Here's what you need to know about problems with repairs.
Many students in private rented accommodation encounter problems with the condition of their accommodation and in getting landlords to deal with repairs.
This page highlights what you and the landlord are responsible for and what options are open to you if your landlord fails to deal with repairs.
Condition of your home when it is first let to you
If you’re renting furnished accommodation, your landlord must ensure that your home is fit to be lived in on the day they let it to you. This would also apply where the problem isn’t obvious when you first move in, but it becomes apparent during your tenancy.
Examples of a property being unfit to live in may include, it:
- Being unsafe
- Being infested with pests
- Having defective drainage or sewerage systems
- Having an inadequate water supply.
In practice, the best time to resolve any issues about repairs and the condition of a property is before you sign the tenancy agreement. If work is required it's best to get your landlord's agreement to this in writing.
What are you responsible for?
You are responsible for a number of things.
Looking after your home by using it in a 'tenant like' way
Using your home in a tenant like way generally means doing minor repairs yourself, keeping your home reasonably clean, not causing any damage to the property and using any fixtures and fittings properly.
Telling your landlord about the repairs that are needed
In most cases, your landlord isn’t responsible for repair work until they know about it, so it’s up to you to tell your landlord about any repairs that are needed. Reporting repairs is often a term in tenancy agreements too.
Providing access to have any repair work done
Your landlord or their agent, has the right to access your home to see what repair work is needed and to carry out the repairs. However, unless it’s an emergency, they must give you at least 24 hours' notice in writing.
Having a duty of care to your visitors
You must do what you can to make sure that your visitors and their belongings are reasonably safe when in your home. This only applies if you invited or allowed the visitor into your home.
What repair work is your landlord responsible for?
Your landlord is responsible for most repair work because the law, section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, implies a term on repairs into every tenancy agreement even if the agreement is not in writing.
It means that your landlord is responsible for repairing:
- The structure and exterior of your home, for example, the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors
- Basins, sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework
- Water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters.
Safety in your home
Your landlord also has specific responsibilities for gas and electrical safety, furnishings and asbestos.
How quickly does the landlord have to do repairs?
Your landlord has a reasonable time to carry out the work. There is no definition of what a reasonable time is, but things that can be taken into account include:
- How serious the disrepair is
- Whether someone is living in the property
- The availability of replacement parts.
What about appliances?
If your landlord supplied any electrical appliances, they're responsible for maintaining them and your tenancy agreement may give more information about this.
You are responsible for repairing any of your own appliances.
Your landlord is also responsible for ensuring that any gas appliances which they supplied are safe, for example, a fitted gas fire.
Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)
An HMO generally covers houses divided into bedsitting rooms with shared facilities and shared houses and flats that accommodate more than one household.
If you live in an HMO, your landlord has extra legal responsibilities on fire and general safety, water supply and drainage, gas and electricity, waste disposal, and general upkeep of the HMO.
Some HMOs also need a licence.
What happens if your landlord promised to do repair work before you moved in but didn't do it?
If your landlord told you that they'd do certain repairs or redecoration before you moved in, but didn't, it may be difficult to do anything about it. The only action you may be able to take is if the repair work falls within something that the landlord is responsible for anyway.
If you have something in writing from your landlord confirming they would do certain repairs or redecoration before you moved in, that effectively becomes a term of the tenancy. If they fail to do what they agreed to, you may be able to take action against them for breaching your tenancy agreement. However, there are some risks involved and it's best to speak to an adviser before doing anything.
What if your landlord doesn’t do anything about the repairs?
If your landlord hasn't done anything after you’ve reported the repair problem, you may decide to take other action.
However, many tenants in private rented accommodation are assured shorthold tenants and can be evicted easily without the landlord having to show any reason or ‘grounds’ for doing so. You should think about this before you take any action on disrepair.
Options for taking further action
The options open to students who are private rented tenants when dealing with disrepair are:
Asking the local authority for help:
If your landlord has failed to have repairs carried out, the Environmental Health department of the local authority can inspect your home. They may be able to force your landlord to take action if
- There's a statutory nuisance, that is, your home is in such a state that it's harmful to your health or is a nuisance, or
- There's a hazard in your home which is a risk to your health or safety following an assessment under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
Withholding your rent because of disrepair:
This can be very risky and a certain procedure must be carefully followed if you do decide to use your rent to pay for repairs.
- Offsetting your rent arrears because of disrepair. This is when your landlord is takes possession proceedings against you because of rent arrears, and there is disrepair in your home. You may be able to argue that the rent arrears should be set-off against the damages for disrepair
- Applying as homeless because of disrepair
- Moving out because of disrepair
- Taking court action because of disrepair.
If you want to take further action about disrepair it's always useful to keep records and gather evidence of the repairs and any contact with your landlord.
Common problems with renting
Find more information below:
- The tenancy agreement
- How to find out who the landlord is
- Renting from a letting agency
- Paying the rent and council tax
- The landlord’s rights of entry
- The landlord harasses the tenant
- The landlord sells your home with you remaining as tenant
- Lodgers and subtenants
- Gas, electricity and water supplies
- Furnished accommodation
- Television licences
- The landlord is not providing services
- Damage to the property
- Using the home for business purposes
- Keeping pets
- What happens at the end of a fixed term
- Landlord wants to end the tenancy
- Tenant wants to end the tenancy
- Facing eviction
- Property left in the home after the tenant leaves
- Passing the tenancy on to someone else