Guidance on damages for damp
In the case of Clark v Affinity Sutton Homes Ltd. (Barnet County Court) 4 April 2014, Mr C had been an assured tenant of ASH since 2004. The property was a one bedroom flat with an initial weekly rent of some £66. There were problems with damp at the property. The expert’s report of May 2013 found:
- Leaking within the vicinity of the bathroom.
- Dampness internally within the kitchen sink unit.
- Reception room – due to condensation dampness, mould growth is a problem to the external wall at low level.
- Bedroom – due to condensation dampness, mould growth is relevant at a low level to the external walls and also a partition wall with the kitchen.
- Kitchen – due to condensation dampness some mould growth at a low level.
- Entrance hall, – due to condensation dampness, mould growth at a low level.
Following the decant of Mr C, ASH found that the damp problems had been caused by a completely defective damp proof course which has been breached and that all of the floors in the premises needed to be replaced with new concrete floors containing effective damp proof courses. The dispute was over the extent and duration of the issues between 2007 and 2014 and then quantum resulting. Mr C argued that there had been significant damp problems throughout, and that the expert report and ASH’s own findings on the decant showed this.
The method for assessment of quantum was agreed by both parties to be by reference to a percentage of the rent due, depending upon the court’s assessment of the seriousness of the problems. Mr C argued for 49% throughout and ASH argued for between 30% and 38% of rent. The Court decided to award 35% for part of the period under consideration and 45% for the remainder. In particular, the court accepted that the extent and nature of the claimant’s medical problems meant that it must have been very difficult for him living in the premises with the damp. The court awarded 75% of the special damages claimed, in the absence of receipts, on the basis that MR C should be compensated for their current value, (not replacement value), except for the carpets ruined, which would have to be replaced with new.
All this resulted in an award for special damages of £3,742.60 and total damages of £11,200.46.
This case illustrates the difficulties in supporting a precise assessment of damages in cases of this nature, via case law. This case only went to court for the assessment of quantum-liability was not in dispute.