You can sue a private landlord for housing disrepairs. However, under current laws, your landlord could retaliate by serving a Section 21 notice. This is known as a revenge eviction. There are ways to mitigate this risk, such as getting an improvement notice from the local authority first.

Section 21 notices are set to be abolished during 2022, although the Bill has been repeatedly delayed because of the pandemic. You should check whether or not the law has been repealed since the writing of this article. It could change the outlook for your housing disrepair claim.

Housing disrepair solicitors – England & Wales

We currently only act for tenants who rent from housing associations and local councils. If your housing association/council is refusing to repair your rental property, contact our housing disrepair solicitors.

Housing disrepairs in the private rental sector

According to the law in England and Wales, all landlords must ensure a rental property is fit for human habitation. This includes private landlords, as well as housing associations and local authorities. Landlords are also responsible for carrying out certain repairs. This includes repairs to:

  • The property’s structure and exterior
  • Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
  • The heating and hot water supply
  • Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
  • Electrical wiring
  • Any damage they cause by attempting repairs

Why isn’t my private landlord carrying out repairs when I ask?

If your rental property is in need of repair – and this repair is your landlord’s responsibility – then you must inform the landlord as soon as possible. If you have a letting agent, then you can email or telephone the agency. Otherwise, you should contact the landlord directly. Set out what needs to be repaired, how long the problem has been going on for, and include photos if appropriate.

Hopefully, your landlord (or the letting agent) will then carry out a satisfactory repair within the coming days or weeks. However, this doesn’t always happen. There are plenty of ‘rogue’ landlords out there who do not want to accept their legal, social and moral responsibilities. Instead, the landlord may:

  • Ignore you entirely
  • Say the repair is your responsibility
  • Say that they will carry out a repair, but fail to take any action

As a tenant, this can leave you in a difficult position. You are paying rent to live in a property that is not fit for human habitation, but you do not have the power to strong-arm your landlord into completing a repair. That is where the law comes to your rescue. You can use the law to sue your landlord for a housing disrepair. This sees that you are compensated for your damages. The court can also order your landlord to carry out a repair – a request that cannot be refused without incurring further legal penalties.

Could my landlord evict me?

Making a housing disrepair claim might sound like a good idea, but you might have one overriding fear: that your landlord will evict you.

This is a valid concern, especially for tenants who rent from private landlords. This is because at the time of writing, assured shorthold tenants can be served a Section 21 notice. A Section 21 notice is when a landlord gives the tenant notice of eviction. The notice period is normally two months (although this has been subject to change during the course of the pandemic).

The thing about a Section 21 notice is that the landlord does not need a reason for the eviction. So, if you complain about a housing disrepair, your landlord could (in theory) retaliate by serving a Section 21 notice. You would then be forced to move out, meaning that in trying to resolve the disrepair, you have made the situation worse for yourself.

By now, you might have completely gone off the idea of even telling your landlord about the problem, let alone taking legal action. However, all is not necessarily lost. You might find that:

  • A Section 21 notice cannot be served on you
  • The council protects you from a revenge eviction
  • Section 21 notices have been repealed since the writing of this article

A Section 21 notice cannot be served on you

Firstly, your landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice in England if any of the following apply:

  • It is less than four months since the tenancy started, or the fixed term has not ended (unless there is a clause in the Tenancy Agreement allowing otherwise). This also applies to tenants living in Wales
  • The property is a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) and the landlord has not got an HMO licence from the council. This also applies to tenants living in Wales
  • The tenancy started after April 2007 and the landlord has not put your deposit in a deposit protection scheme. This also applies to tenants living in Wales
  • The tenancy started after October 2015 and the landlord does not use form 6a or a letter with all the same information on it when evicting you
  • The landlord has not repaid any unlawful fees or deposits that were charged to you as the tenant
  • You were not given the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before you rented the property
  • You were not given the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide before you moved in
  • You have not been given the property’s gas safety certificate (if gas is installed)
  • You rent in Wales and your landlord does not have a landlord licence, if your tenancy started after November 2016

If your landlord does serve a Section 21 notice and any of the above apply, it will be deemed invalid.

The council protects you from a revenge eviction

Also, the landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice for six months if the council orders either of the following:

  • An improvement notice
  • An emergency remedial action notice

You should always tell your landlord or letting agent about the disrepair first, and give them a reasonable amount of time to remedy the problem. But if your landlord refuses, or no action is taken in the next 14 days, contact your council’s private rented housing team.

If the private rented housing team thinks the problem is serious enough, it will refer the matter to the environmental health department. Environmental heath will then assess your home under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). If the council agrees that your home is not fit for human habitation, it will serve an improvement notice or emergency remedial action notice on your landlord.

Usually, this protects you from a revenge eviction for the next six months. The only exceptions are where:

  • The council suspends the improvement notice
  • The landlord decides to sell the property
  • The landlord has not paid the mortgage and needs to sell the property to repay their debts

If you have already been served a Section 21 notice – and then you contact the council – the Section 21 notice will be invalid if all the following apply:

  • You wrote to your landlord about the need for a repair; and
  • Your landlord failed to provide an adequate response within 14 days; and
  • You complained to environmental health about the problem; and
  • The council served an improvement notice or emergency remedial action notice

If Section 21 notices have been repealed

The government intends to abolish Section 21 notices, as set out in the Renter’s Reform Bill 2019. We do not yet know when Section 21 notices will be repealed, but further information is expected in 2022.

If Section 21 notices are abolished, then your landlord can only evict you using a Section 8 notice. This requires your landlord to have a legal reason for the eviction. One example could be that you broke the term of the Tenancy Agreement by failing to pay your rent. That is why you must always pay your rent, even if you are battling your landlord over a housing disrepair.

Related: Can I Withhold Rent for a Housing Disrepair?

Solicitors – England & Wales

Unfortunately, we cannot currently act for tenants who rent from private landlords. We only represent tenants who are renting from housing associations and local councils.

Speak to our solicitors

Could you make a housing disrepair claim? Get a free assessment from our housing disrepair solicitors today.

Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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