I bought my council flat in 1991 under the right to buy. It is a 2 bedroom ground floor flat on a block 4 storeys. In the beginning of 2000 I started noticing issues with my flat - water coming in from the flat above and it progressed to massive cracks in the walls, wall sockets cracking up etc. I complained to the council numerous times only to be sent away and treated as a nuisance.
I was reduced to living in one room, the bathroom was unusable due to cracks etc. I made a complaint on the council's website about my living conditions and informed them of my medical issues. They finally took notice, but by then my flat was in a terrible condition.
They finally moved me to one of their flats in April 2014 for 12 months. I was there for 2 years and 8 months whilst they fixed my flat. The flat they moved me to also had issues.
The council moved me back to my own flat on 22nd December 2017. Before the move I couldn't wash nor bath as the bathroom had leaked and the council did nothing to ease my suffering.
The block ended up as having subsidence. I keep asking the council for the claim reference number but they keep sending me the policy number. The last time I asked for it I was told they do not have it. The council are giving me the run around treating me as an old fool. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.
Thank you for your enquiry and you do, indeed, find yourself in an unfortunate position.
I am assuming for the purpose of this opinion that no defects were disclosed to you when you purchased the property.
Having not seen the lease I will have to make certain assumptions. The council as freeholder will have the responsibility for maintenance of the main structure and you to contribute to the cost by payment of service charges. It seems clear that the council is in breach of its repairing obligations and you are entitled to compensation for their failure to comply with their repairing obligations.
In addition, the council has breached its covenant to give you quiet enjoyment of the property, which, in short means, that your possession of the property is not interfered with in any way. On the face of it, you would have a substantial claim for damages for this interference and clearly, the alternative measures put in place have been far from satisfactory.
As far as the insurance is concerned, the Landlord is making the claim and whilst it is good practice for you to be informed of the claim number, this is not essential, as the Council’s liability to you remains unaltered.
Finally, if the property is uninhabitable then the lease may contain a clause suspending rent and service charges during that period.
To summarise on the face of it you have a substantial claim for damages against the council and if no steps are being taken to remedy the breaches than possibly also a claim for an injunction. The issues raised by you are complex and I would strongly advise that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
Richard Sandler, Lawyer Manager at PDC Law