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Landlord’s repairing obligations – a case of hot water

In November 2018, District Judge Justin Barron sitting in the Folkstone Magistrate’s Court found that Judith Wilson, wife of property tycoon Fergus Wilson, had failed to act fairly when dealing with a complaint raised by her tenant concerning a fault in the hot water supply to the upstairs of the rented property. The tenantMrManser,who was wheelchair bound, complained to Ashford Borough Council when his complaint was not resolved. He claimed that he had been without hot water for five months and there was also a leak in the property. The Council served a Notice on the LandladyMrs Wilson which required her to resolve the issue. Mrs Wilson failed to comply with the requirements of the Notice.

At a hearing, the court gave the defendant the chance to explain the reasons for the failure.Mr Wilson told the court that he had given the council ‘the green light to carry out emergency repairs itself’. District Judge Justin Barron did not accept the reasons given and he proceeded to find Mrs Wilson guilty of an offence under section 35 (4) of the Housing Act 2004. District Judge Justin Barron took the view that that Mrs Wilson had enough time to address the abatement notice but simply failed to do so and had acted unreasonably. He went on to find that any fine to be levied against Mrs Wilson at the time of sentencing in December 2018, would be unlimited and punitive and he made a financial circumstances order against Mrs Wilson, requiring her to o disclose all her assets, including joint assets, prior to sentencing.

At the sentencing on 11 December 2018, Mrs Wilson was ordered to pay a fine of £10,000 and £15,000 legal costs.

This case of ‘no hot water’is an example of how the court will exercise its powers against unscrupulous landlords who ignore legitimate complaints. Landlords should take note thatthe law relating to disrepair is set to become even tighter for Landlords with tenancies of less than 7 years when the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes into force on 20th of March 2019.

For advice on residential landlord and tenant matters please contact Patricia Wollington, Dispute Resolution Solicitor at Sykes Anderson Perry Limited on 020 3794 5959 or by email to Patricia Wollington

Jan 2019