Article - Landlord & Tenant

My tenant has just alleged that his property is in a state of disrepair.  How should I respond?

As a landlord there is an implied duty on you to keep the property in good and habitable state of repair.  Often, however, your are dependant upon your tenants to notify you of any necessary repairs.  If your tenant asks you to carry out a repair and you ignore your tenant, then your tenant may be entitled to damages as compensation for the period that he/she has lived with the disrepair.

So as a landlord, are you at risk of your tenant commencing potentially costly legal proceedings before you have done the repair?  The answer is hopefully no.  This is mainly due to the new ‘Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases’ which sets out a pre-determined set of actions that both tenant and landlord have to go through before embarking upon Court action. 

The aims of the protocol are to avoid unnecessary litigation, promote speedy repairs which are the landlord’s responsibility and to encourage the early exchange of information with a view to keeping the costs of resolving the dispute down to a minimum.

The protocol stipulates that the tenant needs to send a letter of claim to the landlord containing specific information to enable the landlord to readily identify and understand the problems.  The information which the tenant should give includes the tenants name and address, details of the defects, history of the defects including attempts to rectify them, details of the previous notifications to their landlord and details of the claims or losses suffered by the tenant. 

The Protocol stipulates that the landlord should respond to the letter within twenty days, responding to the points raised by the tenant.  This is the landlords opportunity to agree to the works if the landlord accepts they are required.  At this point the landlord would also need to decide if there was an entitlement to damages for the tenant.

If there is a dispute or disagreement then at this stage the Protocol suggests that experts be appointed (preferably a single expert appointed by both tenant and landlord) to look at the issues.

Knowledge of the Protocol is essential for landlords facing this type of claim, as failure to follow the steps set out can be penalised by a Court in the way of costs Order at a later stage.

Article First Published: 29 March 2004


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