Living in rented accommodation, whether renting from a private landlord, local council or housing association, can come with its own set of challenges and responsibilities particularly in the area of maintenance and repairs.
Housing disrepair is unfortunately a very common problem across the UK, and in some cases, this can be caused by a lack of understanding by both parties on who’s responsible for what in terms of repairs.
As a tenant, understanding what your landlord is responsible for is essential to ensure a safe and comfortable living environment. In this blog post, we will explore the key duties of your landlord regarding repairs in a rental property and provide guidance on how to seek help if you find yourself dealing with disrepair issues.
Landlord’s general responsibilities
Before we dive into the specific repair-related responsibilities of a landlord, we need to understand the general obligations they have towards their rental properties.
In the UK, landlords have an overarching responsibility to ensure their properties are habitable and meet minimum health and safety standards outlined in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
This means that if their property is deemed to be unsafe for human habitation due to anything in the realm of a structural hazard or fault, they are legally obliged to repair the issue.
Landlord repair obligations
It’s important to first clarify that landlords aren’t responsible for the maintenance of everything within the home, but we’ll talk about your responsibilities as a tenant later on.
However, as outlined in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, your landlord is responsible for repairs to:
- The property’s structure – including walls, windows and doors.
- The property’s exterior – including roofs and gutters.
- Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains.
- Heating and hot water systems, including boilers, central heating and fires.
- Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation. This includes an annual gas safety check.
- Electrical wiring. This includes a periodic electrical safety inspection.
- Anything that is damaged as a result of repairing the above items. (Such as if a roof leak damages internal plaster and decoration.)
In all of the above cases, the landlord cannot ask the tenants to cover the cost of the repairs.
This full list of repairs is legally binding regardless of what your tenancy agreement says i.e. if your landlord has attempted to intentionally exclude them, they are still responsible under the law. However, your individual agreement may also lay out any additional responsibilities for the landlord so it’s worth checking the papers you signed.
Landlord repairs in HMO’s and flats
In cases of houses in multiple occupations (HMO) and flats, this standard list of responsibilities may differ.
- HMO – the landlord will also be responsible for additional repairs that relate to fire safety, waste disposal and exterior areas.
- Flats – if the rental property is a flat, some repairs will be the responsibility of the building freeholder as opposed to the landlord. These will vary depending on the lease agreement but usually relate to communal areas (outside and inside), and the exterior of the building.
Lines of miscommunication can often occur when tenants aren’t aware of the maintenance and repairs that aren’t the landlord’s responsibility.
As a tenant, it’s your duty to ensure:
- The inside of the property is regularly cleaned and kept to a livable standard.
- Rubbish and waste material are disposed of promptly and correctly.
- Routine garden maintenance is performed, such as cutting the grass and weeding.
- Any minor maintenance is addressed i.e. replacing lightbulbs or smoke alarm batteries.
- Repairs to any tenant-owned furniture or belongings are the responsibility of the tenant.
- There is no damage caused to the property by the occupants or any visitors.
If there are any repairs required which would typically be the landlord’s responsibility but are due to the negligence of the tenant, then the landlord is entitled to charge for covering the repair costs.
How long does a landlord have to do the repairs?
Now, this is where things can become frustrating for tenants, as there’s no exact timeframe for the repairs to be carried out.
The law states that the landlord should carry out repairs ‘within a reasonable time’ of being informed about the issue, but doesn’t specify how long this period is. This will depend on how serious the issue is and if it’s a threat to the tenant’s health.
For any urgent repairs, you have the right to expect your landlord to address them in a timely manner, but anything minor can take a lot longer.
Of course, as the tenant you have a duty to report the issue to your landlord as soon as you notice it in order to instigate the repair process. After all, a landlord can’t repair something that they aren’t aware of so make sure it’s reported and keep evidence of this along with photographic evidence of the issue should you need to progress things further. It is recommended that you should keep reporting the issue(s) to your landlord at least once a month.
If the landlord is ignoring the repair request or refusing to take action, then you are within your rights to take legal action and claim for housing disrepair.
Problems with your landlord not doing repairs?
If you’re a tenant who’s been battling with your landlord to repair your property with no success, filing a housing disrepair claim is your best option. By failing to make the necessary repairs, your landlord isn’t meeting their legal responsibilities and is therefore in breach of contract with you.
The housing disrepair claim process can not only help to get the necessary repairs carried out but can also get you compensation for the distress and inconvenience you have endured during the period of time you have lived with the defects in your home.
Here at FDM Solicitors, we understand the frustration that many tenants in this situation face. If you live in social or council housing, we can fight your corner and drive a successful case forward.
Our housing disrepair claims process operates on a no-win, no-fee basis, so you have nothing to lose. You can start your housing disrepair claim online or if you would prefer to chat to someone over the phone, call us for some free advice on 0333 360 1724.