Managing Trustees need to be aware of the potential implications that can arise when a residential property is let to a Tenant and the property falls into disrepair.
The written agreement between a Landlord and Tenant sets out the obligations placed on both parties (known as express terms) but Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (“1985 Act”) places an obligation on the Landlord to carry out basic repairs to the property for tenancies which commenced after 24th October 1961 whether or not the obligations are included in the written agreement. These obligations are implied by the law and are known as implied terms. Under Section 11 of the 1985 Act, the Landlord is required to keep in repair the following:
- Structure and exterior of the property including gutters, drains and external pipes.
- The installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and toilets).
- The installations for heating and hot water.
The written agreement between the parties cannot cancel out the Landlord’s repairing obligations under Section 11 of 1985 Act.
If a residential property falls into disrepair and the Landlord is in breach of his obligations (either express or implied), the Tenant has the right to bring a claim for damages. In assessing the amount of damages, the Courts have established that a starting point is to look at the monthly rent and make deductions from the rent depending on the severity of the disrepair.
To illustrate the Courts approach to disrepair, please see the example below:
In the case of Thomas v AJ Bradburn 2013, the Tenant of a two bedroom mid terraced house complained about the hot water system and the storage heater. The roof also had a hole in it allowing water to leak through and damp patches develop. The Landlord repaired the roof but the repairs were inadequate. The roof problems worsened and the bedroom ceiling collapsed and the Tenant had to sleep downstairs. The Court made the following award for damages to the Tenant:
- £750 for the defective storage heaters and faulty hot water system for the period November 2007 to the end of March 2008 (equating to around 40 per cent of the rent for that period).
- £3,750 for the intermittently functioning heating and hot water system from November 2008 to May 2011 (equating to approximately 30 per cent of the rent for that two-and-a-half year period).
- £1,500 for the disrepair to the roof and the associated state of the ceilings upstairs and of the damp from late 2008 to late 2009 (equating to approximately 30 per cent of the rent for that year).
- £2,500 for the leaks and dampness between the end of 2009 until the end of 2010 when the position worsened significantly and the Tenant had to sleep downstairs and was unable to use the upstairs of the property (equating to approximately 50 per cent of the rent for that year).
- Furthermore, the Tenant was awarded £850 for the aggravation of his asthma by the conditions of the property, the aggravation being to the extent of 20 per cent. He was also awarded £1,250 in special damages for those items that were damaged beyond repair due to the leaks and the collapsing ceiling.
This case highlights the importance of keeping properties in good repair while the same are rented out as well as Managing Trustees understanding their implied legal duties which may not be specifically set out in the tenancy agreement.
Managing Trustees may also be aware that in some instances landlords have sought to evict Tenants who have made legitimate complaints regarding the state of repair of a property and in some instances small number of rogue Landlords knowingly rent out unsafe and substandard property. In order to tackle rogue Landlords, the Deregulation Act 2015 (“2015 Act”) was introduced to protect Tenants against retaliatory eviction for tenancies which commenced after 1st October 2015. Retaliatory eviction is where a Tenant makes a legitimate complaint to the Landlord about a disrepair and rather than remedying the disrepair, the Landlord serves a Section 21 notice on the Tenant to evict them.
Under the new provisions of the 2015 Act, where a Tenant makes a written complaint to the Landlord about the condition of the property, the Landlord has 14 days to respond setting out what he intends to do. If the Landlord fails to reply; responds with a section 21 eviction notice; or the Landlord’s response is inadequate, the Tenant may request the local authority to inspect the property and validate the need for the repair. If the local authority verifies the repair and serves an improvement notice, the Landlord will be required to carry out the works and will not be able to serve a section 21 notice for 6 months. If the Landlord fails to carry out the repair or if the works start but progress isn’t reasonable, then the local authority may carry out the works and claim the costs back from the Landlord. The Landlord can be prosecuted and fined for failing to comply with an improvement notice.
Whilst it is highly unlikely that Managing Trustees would want to use a Section 21 notice to evict a Tenant, the Managing Trustees should be familiar with the requirements which need to be satisfied under the 2015 Act and the costs which can arise if repairs are not carried out to residential properties.
If you have any queries in relation to the guidance in this document please contact TMCP Legal for further assistance.