Call us today on 01253 858231

Housing Disrepair and COVID-19

MJV&Co
by MJV&Co

The COVID-19 pandemic affects everybody. Whether you or someone you know is infected with the virus or not, it will have an impact on your life in some way. That could be on your job, your income, your health or simply your inability to leave the house.

It will, of course, have an effect upon landlords and tenants.

New issues

If you are living in a property and you encounter a problem, you should report this to your landlord in the usual way.

Most councils and housing associations continue to function albeit with some staff being furloughed and or working from home meaning that their ability to respond is reduced. As always, we recommend reporting any issues by telephone but following this up with an e-mail. This way, you have a written record of you reporting the issue. Some landlords fail to keep full records and this causes our clients problems where they cannot prove that an issue has been reported.

If the issue is urgent, such as a leak of some sort, or it could pose a threat to the health and safety of anybody in the property, your landlord is still able to undertake an inspection despite the restrictions on movement. This is because them carrying out an inspection and then undertaking repairs is urgent and thus essential.

If the issue is not urgent or a threat to health and safety, it is likely that your landlord will not carry out an inspection until the restrictions have been lifted.

Reasonable timeĀ 

Your landlord is required to carry out any repairs within a reasonable time.

In normal times, this involves them carrying out an inspection, normally we would expect this to take place within a week, and, having identified the problem, repair it promptly. We would expect, depending on the level of urgency, this to take place within around 28 days of the date that the issue was first reported. This is not set in stone and is only intended to be a general guide.

As non-urgent inspections are not currently possible, the clock for what can be considered reasonable cannot be considered to be ticking. Instead, that clock will start once the restrictions that are preventing inspections in housing disrepair claims are lifted.

Existing issues

Where disrepair was reported to a landlord prior to the restrictions being put in place, it will depend on when the issues were reported as to whether the reasonable period can be considered to be paused or ongoing.

For example, if you reported an issue in January and your landlord has not carried out an inspection or undertaken the repairs, it is quite clear that they had failed the reasonableness test before the restrictions were put in place on 23 March 2020. In these circumstances, a reasonable landlord would have undertaken and completed the work long before COVID-19 caused the lock down and so, despite the restrictions, the current time would count towards the relevant period for the purposes of housing disrepair compensation claims.

If, however, it was reported just a few days before 23 March 2020, it is likely that a landlord would be able to plead that they did not have a reasonable opportunity to undertake an inspection prior to lock down.

Claims

At MJV Solicitors, we remain open for business. Like all responsible businesses in our industry, our office is closed but our key staff are working from home and contactable in the usual ways.

We are still helping clients with their housing disrepair claims. There are delays to all cases where we are not yet in receipt of an expert witness surveyor’s report, but we will resolve this as soon as it is considered safe to instruct a surveyor to attend other people’s homes.

If you believe you may have a housing disrepair claim against a landlord who is a housing association or council, there is no benefit in waiting to present the claim. Landlords are entitled to a period of 20 working days or roughly four weeks to respond to a letter of claim and so, hopefully, the COVID-19 pandemic will be under control by then enabling us to instruct an expert while followig whatever regulations are in force at that time regarding social distancing.

Call us today on 01253 858231 or e-mail michael.vincent@mjvlaw.co.uk if you would like to know more.