FLINTSHIRE Council has appointed an external legal firm to defend disrepair claims from tenants, some of which have been targeted by ‘no win, no fee’ solicitors.
According to a Flintshire Council report, solicitors are approaching tenants and encouraging them to pursue unmerited claims about disrepair to their homes which can leave the tenant with costs that were hidden to them.
The authority’s housing scrutiny committee meets this week and will receive an update on repairs to the council’s housing stock.
Within the report, authored by the council’s chief housing officer, details are given of claims made against the authority by tenants which have been successfully defended by Flintshire Council.
According to the report, some tenants are encouraged to make a claim in the belief they will be eligible for compensation but when it is dismissed, they can find themselves landed with survey and legal fees.
The report states: “The council have a very good track record with successfully defending disrepair claims, however we find often our tenants are encouraged to pursue a claim which has no merit, compensation being promised and that all repairs will be actioned immediately.
“This is not the case, and it may result in our tenants becoming liable for costs that have not been conveyed by their appointed ‘No Win, No Fee’ solicitor.
“In addition to court costs, there are other financial risks for tenants. Once the claim has been initiated and the solicitor’s documentation has been signed, the solicitor may not let the tenant change their mind and stop the claim.
“They often advise tenants that if they stop the claim, they will be liable for the cost of the survey arranged, often up to £1,000, and credit agreement charges of over £500 for ‘no win, no fee’ to cover legal cost insurance.”
The report adds: “The council have had many ‘no win, no fee’ legal companies attempt to access our tenants homes, advising our tenants that they have been sent by the council to inspect their homes for repairs and to organise the works.
“Once they have gained access, they have advised the tenant to commence with a claim against the council.
“We have contacted Trading Standards and our appointed legal teams over a recent case where a company accessed tenant’s homes without proper consent. The company has been written to in response.
“Disrepair claims can take up to two years to resolve and cause further inconvenience to tenants, as the solicitor ‘acting’ on their behalf may advise them not to allow the council into their homes and to carry out any repairs while the claim is ongoing.
“By following their advice to not allow the Council access to complete repairs, tenants are in breach of their tenancy agreement/conditions, and this can result in claims being invalid and the tenant being responsible for all associated costs.”
The report adds that disrepair claims companies use a legal scheme that was introduced to protect tenants from landlords who do not complete repairs to their home in a timely manner.
“They encourage tenants to take legal action based on the promise of winning easy compensation”, the report states.
“The council works hard to keep our homes in a good state of repair. In 2021/2022 the Council completed over 30,000 housing repairs not including any planned investment, works to empty properties or regular maintenance works.”
In 2022/23, a total of 55 disrepair claims were received by the council, and 23 of these were withdrawn as a result of council advice / potential invalid claim.
The report adds: “The Council have a high success rate when dealing with disrepair claims, however as stated, it could utilise all associated resources and costs more effectively.
“To claim disrepair against the council, our tenant must report the defect directly to the council, have evidence that we have failed to deal with the work and have not resolved it in a reasonable timescale.
“If any tenants have any concerns with the condition of their property, the most effective way of resolving the issue is to call the Council’s Customer Services Department on 01352 701660 and report the repair to us immediately.”
The scrutiny committee meets on Wednesday, April 19, to discuss the report.