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Recent years have witnessed a substantial growth in the number of disrepair claims brought by tenants against their social landlords, together with the numbers of claims management companies and lawyers bringing them, often on a no-win, no-fee basis.
In the vast majority of disrepair claims, tenants and their representatives use the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases (the Protocol) to bring their claim, either before issuing proceedings or to try to settle it without recourse to proceedings.
In our experience of handling these claims for social landlords, the Protocol is often referred to by both parties and their advisers in correspondence between them and often becomes a tactical tool in itself.
Social landlords who face disrepair claims now need to be aware of two new developments which could converge to have a significant impact on how these claims are dealt with in the future.
Firstly, on 7 January 2020 the Civil Procedure Rule (CPR) Committee published a revised version of the Protocol. Key points to note are:
The CPR Committee is also going to carry out a further review of the Protocol and will report back later this year.
Secondly, this is a reminder of the changes introduced by the Act and in particular the fact that from 20 March 2020, it will apply to all periodic tenancies in existence before 20 March 2019. Key points to note are:
It will therefore imply into any tenancy agreement a covenant by the landlord that the property:
The key question for social landlords is what impact will this legislation have on them, both in terms of how they manage their properties and how they manage their disrepair claims?
Until it is introduced and starts being tested in the Courts, the honest answer is that we don’t know for sure.
What we do know however is that:
So it is not unreasonable to assume that over time more and varied claims will be brought and that issues such as fire safety could become much more prominent.This does not mean that social landlords should be ready to settle any claim, but rather that they should continue to separate good claims from bad at the same time as actively managing and investing in their properties.
13 January 2020
by Kane Kirkbride