Should you take your tenant to court for repair issues?
On March 20th this year, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force in England, to ensure that, legally, rented properties are fit for human habitation at the start of a tenancy and remain so throughout the term of the lease agreement.
At the same time, the legislation granted tenants the right to take court action against their landlord for breach of contract, on the grounds that a property is ‘unfit for human habitation’. Previously, they had to rely on the council’s ability to respond and take action on their behalf. Now, tenants can sue their landlord directly if they feel the condition of their rented home is not up to standard and their landlord has either ignored their request for repairs or simply failed to carry out works.
If your tenant does take action against you and the court finds in their favour, you could be ordered to:
- Carry out the repairs
- Pay your tenant compensation
- Pay some or all of your tenant's legal costs
Whether it’s worth your tenant taking you to court largely depends on how much evidence they have.
They must be able to prove that they reported the issue and have already tried to sort out problems directly with you. Citizens Advice advises tenants that before they take legal action, they must write giving their landlord 20 working days to either do the necessary repairs or make a reasonable arrangement to do them. They will have to complete various stages of paperwork and then either attend court themselves or pay a legal representative.
If they don’t have a good enough paper trail or their case is considered weak for some other reason, the judge may dismiss it. All of this is time-consuming, stressful and may also be costly for the tenant, who may not have the funds to pay for the process and repairs up front. In short, unless they have a very strong case with plenty of detailed evidence, it may not be worth them going to court.
Given that the vast majority of landlords are conscientious and professional, the reality is that a tenant taking legal action should be a very rare occurrence. Where it does happen, it is likely to be against a landlord who is not only breaking the law but also making unethical choices. In these rare cases, it is right that they should be prosecuted.
As experienced managing agents, we have systems in place for communicating effectively with tenants, carrying out inspections and making repairs when necessary so, be assured, by working with us, especially via our full management service.
Further information for landlords is available on the government website.
If you would to discuss any of the points raised above get in touch: