It may surprise you to hear this from a Solicitor, but you do not need to instruct one to bring a housing disrepair claim. But, the court will hold you to the same standard they expect from a lawyer if you make the claim yourself.
We always advise potential clients to engage our services or those of other solicitors who specialise in bringing housing disrepair claims. We are aware of all the tactics, tricks and strategies that Landlords are likely to employ. Crucially, we are also aware of how to defeat them.
What do I need to know?
The process that you must follow is prescribed by the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Claims. It can be found here: https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/protocol/prot_hou
If you fail to comply with the Protocol you face the prospect of making a successful claim, but failing to recover costs and expenses and so it is essential that you follow it closely.
What does the Protocol say?
If you are thinking of making a claim, we urge you to read and understand the document before you do anything. This article is intended to be a summary guide only and so should not be relied upon instead of reading the Protocol.
The main parts of the Protocol for you to understand are:
- You must send a letter of claim. This must contain your details along with those of the property and the disrepair complained of. You must explain the history of the problem and include when you first reported it to your Landlord and how. The letter must nominate a suitably qualified surveyor to inspect the property and enclose a draft letter of instruction. You should also request sight of all documents you wish to see that you believe may support your claim, such as the repair log.
- You must allow 20 working days from the deemed date of service of the letter of claim. The deemed date of service is the second working day after you sent the letter by first class post. If you send it on a Friday, the deemed date of service is the Tuesday. Do not forget to allow for any bank holidays when calculating the date the response is due.
- Landlords typically respond to acknowledge the claim before providing requested documents and a response regarding the instruction of a surveyor. Usually, the response is one of the following:
- They agree to the joint instruction of a single expert on behalf of both parties;
- They do not agree to a joint instruction, but agree to a joint inspection;
- They do not believe a third party surveyor should be instructed and, instead, feel that their own in-house surveyor should inspect the property;
- They deny the claim and so do not believe any surveyor should be instructed; or
- They fail to respond at all.
- You are then required to arrange for the surveyor(s) to undertake an inspection of your property and provide an expert witness report. You must ensure that the report complies with the requirements of Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules, which can be found here: https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part35
- You will, in most circumstances, need to pay for the surveyor’s report and the cost is likely to range from around £500 to £1,500 plus VAT. You can proceed without a report, but doing so is extremely risky and your claim would be likely to fail;
- Once you are in receipt of the report, you should serve a copy on your landlord and allow them a reasonable time to consider it. They should respond to confirm whether they admit or deny the disrepair. It is common, if they make any admissions, for them to provide a Schedule of Works.
- If you are satisfied with their response, you should seek to negotiate damages. If you are not, you may wish to issue court proceedings. These, like the surveyor’s reports, are expensive and you would need to pay these before you could proceed unless you are entitled to a fee remission. The court fees are here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/728146/ex50a-eng.pdf Details on fee remissions are here: https://www.gov.uk/get-help-with-court-fees
We call compensation, damages. There are two types, general and special.
General damages are those awarded for non-tangible things such as inconvenience or pain, suffering and loss of amenity. In housing disrepair claims, general damages are awarded for you having had to live in poor conditions for the period from when repairs should have been completed to when they were. They are normally calculated as percentage reduction in rent whether you pay the rent or receive benefits. The more significant the impact the disrepair has had on your home, the higher the percentage.
Special damages are your out of pocket expenses. In housing disrepair claims, they are normally things like:
- The cost of decorating that would not have been required but for the disrepair;
- Replacing property damaged because of the disrepair;
- The cost of alternative accommodation;
- The cost of prescriptions or pain killers due to illness or injury caused or contributed to by the disrepair; and
- The cost of travel to any medical appointments or to attend your landlord’s property to complain.
So what does a lawyer do?
At MJV Solicitors, we believe we add value for our clients. We provide expertise, skill and experience that makes making a claim for housing disrepair much easier for you. We act on a no win no fee basis and the surveyor’s report and court fees are included so you have nothing to pay unless your claim succeeds. If you do win your claim, we take a success fee of no more than 25% including VAT from your general damages and you will also pay the cost of an after the event insurance policy. This policy covers your costs if you lose your case and so provides protection that is necessary. If you do lose, you pay nothing provided you comply with the terms and conditions. These are not onerous. If you cooperate with us and tell the truth, you will comply.
If you believe you may have a housing disrepair claim why not contact us to discuss how we can help take the stress out of it for you. Call 01253 858231 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org