Disrepair: The importance of the cost of repairs when dealing with solicitors costs

Case: Jalili v Bury Council. Manchester County Court 17 June 2021

The above is a recent County Court case which raises interesting points regarding the issue of costs of repairs in a disrepair claim that has settled pre-allocation. The decision is not binding as it is a County Court case, but it there are a few things to take away when considering the cost of repairs and track allocation.

Facts of the case

The Claimant commenced a disrepair claim against her Landlord, Bury Council (Defendant). The parties instructed independent experts to inspect the property and provide a joint report. The Claimant’s expert set out a list of works and costed them at open market rates totalling £3,915. The Defendant’s expert set out a lesser list of works which was costed at an in-house basis and totalled £740.

The Defendant carried out the lesser list of works, the Claimant accepted the works were complete and the matter settled with damages of £1,000.

The outstanding issue was costs. The parties could not agree on costs because there was such a difference in the cost of repairs and therefore a dispute as to whether this case was a one that would have been allocated to the small claims track. The question at hand was therefore how the works should be valued – on an “open market” basis or on an “in-house” basis?

In considering this, the District Judge raised the following points:

  • The Court cannot and must not close its eyes to the fact that, in essence, the order for specific performance would have required the Defendant to put right the disrepair at a cost to them.
  • The Court would not order the Defendant to carry out works at open market rates as a local authority (or a registered provider of social housing) would have its own in-house team undertaking the works, so the Claimant’s surveyors value was flawed for the basis of this issue.
  • For the purpose of valuing the works, the open-market value is not the relevant valuation, the actual costs of the repairs to the Defendant is.
  • The parties had implicitly accepted the works as recommended by the Defendant’s surveyor as these were the works that were carried out and there was no dispute over the works.

Based on the above, the District Judge found in favour of the Defendant’s approach – that the appropriate approach to value the claim was based on the assumption that the works should be done in-house.

What to take away from this case?

  1. Upon receipt of the expert report, produce a full schedule of works. This should list each item, the works required for each item, the full costs of the works and the start and completion dates.
  1. Be as detailed as possible when it comes to producing the schedule.
  1. Separate works which are raised on the letter of claim to those which are additional items picked up by the experts.

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