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
Contact 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.
Ask your landlord to give you a reduction in your rent or to refund you the costs of your damaged clothes, furniture and other belongings.
Taking court action over disrepair
Get legal advice about taking court action against your landlord over disrepair.
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
- 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. You may need help from a solicitor.
You can use the small claims procedure if your claim is under £10,000. 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.
Tell 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 the problem, you can apply to the county court to claim compensation.
Claims for damage to belongings
You can claim compensation if items belonging to anyone in your household are damaged or destroyed because of your landlord's failure to carry out repairs. This includes clothing, bedding and curtains that have been damaged by dampness and mould. It also includes 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 costs you to replace the property that was 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. Having the original receipts for things that have been damaged helps 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 depends 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 must 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 usually 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 depends 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
You can claim a reduction or refund of rent if you haven't been able to use your home or part of it because of the disrepair.
The amount you can claim depends on how much of your home is uninhabitable. If no part of the house can be used, the court may order that 100% of your rent may be reduced or refunded. If only part of the house is unusable then the rent is reduced proportionally.
Threat of eviction over court action
Some landlords 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 has threatened to evict you or has harassed you.
Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.