Courtesy of Beatrice Prevatt’s disrepair update in the December 2012 Legal Action, here are a couple of County Court disrepair cases. Both proving the general rule which we have previously noted, that it is only the least competent of private landlords that let disrepair claims get to trial these days.
Woolf v North London Homes Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court 19 April 2012
Ms W was the assured shorthold tenant of NLH. She had a two bedroom attic flat from 28 November 2008. She left in January 2011. There was disrepair complained of from the start of the tenancy, including a leak to the bath, a leaking toilet, a burst pipe and an intermittent hot water supply. These were remedied, but there were other problems from 2009. There was a bad smell of damp, the front door would not lock properly, the bathroom window was rotten and a pane of glass fell out. The roof was leaking. The building suffered from subsidence.
There was a report by an environmental health officer and the tenant’s surveyor, in March 210, confirming these defects. Ms W claimed for disrepair.
The landlords defended by asserting that Ms W was an alcoholic, that she had deliberately damaged the property, that she had kept dogs at the property, that she had left large quantities of nappies outside the premises and had caused the attendance of the police. (One can only presume that the landlords were not represented, as none of this could amount to a defence to the defects complained of. At best bits of it could lower damages.)
At trial, the Court rejected all the allegations against Ms W. The Court found that there was significant disrepair from the start of the tenancy, worsening to the time of the surveyor’s report in March 2010. During 2009, the premises had had defective windows and was subject to damp.
Rent: £1450 per month
General damages at 20% of rent from the start of the tenancy to March 2010 (16 months). 30% of rent from March 2010 to January 2011 (8 months). Total £7,380
Special damages of £2,500 – excluding some of the ‘more exotic’ items in the schedule for which there were no receipts.
Then there is:
Anane Addo v Sehmi Croydon County Court 21 June 2012
A counterclaim for disrepair in a possession claim. Ms A had the tenancy of a two bed house between June 2008 and the end of July 2010.
There was isolated damp in the property from the start of the tenancy. This was made worse in March 2009 when a water pipe burst. Following this, there was damp and mildew in most of the rooms of the property, in patches of about a metre square.
Croydon Council served a notice in April 2009 requiring the landlord to investigate the damp and mould growth. The landlord did nothing, asserting that ‘he was too poor to carry them out’ and blaming the tenant as her housing benefit had been stopped by Croydon while the disrepair remained outstanding.
Rent was £900 per month.
General damages of 60% of rent from May 2009 to end of July 2010: £8,100.
The housing benefit issue sounds unlikely on the face of it, and possibly unlawful. I don’t know of any interaction between HHSRS enforcement by the Local Authority and housing benefit payments, and putting the tenant in a position where rent arrears will inevitably accrue is extremely bad. More details welcomed from counsel or solicitors for Ms A.