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You should not withhold rent for a housing disrepair. If you do this, your housing association or council will have grounds to evict you. Also, if you do make a housing disrepair claim, then you may not recover 100% of your rent. This would mean that you still owe your housing association or council money.
Always Pay Your Rent
Instead of withholding your rent, we recommend that you speak to our housing disrepair solicitors. We can use the proper legal channels to resolve the problem. With our help, you can recover your rent and get compensation for your damages. We can also request a court order to force your housing association or council to fix the issue.
Contact us now for free legal advice. We have a range of funding options available, including no win no fee claims. This ensures you do not have to pay for anything unless your claim is successful.
Can you refuse to pay rent if repairs are needed?
No, you cannot refuse to pay rent if repairs are needed in your rental property. As a renter, you are bound by the terms of your tenancy agreement. This will stipulate that you must pay a certain amount of rent by a certain date. If you do not achieve this, then you have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement. This gives the housing association or council grounds to take legal action against you.
We understand that this seems unfair, especially if you are battling with your housing association or council over a housing disrepair. Why should you pay rent to live in a property that is not fit for human habitation? Withholding rent might seem like a logical step, particularly if you are trying to get your housing association or council to sit up and take notice of you. But it is actually a very dangerous course of action to take.
What happens if I withhold my rent?
If you withhold your rent, your housing association or council will have a legal reason to evict you. This applies to everyone, including those renting from housing associations, local councils and private landlords.
As soon as you have at least two months of rent arrears, your housing association or council can issue a section 8 notice against you. The housing association or council must then give you a certain amount of time to settle your debts. This is known as the minimum notice period, and it has been subject to continual change ever since the coronavirus pandemic began. It also varies depending on how much rent is owed. Currently, it is between four weeks and two months.
If you do not pay your debts by the end of the minimum notice period, your housing association or council can apply to court for a possession order. If your housing association or council can prove that you owe two months’ rent, and the minimum notice period has been served, then you will be evicted from your home.
Tenants who rent from private landlords may be served with a section 21 notice instead. (Please note that we do not act for tenants who rent from private landlords at this time).
Can the housing association or council recover the outstanding rent?
Reasonable deductions can be taken from your deposit, including unpaid rent, even if you have been living with a housing disrepair.
Your housing association or council may also be entitled to recover unpaid rent through the courts. This depends on the terms of the tenancy agreement. If your housing association or council can take action, a claim is made at the County Court. While the housing association or council may not be permitted to obtain the full amount, they can claim interest and the cost of their court fees.
Therefore, withholding your rent can put you in a lose-lose position: you can be evicted from your home, and your housing association or council can recover their financial losses via other means. Furthermore, the housing disrepair has not been resolved, meaning you have not achieved your desired goal. You cannot make a housing disrepair claim if you move out (or have been evicted), so you cannot claim any compensation for the damages you have incurred.
What should you do about a housing disrepair?
As we have explained above, withholding your rent is not the best way to deal with a housing disrepair. Instead, you should contact your housing association or council and explain what the defect is. Ideally, this should be put in writing, such as in an email or a text message. You should then give your housing association or council a reasonable amount of time to repair the problem. A reasonable amount of time would be two to three months for a non-urgent repair. For an urgent repair, such as a broken boiler, it could be as little as three weeks.
If your housing association or council does nothing to rectify the issue, the next step is to contact our housing disrepair solicitors for free legal advice. Unfortunately, there are housing associations and councils who fail to adhere to their legal responsibilities. The law recognises this and provides legal recourse to those who are renting properties that are unfit for human habitation. This legal recourse is known as a housing disrepair claim.
Related: What Should You Do If Your Rental Property is in Disrepair?
What is a housing disrepair claim?
A housing disrepair claim is when a renter takes legal action against a housing association or council who fails to meet their repair responsibilities. The renter is awarded compensation for their damages. The court can also order that the housing association or council repairs the problem within a certain amount of time, or face further penalties.
So, unlike withholding your rent, this is a win-win situation for you. You get a percentage of your rent back (plus extra money for your damages), you get to stay in the property, and the housing association or council is forced to remedy the issue.
How much compensation will I get for a housing disrepair claim?
You will be given a percentage of your rent back. This will cover the amount of time that you have endured the housing disrepair for. If you have suffered other damages, then you will be awarded additional compensation. This can be given for your:
- Physical injuries or illnesses
- Damaged possessions
- Inconvenience and loss of quality of life
Related: How Much Is My Housing Disrepair Claim Worth?
Will I be better off if I just withhold my rent?
When you make a housing disrepair claim, you can recover a percentage of your rent. It is difficult to say what this percentage will be as it all depends on the circumstances. It may or may not be 100% of the rent paid out. This might leave you wondering whether you would actually be better off – financially speaking – if you simply withheld your rent.
However, it is not as straightforward as that. This is for two reasons.
Firstly, as discussed earlier in this article, you can be evicted for withholding your rent. This means that you could find yourself without a roof over your head. Your housing association or council could also recover the unpaid rent from your deposit and/or through the courts.
Secondly, even if you are not evicted, you may decide to pursue a housing disrepair claim. However, this does not void your debt. This means your compensation settlement could be spent on your outstanding rent. If your rental arrears amount to a substantial sum, then you may even owe your housing association or council once the claim has settled, leaving you out of pocket.
Can I pay for the repair and deduct it from future rent?
You might also have the idea of paying for the housing repair yourself and deducting the cost from future rent payments. You can do this, but there is a very exact procedure that you must follow. Otherwise, your housing association or council could argue that you are withholding rent, giving them grounds to evict you.
In brief, you need to:
- Tell your housing association or council about the disrepair
- Give your housing association or council a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem
- Write to your housing association or council and say that if the disrepair is not fixed within a certain amount of time, you will arrange to do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from future rent payments
- Get at least three quotes from professional trades people
- Send these quotes to your housing association or council, saying that if no action is taken, you will complete the repair works and deduct the cost from your rent
- Choose the cheapest quote and have the repair work done
- Send the receipts and invoices to your housing association or council
- Write to your housing association or council confirming that you will deduct the costs from your next rental payment
However, there are some limitations to choosing this route. Firstly, you might actually become liable if the work is done to a poor standard or the property is damaged. Secondly, you cannot recover compensation from your housing association or council for your other damages, as you can with a housing disrepair claim. This includes the cost of your damaged possessions and the inconvenience. Finally, this is not an option for tenants who:
- Cannot afford the cost of the repair upfront
- Are renting from the local council and are in receipt of housing benefits
- Are housing association or private tenants who claim housing benefit, or any tenant who claims universal credit for housing costs, because they may have their payments suspended until the issue is resolved
So, paying for the repairs and deducting the costs from future rent has its own set of complexities. Due to the potential risks involved, we recommend that you speak to a solicitor, before taking the matter into your own hands.
Should I keep paying my rent if I have a housing disrepair?
You should keep paying your rent, even if you have a housing disrepair. We understand that living with not perfect living conditions is frustrating, especially if your housing association or council is not taking any notice of your requests to fix the problem. However, our solicitors can help you resolve the issue through the proper legal channels. In the meantime, you should keep paying your rent. This ensures your housing association or council does not have any grounds to issue a counter-claim against you, which could leave you with nothing.
We appreciate that you might be concerned about the cost of pursuing a claim, but you need not worry. We run most of our housing disrepair claims on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. This means you do not have to pay any legal fees unless your claim succeeds.
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