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Landlord fined £16,000 due to 'life threatening disrepair'

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You may seen in recent news that a Harrow based landlord was fined a huge £16,000 for renting out a house which the local authority described as having ‘life threatening disrepair’.

The house had been rented out to a family of four for several years, however, despite the tenants’ repeated requests for repair works to be carried out at their home, the landlord refused. The tenants became so angry with the situation; they decided to contact the local council for some help. The house was visited by the local authority’s environmental protection officers who were shocked by the dangerous condition.

Officers found serious hazards relating to electrical hazards, personal hygiene sanitation, and fire and food safety. The long list of risks to the tenants included broken windows, broken electric sockets, exposed wiring, broken cooker, damaged and missing doors to kitchen units, missing tiles and a constantly running tap.

The landlord was sent two improvement notices by the local authority which required him to fix the problems at the house. He didn’t appeal the notices and didn’t contact the local authority to discuss them further. The local authority therefore decided to take further action against the landlord. They made him attend an interview under caution, during which he admitted to ignoring the notices; however, he tried to blame the tenants for the condition of the house.

The landlord had to attend the Magistrates Court and was a fined a huge £16,120. Part of the fine was paid to the tenants as compensation for the inconvenience.

If you believe that your property may be in a state of disrepair, it is important to understand what your landlord is responsible for.

Even if you don’t have a written tenancy agreement your landlord will have certain repair obligations under law. These are:

  • To maintain the structure and outside of the building, including gutters and  drains;
  • To maintain the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation, including basins, sinks and baths;
  • To maintain the installations for space heating and heating water.

Your landlord cannot avoid these responsibilities; however, they will not be responsible for repairs which are caused by damage that you should have insurance in place to cover, or if the damage was your fault.

Other repairing obligations are usually found in your tenancy agreement. It is important to read your tenancy if there is a problem at your property.

If you believe your landlord is responsible, it is important to notify them as soon as possible. Your tenancy agreement will state that you are obliged to report repairs. If you fail to notify your landlord, they will be unaware of the problems at the property, so, they will not be able to resolve them.

It is important to contact your landlord in writing to make them aware of the issues, letters, a text message or even an e-mail, make sure you keep a copy of any of these. It is also important that you give proof of the issues to your Landlord photographs etc). If your Landlord ignores your first contact attempt, try once more, if this is also ignored, advise your Landlord that you will be taking further action.  You should then seek further advice.

Even though there may be issues at the property, it is important that you pay your rent. If you don’t, you and any other tenants or occupiers will be at risk of eviction.

If you believe that there are disrepair issues at your property, and you have tried to contact your landlord. Please contact the housing team on 0175 321 6399 as soon as possible as we may be able to help you resolve these problems.

By Jamie Gordon, graduate paralegal, housing team.