Hello, my name is Jim and I am a qualified lawyer happy to help you today.
You can and should sue for your losses. By law, landlords must ensure the property is in good repair under S.11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. This is the law which the landlord has broken here.
If they do not, they face prosecution by the local council and can be fined. It would also be breach of contract on their part and you would be within your rights to terminate the tenancy agreement and sue for all reasonably-incurred losses.
The Local Authority Environmental Health Officers have powers under the Housing Act 2004. They have a duty to ensure that properties in their area are in a habitable condition, and will serve improvement notices on landlords of properties which are assessed, under the new Housing Health and Safety Rating System as having ‘category 1 hazards’.
Similar powers are available to Local Authorities under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if the property is considered a threat to public health. I would therefore contact your local council (the housing department) in the first instance to report the matter (unless you have done this already).
I then recommend that you start a claim against the landlord in the county court for your losses on the money claim site (http://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk) although I recommend sending the landlord a letter before action (copy attached) to warn them of your intentions first and allow them 14 days to reimburse you. If they do not reimburse, you are free to issue a claim.
You will need to register at http://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk so that you are ready to issue the claim in the event they dispute the claim and do not pay you. The website is very user-friendly and you would not need a lawyer to use the money claim site. Claims with a value of under £10,000 are classed as a "small claim", so legal costs are not recoverable and the matter may be dealt with on paper by a Judge, not at a hearing. A hearing may be necessary if the court thinks that oral evidence is required to dispose of the case.
Claims between £10,000 and £25,000 are subject to fixed costs only so if you lose then the risk is minimal. Further, the money claim website allows you to sue for an amount up to £100,000. For sums over this figure you would need to use the paper method (I have the forms if required).
You would claim the sum for the loss, the court issue fee (details of the money claim fees are listed here at page 5: http://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees) and court interest which is 8% calculated on a daily rate from the date of loss to date of court judgment. The site allows you to calculate the interest and add it to the claim.
If you are on a low income or have low savings (or in receipt of benefits), you can ask the court for a fee remission so you do not have to pay the court issue fee. If this applies, let me know as you cannot use the online money claims site – you have to use the paper N1 claim form and the EX160 fee remission form (I have copies).
If you win then once you have the CCJ from the court the defendant has 14 days to pay in full. If they do not then it gets registered with the credit agencies after 30 days. You can also enforce the CCJ with the county court bailiffs or transfer the debt to the High Court for a small additional fee assuming the total amount owed is at least £600 and you can use the high court enforcement officers who have greater powers than county court bailiffs. The transfer fee is added on to the debt and payable by the defendant.
There are other enforcement methods which I can help with, including bank account freeze, charging order on their property (and then apply to force a sale), apply to summons them to court for questioning, attachment of earnings order against his employer (if employed) - all of which can ensure you are actually repaid the money.
You may find they just pay you after receiving the letter before action – hopefully they will want to avoid litigation.
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