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Landlords: Defending House Repair Claims
In recent years, housing disrepair claims against landlords have risen. These claims may be attractive to tenants who may obtain legal representation by way of ‘no win no fee’ arrangements and can be used as delaying tactics in possession proceedings.
These claims can be a real headache for landlords, but it is not a losing battle. Firstly, it is important to be familiar with the obligations on Landlords. These are contained in legislation, but the tenancy agreement may go beyond these duties.
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 obliges landlords to keep in good repair:
- The structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external pipes)
- Installations for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences) and
- Installations for space heating and heating water.
Recently, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2019 has come into force placing additional duties on Landlords. Even if the legislation seems daunting, there are various simple ways in which landlord scan avoid or minimise such claims:
It is important to respond promptly to any suggestion of disrepair and that any necessary works are carried out within a ‘reasonable’ period of time. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the disrepair or defect in question, but we advice to avoid arguments about timescales and reasonableness, and simply arrange for works to be carried out as quickly as possible
Records are crucial in defending a housing disrepair claims. Although it is for a tenant to prove their case, courts tend to be lenient with tenants and their records. Landlords, on the other hand, are expected to have good records – with call logs and completed and sufficiently detailed works orders being crucial. You should ensure all documents relating to any works carried out including visits to the property, inspection records, complaints records and any maintenance logs are collated to strengthen the defence.
Our litigation team at Latimer Lee has considerable experience in this area. We prioritise cost minimisation, claim turnaround times and defending robustly where appropriate.
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