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Housing Disrepair: Leaks, Moss Growth & Black Mould- Case Study Three

by Jane Willacey

We were instructed at the end of April 2021 by Mrs O from South London who had been experiencing ongoing leaks, damp and mould within the leasehold flat she had shared with her husband and three children since 2019. We took her case on under a ’No Win No Fee’ agreement.

Our client and her family moved into their first floor flat in 2012 and in 2014 they purchased the leasehold. In early 2019 wet patches and mould started to appear on the walls and window frames in both the kitchen and the living room and soon after it quickly spread to the flooring and throughout other rooms. Our client checked with their downstairs neighbour who confirmed she was experiencing the same issues and together they looked over the exterior walls finding that two walls on one side of the building were very wet and covered with algae.

 Our client tried multiple times to contact the council who owned the freehold of the building but she didn’t get a reply. Our client continuously called and emailed the freeholder over the next few months to no avail.

By the summer of 2019 the disrepair was getting progressively worse, our client was spending both time and money washing down and repainting walls, cleaning carpets and replacing soft furnishings that had become saturated with damp and mould. It was at this point that the freeholder sent a contractor to the property who cosmetically covered up the damage by painting over the offending mould on the walls and window frames however no repairs and no investigations into the root cause of the disrepair took place.

At the start of 2020 a particularly long spell of heavy rain caused a major leak in the bedroom, water had poured through the light fitting resulting in the electrics shorting out. Our client was living with no electricity supply to this room but the resulting emails and calls to the freeholder again were ignored.

By the early spring of 2021 our client and her family had lived in a state of disrepair for over two years which had really taken its toll and had a detrimental impact on the family. It was at this point that our client felt that they could no longer live in their property whilst it was in such a severe state of disrepair, their physical and mental health had been severely affected and to provide a better home for herself, her husband and their children they took the decision to rent a property paying a reduced rent through their church until the disrepair was rectified. Our client was now effectively paying for two properties putting a heavy strain on their financial situation.

The freeholder made no attempt over two years to adequately investigate or attempt to repair the external damage which was the root cause of the internal disrepair therefore once we took instruction we gathered evidence of the correspondence between our clients and the freeholder plus copies of the original lease and appointed an expert surveyor to assess the property and report his findings.

The surveyor reported that some of the main issues were an active leak from a soil pipe causing penetrating damp and mould in the kitchen and bathroom and an active leak coming from the above property, which resulted in numerous problems such as black mould, damp, moss growth, rotten panelling, spalled plaster, lifted flooring and warped doors and frames.

We sent a detailed letter of claim to the freeholder 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 leasehold regarding the freeholders responsibility for the maintenance and repairs of all common area water and waste pipes.

The other party’s solicitor acknowledged our letter of claim but didn’t contact us with a reply, however after chasing them for some weeks they did eventually instruct their own nominated surveyor to assess the property. The freeholder’s expert surveyors report agreed with ours therefore we made a settlement offer.

Our offer was rejected and liability was denied with the freeholder stating that our client “should claim on their insurance”. We argued that even if our client was able to claim on her insurance for damages the leaks would first need to be stopped and this was the freeholder’s obligation under the express and implied terms of tenancy.

All of our subsequent offers were rejected and the council continued to deny liability therefore we issued court proceedings. As the date of the court case grew closer the freeholders’ solicitors contacted us to let us know that they would now welcome an offer of settlement, we made an offer based on the monthly rent valuation of their property, the amount of time that had passed, the effect on the families physical and mental health and their excess outgoings for rent on their temporary property. Our offer was again rejected by the freeholder with their counteroffer being well below par and in turn rejected by us.

Fast forward to just two days before the trial date, the freeholders solicitors came back to us with a part 36 offer to settle out of court of £25,600 to cover damages and repairs with all their legal fees recovered from the other side. After discussing this offer with our client she accepted.

Our client’s had up until the point of instruction lived in a state of disrepair for over two years and whilst getting their home repaired and returned to a liveable state was of primary importance the compensation that they received helped immensely with getting their lives back on track.

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