Currently, scenes across the UK are not too dissimilar to this: teenage children are forced to squeeze into a tiny bedroom with their younger siblings because all the other parts of their rented flat have leaking roofs and are not in any condition to be inhabited. It’s a sad story, but it’s true for many UK tenants. Living in a home that has been in a severe state of disrepair for several years is something no one should have to endure.
Unfortunately, some social housing and privately renting tenants have been living in uninhabitable conditions for years. Many have complained to their landlords about the disrepair in their homes, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The housing crisis in the UK is not helping the situation as these unfortunate families would be able to move out if it weren’t for the shortage of affordable houses.
Social housing disrepair
For example, a low-cost social housing association in Mitcham has had numerous complaints regarding the state of hundreds of its flats where a father died of cancer. His condition could have been aggravated by the disrepair in their home. The building had problems with infestations, mould, and damp. Residents would walk on squishy carpets and sleep in mould-ridden bedrooms.
In another town, tenants of houses run by the local council have had to endure years of living in flats with dilapidated ceilings. A family only had one bedroom that was safe to stay in among all the bedrooms and space in their home. The leaks in the ceiling caused so much mould to grow around their home because of dampness, and they had to bring their microwave to the room they’re sleeping in as the electrical outlets in the kitchen were not safe to use anymore.
These unrepaired structural issues in the tenants’ homes have had a huge impact on their physical and mental health, some of them have given up on expecting their landlords to heed their requests for repair. Some have been constantly sending notices for months, others for years.
Private housing disrepair
In an April 2021 report by YouGov, figures show that a whopping 3.2 million private tenants are reluctant to complain about the poor state of their homes for fear of being unlawfully evicted by their landlords.The report also suggests that about 3.8 million have not reported anything at all to their landlord.
A lady from Devon lived with the disrepair in her two-bedroom flat for 12 years. She had black mould in their bathroom and collapsing walls and ceilings.
Housing disrepair can come in many forms. In the case of the homes mentioned earlier, the most common of all is black mould as this is a result of several issues such as leaks, no heating system, and even the cold weather.
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
The Homes Act 2018 requires landlords of private rentals, housing associations, and local councils to provide their tenants with homes that are “fit for human habitation”, meaning the homes should be safe and not cause any harm physically and mentally. It should also not cause serious health issues because of sudden changes in temperature.
However, the landlord does not have to address repair issues that were caused by the irresponsibility and negligence of the tenant. Additionally, the Homes Act is not applicable if damages were caused by “acts of God,” or if the damaged item or material is not in the inventory they provided in the tenancy agreement.
Complaining about your social or privately rented home
Social and local council home complaints are handled by the housing ombudsman. After careful review of how the landlord mishandled a particular issue, the ombudsman will order the landlord to do the repairs and provide compensation to the tenant. This usually takes time – about eight weeks – as the tenant still needs to wait for the landlord to respond to the complaint.
In some cases like the ones that were recounted earlier, distraught tenants seek the help of solicitors or legal experts especially if nothing happens to the case they brought forward to their local council or housing ombudsman.
If the disrepairs are affecting their health, private tenants can complain to the local council’s environmental health office, especially if their landlord does not give a response or take any action. However, they also have the option to approach the local government, the social care ombudsman, or a member of Parliament.
Taking legal action
Legal firms can help tenants exert their rights regarding repair requests or to seek compensation for all the physical and mental distress the severe housing disrepair has caused the tenants and their families.
If your landlord has not responded to any of your complaints and you feel the need to seek expert help, you can contact the housing disrepair experts at Disrepair Claim and claim compensation as well.