Fitness for Human Habitation - Legal update

Housing Disrepair Cases On The Rise

Housing disrepair can become a serious problem when a landlord fails to maintain or carry out necessary repair works to their property. This has always been a significant housing issue however there has recently been a rise in the number of housing disrepair claims despite drastic cuts to Legal Aid since 2013.

Statistically, there has been a rise from 1,694 in 2011-12 to 2,440 in 2015-16. (Source: Public Law Today). Disrepair claims seem to be prominent in the social housing sector. BBC research points to the number of disrepair claims brought by tenants against councils in England – this has increased by 44% over the last 4 years. In total, the authorities paid out £35m in compensation and legal fees regarding properties deemed unfit. In February of this year 8 UK Housing Associations were downgraded as result of alleged breaches of repairing obligations and failing to meet the Homes and Communities Agencies (HCAs) value for money standard.

A report on housing disrepair by Andy Ballard states that ‘these are very difficult times and the number of claims is only likely to increase’.
This growth can be largely attributed to recent governmental cuts. Despite many landlords conforming to the Decent Homes Standard many years ago, many of these properties have fallen back into states of disrepair.

As well as a lack of government grants and cuts in revenues, there is a lack of funding in more environmentally friendly and efficient technology that could provide better insulation and ventilation in homes. This would prevent homes from falling into the poor quality bracket. Consequently, some tenants will withhold rent on the basis of disrepair which may be an alternative to paying rent and having to borrow off a pay day Loan Company.

Despite cuts to legal aid, there has been a rise of firms offering to represent clients on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. This increases the potential for disrepair cases to be heard.

In light of this, law firms that specialise in housing disrepair should ensure that an experienced surveyor is instructed as their chosen expert.