If you keep on top of property maintenance, there shouldn’t be too many unexpected repairs to worry about. But when things need fixing, it’s important to arrange for issues to be inspected and necessary repairs to be carried out as soon as possible. Leaving problems for too long is a sure-fire way to see them not only get bigger but more problematic and expensive to fix.

But knowing whose responsibility it is to maintain and repair a home when the property is rented can be a minefield both legally and morally and can leave tenants banging their head against the wall.

In this article, we’ll be digging into this tricky topic in more detail as well as looking at what tenants can do to ensure their home is kept in tip-top condition for the duration of their tenancy. On top of this, we’ll also discuss how a tenant can complain if they encounter a landlord refusing to repair a property.

What repairs are the responsibility of my landlord?

Your landlord is legally bound to keep the utilities of a property in working order, make sure the tenants can heat the property effectively and keep it free from hazards. If there’s anything that affects damp, heat and safety, then the landlord must repair it as soon as possible, usually within 14 days of a tenant contacting them (although this can vary depending on the severity of the problem).

Any landlord not doing repairs within a reasonable timescale or refusing to repair a property may face complaints to the local council and they may find themselves prosecuted and/or fined.

On top of this, landlords are responsible for the following maintenance and repair tasks:

  • Issues with the intrinsic structure of the property. This can include walls, roof, doors, and windows.
  • Damage and maintenance of the plumbing infrastructure, including sinks, pipework, baths and toilets.
  • Damage and maintenance of the electrics of a property, including wiring and fuse boxes. This doesn’t include repairs to electrical items owned by the tenant, such as television sets and white goods.
  • Damage and maintenance of the heating and hot water system of the property. This includes any related plumbing and boiler systems.
  • The safety of gas and electrical appliances. It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure any scheduled maintenance or safety checks are performed at regular intervals.
  • Damage or maintenance to chimneys or ventilation systems.
  • Damage caused by vandalism or other external factors.

If your home is damp, your landlord might not be responsible. It depends on the type of damp in the property and what caused it. Things like damaged pipework or faulty taps would be your landlord’s responsibility, but things like condensation would not. For a guide to the damp issues, check out this article on YourMove.

On top of the responsibilities set out in law, a landlord will have to complete any repairs or maintenance tasks that are included in the tenancy agreement.

What if my home is unsafe to live in?

If your home isn’t safe to live in, it might be classified legally as ‘unfit for human habitation’. Unsafe areas don’t always stop at your property boundary and can include shared parts of the building, like entrance halls or stairs.

While classifying ‘unfit for human habituation’ is difficult, the following issues generally fall under this category:

  • The property has a serious problem with damp or mould.
  • The property has an issue with heat regulation–for example, it gets too hot or cold.
  • The property has too many people living in it. This is often the case in shared accommodation where the landlord has oversubscribed tenancy.
  • The property is infested with pests like mice, rats or cockroaches.
  • The property doesn’t have a safe, clean, or drinkable water supply.
  • The property has faulty or dangerous electrics.

Issues with habituation don’t have to be present from the beginning of a tenancy and can occur at any time. It’s also important to note that your landlord has no responsibility for issues if you caused the problem by:

  • Not looking after the properly in an acceptable manner. This can include things like failing to use and extractor fan when having a shower or overloading electrical outlets.
  • Doing something unreasonable to the property – for example, leaving a chip pan on when going out or failing to turn a tap off after a bath.

What is a reasonable length of time to wait for a landlord to complete repairs?

You should report any repairs to your landlord as soon as you notice them. Details of how to report repairs is often set out in the terms of a tenancy agreements. It doesn’t matter if the problem is small or you’re not too concerned about getting it fixed. If you don’t report the repair when it is noticed, it could get worse and cost more to put right. This can form grounds for eviction from the property.

The easiest way to report a repair is to tell your landlord in person or by telephone. The problem with this is the lack of paper trail if issues occur. We would recommend that you follow up any verbal conversation with your landlord with a letter or email. If you decide to go the old-fashioned paper route, remember to keep a copy of correspondence in case you encounter a landlord not doing repairs or, worse, a landlord refusing to do repairs.

Landlord refusing to do repairs – what can I do?

If you encounter a landlord not doing repairs or refusing to fix issues, the first thing we would advise any tenant is to keep paying rent. If you don’t, you may find yourself getting into arrears and the landlord could evict you.

If the problem is affecting your health or safety, you can report your landlord to the Environmental Health department at the local council. This is often done if the property is unsafe or making you ill. The most common reasons reporting a landlord to Environmental Health are:

  • A gas leak at the property
  • A broken step or staircase that leads to the property or between stories of the building.
  • The property has a serious mould or damp issue.
  • The property has a pest infestation such as mice, rats, or cockroaches.
  • The property has a leaking pipe or faulty electrics.

Most councils will require you to send details of the problem to them in writing, including when the problem started, its severity, as well as the contact you’ve had with the landlord regarding the issue.

Contact details of all local councils can be found at GOV.UK.

Once a council receives a complaint, an Environmental Health Officer will be tasked with looking at the property and deciding what course of action the landlord should take. In many cases where the health, safety, or wellbeing of the tenant is at risk, they can order a landlord to do repairs and set a time frame for completion.

What if I have been issued with an eviction notice?

One important thing that both tenants and landlords need to understand is the retaliatory eviction law passed under the 2015 Deregulation Bill. This law states that any landlord who issues a Section 21 notice to evict a tenant after they have made a formal complaint about the condition of the property may be unable to enforce the eviction if they haven’t made necessary repairs to the property. This change was enacted to protect tenants from eviction after they’ve made a complaint to a landlord.

What are my responsibilities as a tenant?

As a tenant, you will be responsible for minor repairs to the property and its associated appliances. Your responsibilities can include things like:

  • Repairs to non-essential items that you have damaged.
  • The responsibility to keep the property reasonably clean (although again, there is no definition of ‘reasonably clean’).
  • Safety checks on any electrical appliances you own.
  • Keeping gardens and other outside areas in a reasonable and safe to use state.
  • Minor maintenance tasks such as changing smoke alarm batteries or light bulbs.

It’s important to note that failure to follow your responsibilities as a tenant can lead to the landlord issuing a Section 21 notice and evicting you from the property.

Useful Links

Local Council Contact Details – GOV.UK

A Guide to Mould and Damp Responsibilities for Tenants – YourMove

Citizens Advice Hub for Rental Property Repairs –  Citizens Advice

Government Portal for Repairs to Rented Properties–GOV.UK

Landlord and Tenants Responsibilities for Repairs–Shelter.co.uk