For Lawyers

I first acted in a Housing Disrepair (HDR) claim in 1979! Yes I am that old. I was a trainee solicitor at Lynskey and Dunning in Kirkby near Liverpool. The local housing stock was mainly owned by Knowsley Borough Council and we brought hundreds of cases under the old s32 Housing Act 1961 and s99 Public Health Act 1936.

My first real job as a solicitor was at the Vauxhall Law Centre in Liverpool which provided free legal advice and representation in what was, at that time, one of the most deprived areas in the UK. These were the days of walk up tenement blocks and high rise tower blocks many of which have now, thankfully, disappeared. The Law Centre brought the well known case of Irwin v Liverpool City Council[1977] AC 239 that established a Landlord's liability to repair the 'common parts' - lifts, stairways etc. This was subsequently included in s11 Housing Act 1985 which replaced the old s32. I acted in Rimmer v Liverpool City Council [1984] 2 WLR 426 which established the liability of Landlords in relation to defects in premises which were designed and built by them.

Until 2019 the law in this area had not changed greatly. s11 Housing Act 1985 was, and remains, the foundation stone of tenant rights to have repairs done. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 has changed everything. Whereas it was once about 'repairs' in the sense that something needed to be 'broken', we now have a new world where the condition of the premises is central. One example of this shift is the title of the leading book published by the Legal Action Group which used to be Repairs - Tenants' Rights and is now called Housing Conditions - Tenants' Rights. By the way if you want to do this work you must have a copy of this book!* If you don't have a copy, stop what you are doing and order one now.

The Act come into force in March 2019 but will apply to most residential tenancies from March 2020.

The other big change relates to the popularity of the work. I carried on doing HDR cases even when I was eventually running complex Clinical Negligence cases, because nobody was really interested in them. In the last 2- 3 years, this has changed dramatically. In the light of impending changes in whiplash claims, many firms and also CMCs have been drawn to HDR as a replacement. This is partly because of the attractive costs regime where there remains, for now, the prospect of Fast Track costs depending on the cost of any outstanding repairs. It is seen as a nice 'earner'. In one sense this is encouraging. The more tenants who can bring actions, the better. But it is also problematic. It is not easy work. It is a world of Landlords and Tenants, Implied Contractual Terms, Equitable Remedies and Rent Arrears! And how do you value damages for the inconvenience of living in a damp house?

The message to lawyers who want to do this work is this - don't touch it unless and until you know what you are doing. I have been training lawyers in HDR work for the last 2 - 3 years. The ones that will do well are those that want to learn, employ trained/experienced staff and ultimately care about housing conditions. Those who see it as a route to easy earnings in place of the RTA Protocol will come to earth with a bump.

 

The message to lawyers who want to do this work is this - don't touch it unless and until you know what you are doing. I have been training lawyers in HDR work for the last 2 - 3 years. The ones that will do well are those that want to learn, employ trained/experienced staff and ultimately care about housing conditions. Those who see it as a route to easy earnings in place of the RTA Protocol will come to earth with a bump.

I offer training and support from the basic principles of HDR to the praticalities of litigating, negotiating and settling cases. I am always happy to adapt the training to suit your needs.

*https://www.lag.org.uk/shop/book-title/206102/housing-conditions--tenants--rights

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