Tenants launch legal action against Haringey Council over housing disrepair

Residents claims they were left with “no option” after describing their complaints as having fallen into “a black hole”, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Broadwater Farm
Broadwater Farm

A group of tenants have brought a case against Haringey Council following a “failure” to carry out “vital repair works”.  

Sandstone Legal, a law firm specialising in housing disrepair, is representing “a number of tenants” in the case against the council.

The law firm said the tenants approached them after having raised complaints around housing disrepair to the local authority.

The council tenants told Sandstone they were left with “no option” but to “take matter further” after describing their complaints as having fallen into “a black hole”. 

The list of disrepairs includes damp, mould, draughty windows and leaking ceilings. Sandstone stated some of the tenants had belongings damaged and have health issues caused by the draughts and dampness. 

According to Sarah Williams, cabinet member for housing services, private renters and planning, “one claim” from Sandstone has been made involving legal proceedings. 

Cllr Williams said it was an attempt by Sandstone to “drum up business” and claimed the submission by the firm also “misrepresents” some of the facts.

If successful, the tenants involved in the claim will be awarded damages that “reflect their financial losses” as a result of the disrepair. This includes “increased energy bills and the cost of temporary heating equipment”. 

Patricia Kelly, a solicitor for Sandstone Legal’s housing disrepair team, said despite problems being “easy to see”, the council tended to “deny liability” and say repairs were made in a “timely manner” when this wasn’t “true”.

Patricia said: “They [the council] also typically take the stance that alternative dispute resolution options should be used before court proceedings are issued. 

“Frustratingly, for many of our clients, they have already exhausted the complaints procedure, and legal action really is their last option.”

The clients declined to speak about the case with the Local Democracy Reporting Service. 

Cllr Williams said: “We want all our residents to be living in high-quality homes so take all complaints seriously and are working very hard to improve our services.”

She continued that if residents were dissatisfied with council services they could make a complaint and that if they were unhappy with the outcome, the case could be escalated to the Housing Ombudsman, a body which investigates these types of issues. 

Cllr Williams added: “Approaching law firms who seek profit from people’s misfortune simply delays the resolution of repairs at the same time as increasing pressure on already tight housing finances.”

Haringey Council has been dealing with a significant backlog of housing repairs ever since it brought its former arms-length organisation Haringey Homes back in-house nearly two years ago.

Rochelle Dures, head of the housing disrepair team at Sandstone, said landlords had a “legal duty” to ensure properties were managed and properly maintained. She said they had to act within an “agreed timeframe” when a housing disrepair issue or concern was raised. 

She added: “Of course, many housing associations do hold themselves to account, but there are far too many examples of complaints falling into a black hole, leaving tenants living for months, or even years, in a property that is simply not safe.”

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