Disrepair in your home could make you ill, cause you inconvenience and stress, or cause damage to your belongings. Find out what you can do about this, even if you have already left the property.
Negotiating with your landlord
If repair issues in your home have damaged your belongings, made you ill, or meant you had to find somewhere else to live, speak to your landlord about this. Ask your landlord to give you a reduction in your rent, or to refund you the costs of your damaged clothes. furniture etc.
Taking court action over disrepair
If you decide to take court action against your landlord over disrepair, get legal advice.
You may be able to get legal aid but only if:
• you are asking the court to order your landlord to do the repairs and there is a serious risk to the health or safety of you or your family, or
• it is part of your defence to a court action brought by your landlord to evict you because of rent arrears
Claiming compensation can be complicated, and you'll probably need help from a solicitor.
If your claim is under £10,000 you can use the small claims procedure. If you are also asking the court to order your landlord to do the repairs you can only use the small claims procedure when your claim for compensation is less that £1000. For more information, see the AdviceGuide to small claims.
Telling the landlord about court action
There is a special procedure which must be followed in all disrepair cases. You must serve a 'letter before action' on your landlord.
The letter must:
- explain what the disrepair problem is
- set out details of when you previously notified the landlord
- give the landlord 21 days to put the problem right – unless the repair is urgent
- state that if the landlord doesn't put the problem right within that time, you intend to take them to court.
If, after the 21 days are up, your landlord still hasn't fixed it, you can apply to the county court to claim compensation.
Claims for damage to belongings
If items belonging to anyone in your household are damaged or destroyed because of your landlord's failure to carry out repairs, you can claim compensation. This includes:
- clothing, bedding and curtains that have been damaged by dampness and mould, or
- carpets and furniture damaged by water leaking from burst pipes your landlord hasn't fixed.
Sometimes contents insurance taken out by you or the landlord may cover the cost of damage to these items.
You can also claim compensation for items damaged or broken while repair work was being carried out.
How much can be claimed?
You can claim the amount of money it will cost you to replace the property damaged or destroyed. This may only be the second hand value of the goods, unless it would not be possible to buy second hand replacements.
What evidence is needed to support a claim?
Collect as much evidence of the damage as you can. If possible, don't throw away damaged items. These can be helpful if you can produce them in court. You should also take photographs of any damaged goods, and keep receipts to prove that you've had to replace things. If you still have the original receipts for things that have been damaged, it will help to prove their worth.
Claims for damage to health
You can also claim compensation if you or anyone in your household has been injured or made ill (or more ill) as a result of the landlord's failure to carry out repairs. The health problems may be physical, or mental.
How much can be claimed for damage to health?
The amount of damages you can claim will depend on the severity and duration of the illness. For example, if you've been unable to work as a result, you may be able to claim for loss of earnings and for any extra care you've needed.
What evidence is needed to support a claim?
You'll have to prove to the court that the disrepair and the health problem are linked. The disrepair doesn't have to be the only cause of the health problems, but it must have been a contributing factor. For example, if your child has asthma that is made worse by damp conditions caused by your landlord's failure to carry out repairs to your home, this would count as a contributing factor to your child's illness.
You will normally have to produce an expert's report to prove the extent of the disrepair, as well as a medical report from your doctor.
Claims for inconvenience caused by disrepair
You can claim compensation if you've suffered inconvenience or have not been able to use your home in the normal way as a result of the landlord's failure to repair your home. The amount awarded by the court will depend on the level of disrepair and the effect that it has had on you.
Only the tenant can claim for inconvenience, not other people in the household.
Claims for reduction or rebate of rent
If you haven't been able to use your home, or part of it because of the disrepair, you can claim a reduction or refund of rent. The amount you can claim will depend on how much of your home is uninhabitable. If no part of the house can be used, the court may order that 100 per cent of your rent may be reduced/refunded. If only part of the house is unusable then the rent will be reduced proportionally.
Threat of eviction over court action
Some landlords will prefer to evict tenants rather than do repair work. Taking your landlord to court is a more realistic option if you have strong tenancy rights, or you don't mind whether your landlord renews your tenancy.
Get advice if your landlord had threatened to evict you, or has harassed you.
Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.