Your landlord/agent is legally obliged to repair your property and maintain it to a safe standard, though they do not normally have to make improvements unless these are written into the contract.
Your rights to repair will differ depending on whether you:
- Rent from a landlord/agent who does not live with you (this is called having "exclusive possession" of the property)
- Share accommodation with the owner of the property.
- Renting from a landlord/agent (This is where you have signed a contract either direct with the landlord or via an agency.)
The landlord/agent has a legal responsibility to carry out certain repairs, even if these are not directly stated in the contract. These include:
- The structure and exterior of the building - e.g. roof, guttering, walls, external windows and doors.
- Heating and hot water systems.
- Pipes, drains, sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings.
- Electrical wiring.
- Gas appliances including pipes, flues and ventilation.
The landlord should also:
- put right any damage to decorations caused by disrepair.
- maintain any appliances that were provided with the property.
- keep the property free from serious health and safety hazards.
The written contract can give the landlord extra responsibilities but cannot remove these minimum obligations. The landlord/agent cannot pass on responsibility for these legal obligations by putting clauses in your contract.
If you rent via an agency, both the landlord and their agent are equally responsible for ensuring that repairs are carried out. The agent cannot refuse to undertake essential repairs by saying that the landlord will not authorise the works.
Sharing with the owner
If you live with an owner you have fewer rights to repair, unless your contract is specific about what repairs the owner has agreed to cover. The only statutory repairs are those relating to health and safety of occupants and the public.
You must report all disrepair immediately. The landlord/agent's responsibility for repairs starts when they are aware or could reasonably be expected to have become aware of the disrepair.
Always report repairs in writing as this provides evidence of when, and how, you have reported the issue if you need to take further action.
If a landlord/agent has their own repair forms, make sure you use them, but always ask for a photocopy of any forms you complete. Be specific; state the exact problem, which room and what the affects of the disrepair are.
Ideally the landlord/agent should arrange a suitable time and date with you to complete repairs. Access should not be given to workmen without your prior agreement unless the repair is an emergency. Workmen should always secure the property when leaving and should clean up after they have finished.
Always give the landlord/agent a reasonable time scale to work to. The following provides a useful guide for all properties but is not the legal/contractual requirement.
- Priority One: Emergency Repairs - Within 24 Hours. Any repairs required in order to avoid a danger to health, risk to the safety of residents or serious damage to buildings or residents' belongings. For example: gas appliances, no hot water, broken toilet, external door locks.
- Priority Two: Urgent Repairs - Within five Working Days. Repairs to defects that materially affect the comfort or convenience of the residents. For example: leaking roofs, minor mice infestation or minor cracks in windows.
- Priority Three: Non Urgent Day To Day Repairs - Within 28 days. Repairs that are not covered by the above two categories, for example, guttering, replacing window frames.
Send a follow up letter stating that repairs are still outstanding. Depending on the nature of the disrepair, give the landlord/agent between 24 hours and 36 hours to respond. If they fail to respond contact our Advice team for support. We may be able to contact the landlord or letting agent for you. We can also advise on further actions you could take, which could include getting the work done in default, or involving Environmental Health.
It is not advisable to simply stop paying rent, or to move out of the property because the landlord/agent could take legal action against you for rent arrears.
Using the Environmental Health Department
Environmental Health Officers will investigate complaints of disrepair which include:
- Gas and electrical safety
- Fire safety and means of escape
- Problems of damp or other serious disrepair issues.
- You should always contact the landlord in the first instance.
In some cases Environmental Health Officers have the power to serve legal notices on the landlord/agent requiring works to be carried out within certain time limits and may also be able to prosecute the landlord/agent if the works are not done.
You should always treat the property in a 'tenant like manner'. This means:
- Report all disrepair, in writing, promptly. If further damage is caused because a repair was not reported, for example if you do not report a leak from the roof and this goes on to damage the ceiling and/or walls, the landlord/agent may charge the household for any excess damage.
- Take all reasonable steps to ensure that you and your guests do not damage the property.
- Undertake minor day to day maintenance, for example unblocking sinks and replacing light bulbs.
- Keep the property clean, including the cooker, fridge and freezer, toilet, and bath/shower area.
- Protect the property during periods of absence - for example if you have a burglar alarm make sure you use it and that all doors/windows are secure when you leave the property.
- In the winter ensure that the heating is kept on a low heat to prevent the pipes from freezing.
- Keep the garden and bin areas clean and tidy. All rubbish should be carefully bagged and put in the rubbish bins provided. Environmental Health have the power to fine residents for untidy garden/bin areas. If you have excess rubbish contact the Council who may remove it free of charge.
Keeping your room and living areas in a good, clean condition reduces minor damage from occurring, and keeps you and your housemates in good stead with your landlord/letting agent.
Condensation is caused when moisture meets a cold surface (such as a window) or a surface that gets little air (e.g. behind a wardrobe) and water droplets are formed. The water then seeps into windows and/or runs down the walls, which in turn can cause wallpaper/paint to peel and create mould patches. It is your responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent condensation.
- Close the kitchen door when cooking and if possible keep a window open. Use extractor fans where provided.
- Cover pans when boiling.
- When having a bath/shower keep the door shut. Open a window/use extractor fan (if provided) and keep the bathroom door shut when you have finished.
- Dry clothes outside or in a room with an open window.
- Try and keep heating on a low constant temperature, increasing the heat as and when required. This will eliminate the cold surfaces. This would not necessarily increase your bills because a room is more expensive to heat from cold.
- Move large items away from walls i.e. bed/wardrobe.
If you have suffered financial loss, inconvenience or damage to your property because of disrepair, you may have a case to claim a rent rebate from the landlord/agent. Examples could be loss of cooking facilities for more than 24 hours, having to move out of your bedroom or have lost the use of the lounge due to serious or extensive disrepair, loss of facilities such as a shower, bath or hot water.
Discuss the issue of a rent rebate with the landlord/agent first. You need to clearly state why you feel compensation is warranted, giving specific examples. If an agreement cannot be reached, you could deduct the money from your rent. However you must be aware that if the landlord/agent disagrees with your claim, they could take the money from your deposit, or take action in the small claims court to recover any shortfall in rent. Seek advice from our Advice team before taking the step of deducting rent.