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Cost of Living Crisis: The Impact on Tenants Living in Disrepair
8 August 2022
Hannah Keppie, Head of Housing Disrepair, uncovers the TRUE impact of the cost-of-living crisis on tenants, who are already living in disrepair…
The impact of the cost-of-living crisis has been felt far and wide, but arguably the most significant effect on the public has been the dramatic increase in energy bills. In April we saw a staggering 54% increase to the energy price cap, a burden that has been felt by all.
Worryingly, the energy price cap is expected to increase again in October, up to 70%. This will, more than likely, have a detrimental effect on low paid earners or those on benefits, whose disposable income won’t be able to cover the rising energy costs. To put this into perspective, those who paid £100 per month for gas & electric in October 2021 will likely pay £170 this coming October.
Tenants of social landlords have also faced a further blow, with most landlords opting to increase rent by the maximum 4.1%. This increase comes despite many of these properties being in disrepair, or worse, unfit for human habitation.
Properties that are in disrepair often require additional heating to combat the issues that have been ignored by the landlord. Damaged window frames, lack of insulation, cracks in the property walls, and presence of damp & mould are all examples of disrepair that will require additional energy. This additional cost is then left for the tenants to cover.
(Further examples of housing disrepair, can be found here.)
How can tenants avoid excessive energy charges brought on by disrepair?
Whilst it is tempting for tenants to withhold rent payments if their landlord has failed to keep their home in repair, this is most certainly not recommended. Tenants do not have the right to withhold rent and should not do this to try to force their landlord to complete repairs. This could result in the landlord taking legal action against the tenant for rent arrears and ultimately the tenant could lose their home.
Landlords, whether that be private, local authority (council) or housing associations, have a legal responsibility to keep their properties in repair. If they do not keep their properties in an acceptable condition, then they are breaching the tenancy agreement.
If a tenant believes that disrepair at their property is causing or contributing to heat loss, they should inform their landlord immediately. The tenancy agreement will often have details of how to report disrepair issues. Once reported, the landlord should respond within a ‘reasonable’ time. It is important for the tenant to keep records of their complaints to their landlord (ideally these should be reported in writing unless the landlord specifically requires verbal reporting).
If the landlord fails to respond to the tenant, or complete repairs within a reasonable time, then the tenant has other options available. The Citizens Advice website contains useful information about how to escalate a complaint.
In the event that complaints are ignored, the tenant may instruct a firm of solicitors, like us, to pursue a civil claim arising from the condition of their home. If the tenant can demonstrate that their energy bills have increased as a result of the disrepair, the additional cost of that energy can be included as part of their claim.
What can we do to help you?
If you are concerned about an increase in your energy bills due to disrepair in your home, or your landlord has ignored your complaints regarding ongoing issues in your home, contact True Solicitors LLP today.
In less than 2 months the higher energy price cap will come into effect. If you act now, it is possible for the disrepair issues in your home to be rectified within this time.