The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides a valuable resource to housing disrepair lawyers who are not put off by having to utilise the Magistrates Court.
The majority of claims for housing disrepair are brought using Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. This requires that the structure, service media and conveniences of the property are kept in a good and functional condition. These must decline in their state of repair from the date the property is let to the date the issue is reported to the landlord. If they are in a poor condition on the date the lease is signed, there is no requirement for the landlord to improve them.
Where the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is different, is that it enables tenants, occupiers and or their neighbours to bring criminal proceedings due to premises being a risk to health regardless of the condition they were in on the date any tenancy began.
This means that properties that are poorly designed or have inherent defects are caught by the legislation. A tenant in a property blighted by mould caused by inadequate ventilation is unlikely to have a claim under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 as it is likely that the poor ventilation would be considered a design flaw and not disrepair. This is a common occurrence in older properties that were designed at a time when the specifics of modern usage could not reasonably have been foreseen.
Claims brought under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and its predecessor, the Public Health Act 1936, are primarily claims brought as statutory nuisances. A bad property is actionable if:
• it is in a state of repair which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
• there is an accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
• there are insects coming from an industrial, trade or business premises that could be prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
• a well, tank, cistern or other such water carry facility used for the supply of water for domestic purposes is in a condition that renders the water liable to contamination prejudicial to health;
• a pond or other such watercourse is so foul it is prejudicial to health or a nuisance; or
• noise coming from the premises is such that it is prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
The legislation is intended to have a wide catchment. It is intended to cover all land and vessels in the public or private sector. The premises need not even be occupied as it is their condition and not the manner in which they are used that determines a breach.
The key matter to prove is not that there is a defect, which will normally be apparent, but that it is such that it poses either a nuisance or it could be prejudicial to health. However, the matters caught by the legislation are those that are public health matters that are or could be injurious or likely to cause injury to health.
If you are a tenant living in a property blighted by poor conditions that you believe could cause an injury to you or someone else, it is important to obtain clear advice from lawyers familiar with the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Not all cases can lead to a successful prosecution, but if a civil claim under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is unavailable, it is important to explore the other options available and so it is vital to instruct a lawyer who is familiar with them.
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