UK law

Everything you need to know about suing your landlord in the UK

New laws in the UK have made it easier than ever for tenants in the UK to sue their landlord if the landlord has not fulfilled their responsibility. The ticket is to make sure you have a strong case with evidence. Know your rights, have a plan, and collect evidence.

As reported by Natasha Hall Law, in 2020, new laws for landlords and tenants mean that landlords have to take more care than ever to ensure that they provide habitable conditions for tenants.

Seek legal advice before claiming compensation from your landlord.

Before you sue your landlord, you should know what your odds are. In the UK, you can get legal advice for free from some law firms. Talk to an expert and explain your case. They will know whether or not you have a good chance in court. Some reasons to sue your landlord include:

  • Causing emotional distress
  • Refusing to repair the property
  • Not protecting your deposit

Can I sue to get my deposit back?

Yes, absolutely! A landlord that tries to intentionally keep your deposit illegally is a thief and you should get the law involved. You may get three times as much as your landlord owes you back if you successfully sue.

If you are worried about legal fees, talk to a lawyer that does not charge any fees unless you win (no win no fee). You can easily find a lawyer with experience in cases against landlords who will not charge you anything for a court case that they lose.

Before you sue, you must make sure of the following:

  • You have not broken the terms of the agreement with your landlord
  • You have not damaged your landlord’s property in any way
  • You have paid your landlord all the money that you owe them

If all of these three things are true, you will have a chance in court. 

The landlord is obliged to give you certain information when you first sign an agreement. This includes the amount of money you deposited, and information about where your deposit is being held and under what circumstances you can get it back.

The landlord must also give you their contact information. If the landlord fails to give you a piece of information that proves to be important to your case, your landlord may lose in court and have to pay you up to three times your deposit back by way of compensation.

Your landlord must also send your deposit to a proper deposit protection scheme. They must then send you written confirmation that your deposit is safe with an administrator. You may be able to sue to get your deposit back if they do not protect it properly.

What else can I sue my landlord for in the UK?

Today, it is easier to sue your landlord than it was before because of the homes act. The 2019 homes act protects tenants and replaces an older 1985 act that was more favorable to landlords.

The homes act makes it easier for the tenant to sue the landlord. If your home is cold or damp, it is your landlord’s responsibility to correct it, and you have a chance in court if they do not. You can sue over a moldy living space for example. 

A landlord is not allowed to rent a moldy living space out and is legally obligated to remove the mold as this may cause health issues for a tenant. Other legal responsibilities for the landlord include:

  • Problems with hot and cold water are also the landlord’s responsibility to fix. 
  • Excessive heat or cold
  • Plumbing issues
  • Fire hazards
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Problems with door locks 

These are all things you can sue over if your landlord refuses to fix them. Because of the homes act, local authorities have more responsibility to act. 

Collecting evidence before suing

If you want to win in court, you need to collect as much evidence as possible. If your landlord refuses to do repairs, take pictures of the unrepaired property. Make sure that your landlord knows that you want the repairs done and that you take the lack of repairs very seriously.

Make sure that you keep your e-mails, text messages, and letters. If you delete your text messages, you might end up losing the case due to a missing piece of evidence. 

If you end up seeing a doctor as a result of a health problem caused by your unhealthy living conditions, keep the doctors note. A doctor’s note can be enough to swing the case in your favor.

While you have a chance with no witnesses other than yourself, bring a witness if you have the opportunity. 

Usually, a case like this will be settled in a single day. The judge will briefly examine the evidence and decide who wins. Make sure you are prepared, as one day in court is enough to settle a case like this.

Can you sue your landlord for stress in the UK?

Yes, you have a chance of receiving compensation for emotional distress that is your landlord’s fault. Substandard living conditions can put you under a lot of stress, and you may be able to sue for damages.

Intentional emotional distress

If your landlord behaves outrageously for the sake of inflicting mental harm or without caring whether or not it harms you, you may be able to sue for emotional distress. 

If your landlord acts in a hostile and unreasonable way and this actually causes you to experience a lot of emotional distress, you may be able to sue. The landlord only has to be verbally and not necessarily physically violent to inflict emotional distress.

Negligent emotional distress

The emotional distress does not necessarily have to come from hostile actions on your landlord’s part. Emotional distress can come from negligence. Not bothering to fix a front door and creating a security risk for a tenant could put the tenant under emotional distress.

A landlord might also refuse to do anything about pests, or about inadequate heat. If you were put in any physical danger by your landlord’s negligence, you have more of a chance.

If you win a court case, will the landlord pay you right away?

The courts will enforce the settlements. If your landlord refuses to pay, you will be able to go back to court and get the order enforced. A landlord will not be able to get away with losing a court case and not paying. However, the court might order the landlord to pay you over time instead of immediately.

Should a tenant try to settle out of court?

Yes. No one wants to go to court if they don’t have to. If you can settle the matter without it going to small claims court, you should seek an out of court settlement.

Rent repayment orders as an alternative to small claims court

You may be able to get your landlord to pay up to 12 months’ worth of rent back through a rent repayment order. This is much less of a hassle than going to small claims court, so it should be your first choice.

If your landlord has failed to obey an order (civil penalty notice, improvement notice, breach of a banning order, or prohibition notice), you may be able to ask for up to 12 months worth of rent back. You can also get a rent repayment order if your landlord uses violence to enter the property or kicks you out for no legitimate reason.

To get a rent repayment order, you need to be able to prove that your landlord did wrong beyond a reasonable doubt. The same standard of proof is required for rent repayment orders as for criminal offenses. 

Sometimes, it is easy for a tenant to win one of these cases. For example, a tenant could prove that the landlord neglected to make repairs after being ordered to do so.

Another option: Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Alternative dispute resolution helps consumers (including tenants) solve disputes. You can file a complaint with the ADR free of charge. It is best to do this before you take your case to court. A mediator will talk with you and your landlord, explain how the law works to each of you, and try to help you reach an agreement.

Taking it to small claims court

If you cannot manage to solve the dispute with your landlord in person, succeed with a rent repayment order, or make use of alternative dispute resolution, you will have to take it to court.

Make sure you have enough knowledge and evidence first. You can submit a claim form entirely online and do not need to visit a nearby small claims court in person. If you can find the right lawyer, you might not have to pay anything. 

There is the risk of having to pay more if you lose your case. At worst, you will have to pay your landlords legal fees. Talk with a legal advisor first to know your chances. Don’t sue unless you are likely to win. There is some risk in taking someone to small claims court, though this should not deter you if you have strong evidence.

If you are still unsure about how to go about suing your landlord, contact a citizen’s advice bureau. You should also find a law firm that will give you free advice. If you get proper advice in advance, you have a good chance of winning.

If you succeed at suing your landlord, they will have to pay you all at once or pay you over time. They might have to sell some of the property they own to pay you if they cannot afford to pay their damages. Usually, you will be able to obtain a settlement from your landlord before the case gets to court. 

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