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The Steep Cost Of Neglect – A Wake Up Call For Residential Landlords

Posted by Kevin Taylor

the-steep-cost-of-neglect-a-wake-up-call-for-residential-landlords

The court ruling against Livv Housing Group brought by the Housing Ombudsman in July 2023 serves as a stark reminder that residential landlords who neglect adequate maintenance for their properties risk not only the safety and well-being of their tenants but also significant legal and reputational repercussions.

The £3000 court-imposed penalty for what was described as ‘severe record failings’ after the resident reported that neglected maintenance had left him ‘on the verge of a nervous breakdown’ is more than a financial slap on the wrist: it is a strong indictment of the importance of regular and effective maintenance, especially in tower blocks susceptible to overcrowding, and a case study on the consequences of disregard.

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What Is The Legal Duty Of Care For A Residential Landlord?

Under the Housing Act 2004 and related regulations and best practices, private landlords, housing associations, and local authorities are bound by law to ensure that each residence provides a secure, safe and habitable environment for the tenants. This obligation extends to regular maintenance and swift remedial action to rectify faults. In the case of the Livv Housing Group, their negligence of routine maintenance resulted in damp living conditions for the tenant sustained over four years, underscoring the severity of overlooking such duties.

The case is a cautionary tale for landlords of the seriousness that neglect is likely to be taken by the courts in future cases, in which judges do not merely issue verbal reprimands but can also enforce substantial fines against landlords failing in their responsibilities

Strategic Maintenance Is The Key To Prevention

In view of the widespread prevalence of mould and damp in housing stock across the UK, how can landlords avoid falling foul of allegations of neglect? To start with, landlords should adopt a proactive stance on maintenance, incorporating routine checks into all property management systems, and not simply wait for a tenant to report damp or mould before taking action.

A well-documented trail of inspections, maintenance, and corresponding actions should also be maintained to support any legal defence or compliance audits. This meticulous approach serves two purposes: First, it demonstrates a strong commitment to your legal obligations and, second, it provides a shield in the unlikely event of a dispute.

Investing In Better Shower And Wash Facilities

Unfortunately, even with a rigorous maintenance schedule, damp will still be a problem in many properties due to poor ventilation, low indoor air quality, and endemic leaks caused by old shower units and outdated plumbing systems. One way to reduce the problem of leaks, and therefore damp, is to upgrade tile and tray shower cubicles to leakproof shower pods. This eliminates one of the major causes of damp and makes it easier for landlords to keep on top of mould and mildew before it becomes a problem.

Protecting Business Reputation

The potential damage of a court case for neglect extends beyond the courtroom. In the social media era in which everyone has a public voice, the reputation of a landlord's business hangs on the thread of public opinion. Tenants have the capability to broadcast their experiences – for good or ill – far and wide, potentially causing irreparable brand damage and impairing future business prospects.

Proactively investing in the quality and long-term sustainability of your housing stock sends a clear and very public message. Not only does your business do the bare minimum to ensure compliance and keep out of court, but you demonstrably go the extra mile to become a paragon of property care, excelling in a sector in which many landlords falter, and setting a strong precedent that could distinguish your business as a service leader among landlords.

What Next?

The Livv Housing Group court ruling serves an unambiguous message – complacency can carry a heavy penalty. To find out how to improve the issue of damp in your housing stock while also saving time and money on maintenance and cleaning, please get in touch with Advanced Showers today to find out more about our range of cost-effective, leakproof shower pods. 

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