Obligations of Local Authority Housing Association Landlords
What duties does a landlord have to their tenants in regard to maintenance?
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985:
Section 11(1) states that the landlord is responsible for keeping the following in repair and proper working order: The structure and exterior of the dwelling and the building containing the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes)
From the Act:
(a) to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
(b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
(c) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
Defective Premises Act 1972:
The Act imposes a duty on landlords in respect of maintenance and repair of the property and per Section 4(1) the duty is owed to all persons who might reasonably be affected by the state of the premises. The duty is to take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances to see that they are reasonably safe from personal injury or from damage to their property caused by a relevant defect.
Section 4(2) provides that the duty is owed if the landlord knows (whether as the result of being notified by the tenant or otherwise) or if he ought in all the circumstances to have known of the relevant defect.
A relevant defect under the 1972 Act is defined as (from the Act);
4 (3)a defect in the state of the premises existing at or after the material time and arising from, or continuing because of, an act or omission by the landlord which constitutes or would if he had had notice of the defect, have constituted a failure by him to carry out his obligation to the tenant for the maintenance or repair of the premises; and for the purposes of the foregoing provision “the material time” means—
(a)where the tenancy commenced before this Act, the commencement of this Act; and
(b)in all other cases, the earliest of the following times, that is to say—
(i)the time when the tenancy commences;
(ii)the time when the tenancy agreement is entered into;
(iii)the time when possession is taken of the premises in contemplation of the letting.
Housing Health and Safety Ratings System (England) Regulations 2005 (“HHSRS”)
Local authority officers will use the formal scoring system within HHSRS to demonstrate the seriousness of hazards that can cause harm in dwellings. The scoring system for hazards is prescribed by HHSRS and is also set out in the statutory HHSRS Operating Guidance for local authorities.
The HHSRS is an evidence based risk assessment process carried out by local authorities to identify hazards / defects. Where a hazard is identified it is rated and categorised as to the risk it presents over the next year that it could harm a member of a vulnerable group.
The assessments are carried out by local authority Environmental Health Officers.
A landlord’s duty arises if the landlord knew of the defect or should have known about it. The Sykes v Harry  EWCA CIV 167 case arose from the tenant suffering serious injuries after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from a defective fireplace. The fireplace had not been maintained and soot prevented the escape of fumes.
In the event of defective housing premises that the landlord has been (or should have been) aware of the consequence is as follows:
- The Landlord will need to repair the problem with the premises
- The Landlord could face a claim for damages for personal injury
- The Landlord could face a claim for loss and damage relating to personal belongings
- The Landlord could face a claim for financial losses arising from the problem with the premises
Following Government reforms to Solicitors’ costs and quantification of damages in the Road Traffic Accident Injury arena and the window for making PPI claims closing, marketeers, lead generators and Claimant Solicitors have made a huge push into Housing Disrepair claims which do not suffer from fixed costs or fixed quantification of damages, making such claims potentially lucrative to Solicitors.
Any local authorities with enquiries as to issues arising from this article are welcome to contact Greenhalgh Kerr. We have a strong and proven record of recovering rental arrears, council tax and non-domestic rates and successfully defending counter claims, including for disreprair.