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If you’re dealing with disrepair in your home, this can be an understandable cause for stress, especially if you feel your landlord is not adequately responding to the issue at hand. In order to resolve the matter as quickly as possible, it’s critical to understand the options available to you as a tenant. Though the most obvious may be to take legal action, in actual fact, this isn’t the only recourse. In this article, we break down the differences between bringing a legal claim and contacting the Housing Ombudsman, and why you may want to consider one over the other. 

Taking action against your landlord for a disrepair claim

If you have disrepair in your rental property, it’s advisable to take the following steps: 

  1. First, notify your landlord of the disrepair. If they fail to carry out the relevant repairs, you can make a complaint using their complaints procedure.
  2. If  you’re unhappy with the outcome, contact the Housing Ombudsman (“Ombudsman”)
  3. Should this be unsuccessful, take legal action. 

Should I take legal action or contact the housing Ombudsman? 

When you’re facing with disrepair in your home, it’s not only stressful, but difficult to know what your next steps should be. Understandably, your temptation might be to take immediate legal action or circumvent your landlord to contact the housing Ombudsman straight away. However, bear in mind that the processes involved differ slightly and that the Ombudsman may be able to investigate complaints that disrepair legal action cannot deal with. For this reason, it’s advisable to look at the differences before deciding what you’re going to do. 

Some key differences are cost, amount of compensation you can get, length of time the processes take, and the types of matter.

How to contact the housing ombudsman 

  1. You must follow your landlords’ complaints procedure before contacting the Ombudsman, whether via a designated person or directly. To contact the Ombudsman directly, you must wait 8 weeks after your landlord gives you their final response to your complaint. Generally, you must contact the Ombudsman within 12 months from the end of your landlord’s internal complaints procedure. 
  2. The Housing Ombudsman can award compensation. However, it may be lower than what you would receive by pursuing your landlord through legal action. 
  3. Enforcement action cannot be taken against your landlord if they fail to comply with the Ombudsman’s decision.

 How long will it take to resolve my complaint with the housing ombudsman? 

    1. The Ombudsman will try to resolve the complaint through their early resolution process. Hopefully, you and your landlord can reach an agreement within 2 months.
    2. If the early resolution process is unable to resolve the complaint, you may need to undergo a formal investigation. This can take up to a year or possibly longer for your complaint to be resolved.

Process for taking legal action against your landlord 

  1. If you pursue legal action, you must have notified your landlord of the disrepair and allowed them a reasonable time to carry out the repairs. However, if for example, your landlord owns the whole building where you live and there is disrepair to the common parts, you do not have to notify your landlord of the disrepair for their repairing obligation to arise. However, if you fail to notify your landlord of the disrepair to the common parts, it may affect any compensation awarded. You should always consider negotiations and alternative dispute resolution before issuing a claim and throughout the legal action.
  2. If you take legal action and a settlement is agreed upon or a court makes an order for repairs to be carried out, you can enforce this in court if your landlord fails to carry out the repairs.

    Please note that your solicitor should ensure that the settlement/order includes enforceable provisions to complete the repairs within a specific period. If the landlord fails to comply with the settlement/order, further compensation will often be sought.

How long will it take to resolve my disrepair claim? 

Legal action can take up to a year or longer but often settles before trial. However, if your landlord does not carry out the repairs you may need to take further court action by way of enforcement.

A zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould?

Although dealing with damp and mould is frustrating, it seems the tide is turning in the right direction (for tenants). In October 2021, the Housing Ombudsman published a report that urged social landlords to take a zero tolerance approach on damp and mould, pointing towards a need for a ‘proactive’ rather than ‘reactive’ approach in order to improve residents’ experiences. If you’re in need of legal guidance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our expert solicitors. 

* Disclaimer: The information is for general information only. This article is not legal advice and you should not treat it as such. We provide this information without any representations or warranties, express or implied. *

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