21 June, 2021
The world has changed since the initial lockdown in March 2020, and you would be forgiven for forgetting how severe the restrictions were during that time.
Claims arising during that period are now beginning to make their way before the Courts and District Judge Gribble sitting at Middlesbrough County Court has recently found that a Thirteen Housing Group Limited's repair response during April 2020 was reasonable.
The Claimant, acting as a litigant in person, brought a claim for the cost of clearing water he alleged had escaped from the property next door to him. The property was owned by Thirteen and demised by their tenant.
Following Government guidelines in March 2020 Thirteen had suspended all scheduled and non-emergency repairs and had in place a 'life or limb' emergency repair system. When the leak was originally reported by their tenant at the start of April 2020 it was not deemed an emergency and so they were unable to send anyone out.
By the end of April 2020 restrictions were eased and Thirteen were able to recommence their usual repairs regime however the issue was not reported to them again until August 2020. In line with their standard repairs regime they sent an operative out 13 days later to clear a blockage in the tenant's garden. The same issue was reported again towards the end of September 2020 and again an operative was sent out to rectify the issue. Both times the tenant was reminded that keeping the drain cover clear of blockages was their responsibility under the terms of their tenancy.
An initial application to strike the claim out for the Claimant failing to plead a recognised cause of action against Thirteen was unsuccessful and the matter proceeded to a full trial.
DJ Gribble found that Thirteen did not owe a duty of care to the Claimant and they were not liable for a nuisance committed by their tenant. If a duty had been owed, she went on to comment that Thirteen had been rightly following Government guidance and so their procedure to only attend life and limb emergencies during this time was reasonable.
Current and previous Government guidance on local authorities' repairing obligations can be found here.