A good article on 24dash.com highlights a growing trend for tenants to refer their landlords to the Magistrates Court for breach of environmental legislation. The article is about housing associations but the legislation can relate to any landlord/tenant relationship.
Intuitively, matters between landlords and tenants should be for the civil courts, but if premises are in a state (or subject to noise) that could harm health or cause a nuisance, the Magistrates Court can take action including making orders to carry out works or compensation, or imposing criminal fines.
If premises are just in disrepair then the legislation does not apply. There has to be a risk to health, or a nuisance has to have arisen. Equally, premises might be in perfectly good repair but noise, accumulations, or other matters mean that health is impacted or a nuisance is caused.
Claims appear to be increasing because the environmental health sections on many Council websites provide advice on how to commence these proceedings, partly because Councils are finding it hard to finance action themselves.
Proactivity and effective tenant management should lessen the risk of a private landlord being successfully prosecuted. It is still worth reminding landlords that they can face criminal liability from the day to day management of their portfolio.
"...substantial rise in these claims against housing associations with some tenants’ legal representatives seeing these as an opportunity to make money. Even if there is a lack of evidence, landlords will usually settle out of court as they see the legal process as too risky in terms of costs and time"