If your rent is paid by Housing Benefit, you might feel that you’re in a weakened position if your home’s in a state of disrepair. If the money’s not coming from your own private income, where do you actually stand?
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It can be difficult to know if you’re actually dealing with a home that’s in disrepair. You might not know what counts as disrepair and what’s simply a scruffy-looking property. Using Housing Benefit to pay your rent means that your options might be limited, and though you may not get the most pristine-looking house, you should still be able to live in comfort and without any risk to your health.
Claiming Housing Benefit doesn’t mean you should settle for a house that’s fallen into disrepair.
A house is in disrepair if it’s been so badly maintained that it’s becoming unsafe, or if it’s a risk to your health, your welfare, or your security. The occasional bit of wear and tear isn’t too much of a problem, and it’s to be expected in any rented home, but your home should not be in a condition that causes you to feel unsafe.
A home may be in disrepair if there’s damp or mold, if the boiler is broken, if there are problems with the gas, electricity, or water, or if windows or doors are damaged. A rodent infestation, or other infestation, could also be classed as disrepair.
As a tenant, you must look after your home in what’s described as a ‘tenant-like’ way. This means that you’re not expected to make improvements out of your own pocket unless you want to and have agreed these improvements with your landlord, but you are required to be careful and not to cause deliberate damage to the property. In exchange for you generally keeping your home clean, opening windows to reduce condensation, and looking after the property, your landlord takes responsibility for ongoing maintenance.
If something breaks, it’s up to your landlord to fix it. Wear and tear are normal in any home, but if issues arise and your landlord’s made aware, they must work to make repairs and set things right again.
Landlords aren’t required to make property upgrades or to improve your home beyond what it was when you first signed your tenancy agreement. If you signed for a house without double glazing but later wish that you had it, your landlord is under no obligation to get double glazing installed. Landlords don’t have to make the property better but do have to stop it from getting significantly worse.
Just like a private tenant, you can claim compensation if your home’s in a state of disrepair and your landlord won’t fix it. That’s the case whether you’re in a private rental, a council property, or renting from a housing association.
Your compensation claim might cover injury, illness, inconvenience, or the value of any damaged property. You can still suffer all those things, even if your rent is being covered by your Housing Benefit.
Many people in receipt of benefits worry about contacting solicitors. You might not have a lot of spare cash to pay for legal representation. Fortunately, in these situations, up-front payments aren’t usually needed.
Most solicitors, if they believe you’ve got a strong case to claim compensation, will offer to take your case on a No Win, No Fee basis. This means that they’ll recover your costs once the courts have made their decision, either from your compensation award or from the defending party.
They might be able to claim compensation at no cost to you.
Claiming compensation should be a last resort. You should first have attempted, with mediation if necessary, to speak to your landlord on your own. Ideally, your landlord will resolve any issues and make repairs as soon as they need to. You have a duty to inform your landlord if repairs are needed, as they don’t see the property often and might not be aware of any problems.
If your landlord isn’t making repairs or keeping up with their responsibilities, you may be forced to contact a solicitor and get some legal advice. Your solicitor will then contact your landlord, and this threat of action could be enough to spur your landlord into action. Otherwise, you may need to go to court to claim Housing Disrepair compensation.
As you might expect, the process of claiming compensation isn’t great for the tenant-landlord relationship. Your landlord might be angry and might wish that they could quickly end your tenancy. Don’t worry, though. Your tenancy agreement is still in place, and your landlord must continue to work within the terms of that agreement.
Your landlord is likely to need to give notice before they evict you from the property. In return, you’ll need to give notice if you’re the one that plans to move out. Always check your tenancy agreement to see where both parties stand. Your compensation claim is not a good enough reason for your landlord to break this agreement.
Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit. It may be affected by a lump sum compensation payment. Other means-tested benefits might also be affected, including (but not limited to) Universal Credit and Council Tax Support.
You may not be eligible for Housing Benefit if you have savings of more than £16,000 in your bank account. So, eligibility may be affected by a large compensation reward. But, it’s worth noting that most Housing Disrepair Compensation awards aren’t over £10k. Most people are awarded somewhere between £1,000 and £10,000.
If you’re concerned about losing your benefits, express these concerns to your solicitor. They’ll be able to offer advice, including information about the option to keep your compensation payment in a trust. There are ways to make sure that your compensation doesn’t have a negative impact, so you can get the money you deserve without ending up worse off overall.
Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s leading homes in disrepair independent solicitors. They have already helped thousands of people claim compensation, and they can do the same for you.
Choosing an independent solicitor means they won’t recommend a scheme unless they are sure it is in your best interests. Their advice is also regulated by the FCA, which gives you an additional layer of protection.
If you would like to speak to one of these solicitors, then click on the below and answer the very simple questions.
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