The number of disrepair claims brought by tenants against councils in England has increased 44% over the last five years, according to BBC research.
Data collected through freedom of information requests shows the numbers rising from 1,694 in 2011/12 to 2,440 in 2015/16. But, bucking that trend, there was a fall of 6% between 2014/15 and 2015/16.
Southwark Council emerges as the authority which paid out the most in compensation and legal fees regarding these claims. It has paid more than £10m over the five-year period.
The council disputed a BBC suggestion that councils “often” pay out more in legal fees than in compensation. In a statement to Local Government Lawyer, the council said: “Southwark Council has invested around £450m into bringing homes up to a decent standard and we have hit our target of 90% decent homes.”
Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing at Southwark, said: “The high volume of compensation claims relates to the large number of properties Southwark Council manages: we are the largest local authority social landlord in London with around 55,000 properties. We have a robust complaints procedure and compensation policy which is flexible enough to respond to individual cases as they arise. Our focus on customer service in recent times has seen a significant reduction in the average time to close disrepair cases.”
The BBC data is based on the responses it received from 86% of the 325 councils in England. In total, the authorities paid out £35m in compensation and legal fees regarding properties deemed unfit. Dampness and leaks were common causes of problems. Southwark paid out £10.6m, according to the BBC research, followed by Lambeth (£10.4m) and Leeds (£4.5m).