Disrepair Claims: an important warning
We’re aware that some of our customers are being approached by Claims Management companies about making a claim against us for disrepair.
These companies are not what they seem. They may not give you all the information you need before you agree to work with them, and they could put you at serious financial risk.
As well as maintaining your home, we’re also here to help look after you. We want to protect you from these companies and explain the factors and risks you need to consider if you’re thinking of making a claim.
What is disrepair?
If we don’t meet our obligations to keep your home in repair – including completing repairs we’re responsible for in reasonable time, and keeping installations for sanitation, electricity, gas and water supplies in working order – your home could be said to be in disrepair.
What are Claims Management Companies?
They are companies that target tenants, particularly tenants of social housing landlords, with marketing tactics to encourage you to make a claim for disrepair. They then sell your claim to Solicitors who act as intermediaries between you and your landlord (in this case, us), and represent you and handle the claim on your behalf, for a cost.
Any agreement with these companies can put you at significant financial risk.
They may even pose as surveyors and say they’re from South Essex Homes or Southend City Council. Please remember that all of our teams and contractors carry identification badges, so make sure you ask to see their ID before letting them into your home.
If you’re unsure who someone is, do not let them into your home. If you feel unsafe, please call the police and let us know.
If someone you don’t know calls you on the phone claiming to work for us, please take their details and call our Contact Centre immediately to check their identity (0800 833160). A genuine member of staff will be more than happy for you to do this – but if the caller doesn’t want you to check their identity, then hang up the phone and don’t engage in conversation or pass over any personal information.
What are the risks involved?
These companies will usually tell you that they operate on a “no win, no fee” basis. But we’ve seen examples of where social housing residents have faced thousands of pounds of debt as a result of signing up to their agreements.
They usually also charge a fixed lump sum up front to take out an insurance policy to cover the cost of your claim. This lump sum can be a significant amount. Any potential compensation you receive from a claim may reduce to cover solicitor fees or legal costs (ours and yours, if the claim is unsuccessful).
Fees if you change your mind
When you have put forward a claim and signed documentation from a solicitor, they usually will not allow you to stop the claim if you change your mind. If you want to stop the process, you may be liable for fees for any surveys of your home, or the fixed premium for any insurance policy you’re advised to take out.
These companies may not explain that if your case goes to court and is dismissed, you could be ordered to pay our legal costs, which could be thousands of pounds.
It takes a long time to resolve
Some claims can take years to resolve, and you may have to appear in court to give evidence as part of the process, which can be distressing.
You could be in breach of your tenancy agreement
During this time, most companies acting on your behalf will advise you not to allow access to us to visit your home to do any repairs. This will put you in breach of your tenancy agreement with us.
As your landlord, it’s our responsibility to ensure your home is safe and kept in repair, so we’ll attempt to visit your home anyway having given you notice of our visit. If there’s a health and safety risk, we may request a court injunction to gain urgent access to do the work.
It affects other services we provide.
Defending disrepair cases is extremely expensive for us. Any money we spend on these claims takes away from funding and resources for repairs, planned investment and essential support services. This can have a detrimental impact on our neighbourhoods.
What happens if I make a claim?
We’ll arrange for a surveyor to carry out a survey in your home.
During the survey, they’ll make a note of any repairs your home needs, and check if we need to charge you for any damage.
If the survey identifies repairs that are our responsibility, we’ll arrange to visit your home and do the work.
We’ll also check our records to see whether you have reported any of the repairs to us before, in line with your tenancy agreement. We’ll rigorously defend any dishonest or bogus claims.
If you have not reported any repair to us before you make a claim, or given us the opportunity to make a repair, any claim you make is likely to fail.
We’re here to help
It’s really important to us that you’re happy with the services we provide for you. We’ll do everything we can to support you and look after your home, so that you don’t end up feeling like you have to make a claim against us. But if you are unhappy with any part of our repairs service, please contact us.
You can also access independent help and advice from other organisations, including: