We live in a ‘no win, no fee’ society in which often unscrupulous legal firms actively tempt tenants to make bogus disrepair claims against their landlord. Following a court case in March 2021, one Torus St Helens tenant has been left with a hefty £3,800 bill for court costs, following a failed claim against Torus.
Disrepair claim companies use a legal scheme that was introduced to protect tenants from poor landlords. They encourage tenants to take legal action based on the promise of winning compensation.
The tenant in St Helens was just one of the many who was cold-called by someone claiming she would be able to get compensation by taking legal action against Torus.
Torus Disrepair Manager, Alan Thompson, said:
“We’re aware that disrepair claims companies have been writing to, calling and even knocking on the doors of Torus tenants during the pandemic and lockdowns.
“The cold callers sometimes even claim to be from Torus, but they represent claim handlers or Solicitors. They are not interested in helping the tenant; they can be very pushy and are just looking to make money from tenants and their home.
“They can make up to £500 per referral even if the claim isn’t a genuine disrepair claim, telling tenants that their home needs repair and encouraging them to put in a claim against Torus, to try to get compensation.
“The judge in this case could see there was no evidence of disrepair and found in favour of Torus, leaving the shocked tenant with a £3,800 bill for court costs.”
This follows another case that was thrown out of court in Warrington, with Torus being awarded £1,800 in court costs. In this case, the tenant struggled in court as the evidence was poor and their account did not match the version of events presented by the solicitor. The Liverpool based solicitors, also admitted they had knocked on the tenant’s door pretending to be a Housing Officer, which did not go in their favour with the Judge.
Disrepair claims can also take up to two years to resolve and can cause further inconvenience to tenants, as the Solicitor ‘acting’ on their behalf may advise them not to allow Torus to carry out any repairs while the claim is ongoing. By following that advice not to allow Torus or HMS access to complete repairs, tenants may also be in breach of their tenancy agreement.
“We have a very good track record of successfully defending disrepair claims.
“Apart from court costs, there are other financial risks for tenants. Once the claim has been initiated and the solicitor’s documentation has been signed, very rarely will the Solicitor allow tenants to change their mind and stop the claim, often advising tenants that if they stop the claim, they will be liable for; charges for the survey they have arranged, often up to £1,000 and credit agreement charges of over £500 for “no win, no fee” to cover legal cost insurance
“We just want tenants to be very careful before they commit to any agreements with these companies, and just to contact us directly if they have any complaints or feel they have disrepair in their home, as by doing this, we can look to reach a solution as quickly as possible.”
In this case, the tenant was let down by her solicitor. Not only did she lose the disrepair case, with Torus being awarded £3,800, but it is also her responsibility to arrange the payment as the solicitors working on her behalf had not taken out insurance to protect their client. Torus is currently trying to contact the solicitor. To date, there has been no response.
Tenants can contact Torus by using their online account, emailing email@example.com or calling 0800 678 1894.