve months since it was last checked for safety [7] See s36(3)(c) The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 for list of landlord duties [8]S11(1) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985: there is an implied covenant by the landlord (b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations of electricity; s122 Housing and Planning Act 2016 sets out stricter duties for local housing authorities in England [9] s11(1) of the LTA 1985 [10] See s36(2) The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998: every landlord shall ensure that there is maintained in safe condition – (A) any relevant gas fitting; and (b) any flue which serves any relevant gas fitting [11] S11(1) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985: there is an implied covenant by the landlord (b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations of gas; s36(3) The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 [12] S11(1) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985: there is an implied covenant by the landlord (b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations of electricity [13] s11(1) of the LTA 1985 [14] E.g. 36(2) – 36(4) Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, as inserted by reg 6, Gas Safety (Installation and Use)(Amendment) Regulations 2018 [15] S36(6) Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 [16] S122 Housing and Planning Act 2016 [17] See s4(1)The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 – note solid fuel-burning appliances, yet oil and gas based boilers – which have been known to produce the toxic gas – are excluded & the legislation also excludes social housing, thereby creating an odd situation where local authorities will be enforcing legislation on private rental properties that local authority and Housing Association housing is not required to meet [18] See s254 of the Housing Act 2004 for detailed explanation of HMOs [19] Ss4(1) – (7) Housing Act 2004 [20] Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 [21] S9A(1) Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 [22] S9B (1) Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 [23] S9A(5) Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 [24] S10 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

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