Blame the lifestyle factors

For many years a typical landlord response to a tenant’s claim for disrepair was to simply blame the tenant; lifestyle factors being a main one.

KLS Law have found that as soon as a landlord takes this stance, regardless of whether they are correct or not, they will often disregard more serious issues which can significantly impact on a tenants’ quiet enjoyment of their home and/or pose a serious risk to health.

Blaming a tenant for the disrepair is called a “denial of liability” or “contributory negligence” in legal terminology. This should not be assumed by a landlord, as they are complex issues of fact which must be resolved with the use of expert evidence.

Recently, the Housing Ombudsman prepared a report called, “Spotlight on: Damp and mould. It’s not lifestyle

This report is the result of the tireless effort of all tenants whom have taken all the appropriate steps to report their issues to their landlord and provide compelling evidence to present a strong case to the Court.

In addition, it is the result of both the media spotlight on social housing conditions (ITV News with Dan Hewitt prominent amongst them), and what is described as “the high uphold rate and reoccurring reasons leading to maladministration” in the Ombudsman’s case work. (Of 410 complaints investigated, 56% resulted in findings of maladministration, 501 orders were made to put something right with 288 additional recommendations, and £123,094.57 in compensation was ordered across 222 cases, with sums over £1,000 being ordered in 21 cases).

“This leads to the most sensitive area – the inference of blame on the resident and the associated onus on them when it is often not solely their issue. Our call for evidence revealed an immense frustration and sense of unfairness at the information residents are sometimes provided by landlords about issues like condensation and mould. This reoccurred so often it is appropriate to call it systemic. I met with residents who spoke about feeling patronised, even stigmatised. While I appreciate this is not intended, I would urge engagement with residents to review communication and literature, working together with them to co-design meaningful advice that shares responsibility and supports them at a distressing time. In doing so I hope the word ‘lifestyle’, when it may be a consequence of limited choices, is banished from the vernacular”

If you find yourself in a similar situation whereby your landlord seeks to avoid carrying out the repairs because they allege that you are at fault, speak with KLS Law’s housing team on 0800 015 1470.