Court orders for landlord to do repairs

The purpose of court proceedings by means of an order for specific performance or, for non-contractual issues, a mandatory injunction.

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Orders for specific performance and injunctions

The main purpose of court proceedings is often to make the landlord do the work they are responsible for. This can be done by means of an 'order for specific performance' or, for non-contractual issues, a 'mandatory injunction'.

As part of court proceedings for damages for breach of contract, a tenant can ask for a mandatory injunction, or an order for specific performance, which orders the landlord to do the repair they have failed to do.[1] This right can also be used for disrepair for common parts to a property where the landlord is in breach of an obligation. It can be exercised by subtenants and statutory tenants.

The decision to make an order is at the discretion of the court. An order will not, however, be refused on the grounds that the tenant is themselves in breach of another part of the contract, for example in rent arrears.[2]

A mandatory injunction can also be used to impose the duty in section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972.[3]

If the application for an order or injunction is unsuccessful or likely to be ineffective, a tenant may seek a 'declaration' by the court that they can carry out the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from future rent. The declaration can also state that the tenant would not be in breach of any terms of the tenancy agreement that specifically prevent such action.

A landlord who does not carry out the works specified in an injunction may be in contempt of court. The penalty for this could be a fine or imprisonment.[4]

Injunctions for disrepair requiring urgent action

When disrepair is so severe that it causes serious and continuing interference with the tenant's enjoyment of the property, the tenant can seek an interim or 'interlocutory' injunction to prevent the risk of further damage or danger.

For example, interim/interlocutory injunctions have been granted to secure the proper working of a lift[5] and to restore space heating and hot-water supplies to the homes of tenants after a strike by maintenance engineers had led to a backlog of disrepair.[6]

An application for an interim injunction has the advantage that it can be brought to court quickly.

Interim/interlocutory injunctions are given at the discretion of the court in exceptional cases. To obtain the injunction, the tenant must demonstrate:

  • the seriousness of the matter to be decided and that there is immediate major discomfort and the probability of further serious harm to person or property

  • that damages would be insufficient compensation for the harm likely to be suffered

  • that they would be able to afford the costs of the repair works if it is later decided that the injunction should not have been made

  • that the hardship of the tenant in living with the disrepair is greater than that of the landlord in having to perform the works

  • that an order would be sufficiently clear so that the landlord would know what works are required and by what date

A tenant will usually need expert evidence to support their claim. This could include the report of a surveyor or environmental health officer and, where appropriate, medical reports.

An order may be refused if the tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement, for example by accruing rent arrears.

Last updated: 23 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.17 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [2]

    s.17 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [3]

    Barrett v Lounova (1982) Ltd (1988) 20 HLR 584, CA.

  • [4]

    CCR Order 29, Sch.2 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [5]

    Maritime v Padseal [1981] 259 EG 860, CA.

  • [6]

    Parker v Camden LBC (1985) 17 HLR 380.