We have been made aware that some residents in our homes are being contacted by claims management companies, encouraging them to make claims for disrepair in their properties.
These companies are not always what they seem and although they often advertise as offering a ‘no-win, no-fee’ service, this is not always the case.
There have been reports of tenants left in considerable debt as a result in signing up to claims management company agreements.
If you have a repair issue, this should be reported directly to us as your landlord to resolve. We want to work with you to ensure your home is kept in good repair and as free from condensation and mould as possible.
Repair issues in our properties can easily be reported to us by calling the repair line on 01323 443375 or completing our online repair forms
If issues are not resolved, there are options to escalate through:
Our complaints process, and then;
The Housing Ombudsman service – if you have previously made reports or complaints that have not been resolved.
What is disrepair?
If your landlord doesn’t take necessary steps to keep your home in repair – including completing repairs they’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 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 Wealden District 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. You can also ring us on 01323 443375 to check if it is a member of our team.
Also if someone you don’t know calls you on the phone claiming to work for us, please take their details and call our repair line immediately to check their identity.
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.
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.
Before you engage with any claim companies we urge you to talk to us first. We are
here to help, and our priority is to make sure that all repairs necessary are undertaken quickly, without the delays of a legal process and that people are happy in their homes.