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.
What does the landlord have to repair?
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.
What to do if the repairs are not carried out?
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 seek advice from The Student Advice Centre. We can advise on further actions you could take, which could include getting the work done in default, 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.