The Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases sets out certain steps which prospective parties to a housing disrepair case are expected to carry out before Court proceedings are issued. The Protocol encourages the parties to avoid unnecessary litigation, exchange information at an early stage and to keep the costs of resolving disputes down. The Protocol also promotes the speedy and appropriate carrying out of any repairs which are the landlord’s responsibility and aims to ensure that tenants receive any compensation to which they are entitled as quickly as possible.
Before using the Protocol tenants are encouraged to ensure that their landlords are aware of the disrepair and to consider whether options for having repairs carried out and/ or obtaining compensation are more appropriate.
When does the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases apply?
The Protocol applies to civil claims arising from the condition of residential premises and may include a related personal injury claim. It covers such claims made by tenants, lessees and members of the tenant’s family.
It does not apply to disrepair claims which originate as counterclaims or set-offs in other proceedings or claims brought under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Where the case has a personal injury element the Pre-Action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims should be followed in relation to the personal injury element of the claim, unless the personal injuries suffered are insufficient to warrant a separate procedure and no expert evidence is needed beyond the letter of a General Practitioner.
If a limitation period is about to expire the tenant may commence Court proceedings without following the Protocol. However, in such circumstances landlords are encouraged to confirm that they will not rely on limitation as a Defence in subsequent proceedings and tenants are encouraged to ask landlords to agree to extend the limitation period.
What are the requirements of the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases?
Early Notification Letter
A Claimant is required to give notice of the claim to the landlord as soon as possible.
If the Claimant is unable to send a letter of claim setting out full details of the claim because he is awaiting information or where a repair is urgent, the Claimant is encouraged to send an early notification letter to the landlord.
The Protocol sets out what an early notification letter should contain. Specimen early notification letters are annexed to the Protocol.
The letter of claim
The tenant is expected to notify the landlord of his claim at the earliest reasonable opportunity by sending to him a letter of claim.
The Protocol specifies what information the letter of claim should contain. Specimen letters of claim are annexed to the Protocol.
The Landlord’s response
A landlord should reply to an early notification letter or a letter of claim, normally within 20 working days. This time will be extended where a single joint expert is appointed or whether experts agree a schedule following a joint inspection.
The landlord’s response should disclose all relevant records or documents including a copy of the tenancy agreement and documents or records relating to the notice given, the disrepair reported, inspection reports or requirements to the property.
If the tenant has proposed the instruction of an expert the landlord should indicate whether or not a proposed single joint expert is agreed and whether any letter of instruction provided is agreed. If the landlord is prepared to agree to a single joint expert but with separate instructions, a copy of his letter of instruction should accompany his letter of response. If the appointment of a single joint expert is not agreed the landlord should state whether he agrees to a joint inspection.
The landlord’s response should state whether liability is admitted and if so, in respect of defects. If the landlord disputes part or the entire claim he should give reasons for this.
For more information on:
- Failure by a landlord to respond
- Alternative dispute resolution
- What happens if a party does not act in accordance with the Protocol?