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Housing Disrepair: A Plague of Mice – Case Study Five

by Jane Willacey

We were instructed at the end of October 2021 by Mrs C from Oldham, Manchester who had been experiencing ongoing disrepair within her council flat since 2018. We took her case on under a ’No Win No Fee’ agreement.

In the summer of 2018 our client noticed a mouse in the kitchen of her second floor flat. After investigations by her son, it was found that there were a substantial amount of mouse droppings in the lower cupboards and behind the kick boards. Our client reported this to the council numerous times but received no reply. By the winter of 2018 our client was unable to store food or utensils in her cupboards and using her kitchen at all had become extremely unsanitary due to the large amount of rodent faeces.

Later, at the end of 2018, our client noticed a slow leak in the corner of her boiler cupboard. This was reported to the council via email and telephone along with the mouse reports but again our client received no response.

By the end of 2019 the slow leak in the boiler cupboard had become a lot worse: there was some staining to the walls and a small amount of mould was starting to grow. Around the same time our client started to notice slight staining on the walls of her bathroom which were damp to the touch, this was also added to the weekly email to the council to no avail.

After living for two years with a slow leak and a mouse infestation and getting no response from the council she contacted us, and we took on her case on a ‘No Win No Fee’ agreement.

We sent a detailed letter of claim to the council setting out that they were in breach of express and implied terms of tenancy and/or breach of their statutory and common law duties by not adhering to the clauses outlined in the tenancy regarding the council’s responsibility for the maintenance and repairs of the building.

We instructed a surveyor to inspect the property. The surveyor reported that some of the main issues were, but not limited to, a leak found on the external wall, an ingress of rainwater from a defective verge to gable wall, a small amount of water damage to floors and carpets in the hallway (the likely cause of which was defective flashing due to vegetation growth) and defective roof components, plus an infestation of mice caused by numerous holes throughout the property.

Some weeks later we received an acknowledgement of the letter of claim from the councils’ solicitors. They instructed their own surveyor to assess the property, and their surveyors’ report agreed with ours in some part but not on all counts. Therefore the landlord rejected our expert surveyors report and denied liability.

At this point our only option was to issue small claims court proceedings and request a joint inspection between both parties’ expert surveyors. Once the joint inspection took place it became apparent that the landlord’s surveyor had initially missed the leak in the boiler cupboard. The landlord’s surveyors’ report was then updated to reflect this.

As the hearing date drew closer, the landlord’s solicitor contacted us with what is known as a part 36 offer to settle out of court. The offer that was put forward was very low in monetary value but included a term that all repairs were to be completed within 120 days. We rejected this offer and made a counter-offer of £1900.00 in damages plus repairs to be done within a much shorter time frame. The landlord accepted this offer.

Although this claim was small in comparison to most of our housing disrepair cases, our client had up until the point of instruction lived with a slow leak and a mouse infestation for a number of years which had caused her much distress and frustration and, as such, getting her home back to a liveable state was the priority, with the compensation that our client received a comfort but secondary.

For more information on how compensation is generally calculated, read our article on this subject: