The winter effects on social housing
As winter approaches, we wish to remind all social housing and council tenants to be more aware of their windows and window frames. Bad weather is an unwelcome part of our daily life, but defective windowpanes and/or frames can cause bigger problems for tenants in poorly maintained homes.
Defective windowpanes and frames can lead to excessively high utility bills, excessive cold, water ingress and mould infestations. Aside from the obvious distress and inconvenience this will cause you as a tenant, defective windows can be very dangerous for you and your family.
ITV recently published a story about a Hackney housing association tenant who had a lucky escape when a windowpane fell from his third floor flat, smashing onto the ground below and narrowly missing him as he walked through the door. You can find the full article here.
The images are truly harrowing, and this resident was very lucky not to suffer very serious injuries on this occasion. Not only does this article highlight the dangers associated with defective windows, but it shows that some Council’s and Housing Associations are still overlooking their statutory repairing obligations.
Help us to help you hold your landlord to account, and to make sure that your home is in good condition and free of any danger. It has never been more important than ever for tenants to be aware of their reporting obligations.
What the law says?
When it comes to your landlord’s repairing responsibilities, an awful lot depends on the wording of the tenancy agreement. Always check your tenancy agreement.
The case of Welsh v Greenwich LBC (2001) offers tenants protection that the terms of a tenancy agreement create an automatic obligation on the landlord to keep the property ‘in good condition’ or ‘fit to live in’.
In addition, a landlord cannot exclude the repairing obligations implied into tenancy agreements by Section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Section 12 makes sure of this as it says as follows:
(1) A covenant or agreement, whether contained in a lease to which section 11 applies or in an agreement collateral to such a lease, is void in so far as it purports—
(a) to exclude or limit the obligations of the lessor or the immunities of the lessee under that section, or
(b) to authorise any forfeiture or impose on the lessee any penalty, disability or obligation in the event of his enforcing or relying upon those obligations or immunities, unless the inclusion of the provision was authorised by the county court.
Unreasonable terms in your tenant’s handbook
Landlords will often try to define which issues fall within their repairing obligations, and what issues fall under the tenant’s responsibility within the tenancy agreement and/or tenant handbook.
Over the years we have noticed some housing associations try to limit their responsibility for carrying out repairs to the structure and exterior, by inserting terms into the tenant handbook stating that they do not cover certain issues such as defective windows.
The main thing to remember is that the landlord is responsible any repairs that relate to the “structure and exterior” of the property. By becoming more aware of the condition of your windows you can identify condensation and mould issues before they become a bigger problems.
For example, if you were to report a defective windowpane or frame only to be told that this is not your landlord’s responsibly then this would be incorrect. For external windows, it is well established that they form part of the ‘structure and exterior’ for the purposes of s.11(1)(a) LTA 1985. The cases of Ball v Plumber (1879) and Sheffield City Council v Hazel St Clare Oliver (2007) make this very clear.
Tenant reporting obligations
We cannot stress this enough, REPORT, REPORT, REPORT.
Too often tenants fail to report the disrepair for a long period of time, and this leads to more issues affecting the property. As a tenant, you need to report problems with your home as soon as you notice them.
If you continue to report the issues for 10 months or more and your landlord takes no action, then this is when you should consider making a housing disrepair claim.
The law accepts that landlords are allowed a reasonable period of time to carry out repairs after their tenant has made them aware of the issue. Generally, most issues can be resolved within 10-12 months, so if you are getting nowhere with the repairs after this length of time then you should contact our housing team.