Responsibility for repairs
Your landlord is responsible for most major repairs to your home. This includes:
- the structure of the property, for example walls, roof, windows and doors
- sinks, baths, toilets
- pipes and wiring
- heating and hot water, for example the boiler
- the safety of gas and electrical appliances
You’ll be responsible for minor repairs, for example changing fuses and light bulbs. You’ll also have to fix anything you’ve damaged.
If your home is damp, your landlord might not be responsible. It depends on what type of damp it is - and what caused it. Download our leaflet at the bottom of this page for detailed advice about damp and condensation.
The Council does have powers to deal with disrepair but there is a procedure that must be followed and limits on what we can make landlords do.
Write to your landlord
The Council cannot get involved in cases of disrepair unless you have given the landlord an opportunity to sort out the problem. Write to your landlord as soon as you notice a problem. They are not responsible until they know about it.
If a letting agent manages the property for your landlord, write to them and they should talk to your landlord. The letting agent will be responsible for making sure your landlord does the repairs.
If your landlord's responsible for the repairs, they should do them in a ‘reasonable’ amount of time. What counts as reasonable depends on the problem. For example, a broken boiler should be fixed sooner than a leaky tap.
Do I have to let the landlord come in?
Yes. You must allow the landlord or her/his agent access to see what repairs are needed and to carry out the work. The landlord should give you reasonable notice (usually at least 24 hours), except in an emergency.
Although your landlord should arrange the repairs, you may have to let in the contractor. If your landlord wants to carry out improvements which are separate from repairs, you do not have to agree to this unless specifically stated in your tenancy agreement, so the landlord will need your permission.
You should get evidence of the problem, for example:
- photos of the damage, particularly if the problem gets worse over time
- any letters, texts, emails or notes of any conversations between you and your landlord or letting agent
- receipts if you’ve had to replace damaged items
- letters from your GP if the problem has made you ill
- a copy of your tenancy agreement
Keep any evidence you've got - you might need it later if you have to take further action to get repairs done.
Even where there is disrepair, you do not have the right to stop paying the rent. If you do, the landlord might try to evict you because you have rent arrears. The exception is where you have paid for the works yourself, but only when you have followed the correct legal procedure. Get advice from SHELTER or Citizens Advice
If you do stop paying rent, keep the rent money in a separate bank account so you can pay off the arrears immediately if you have to.
What help can the Council give?
The council can help you by assessing hazards to health and safety in your home, and making the owners deal with unacceptable risks. The council uses the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which allows the council’s environmental health officers to inspect housing conditions and deal with hazards.
HHSRS applies to every type of home whoever your landlord is, and whether you are a tenant or licensee. It deals with hazards caused by disrepair and other things such as cold, noise, pests, overcrowding, and accidents. Any hazard found in your home will be scored according to how serious the health risks of that hazard are. All homes contain certain hazards such as electricity or stairs, so it is not possible to remove every hazard.
What will the Council do after the inspection?
The environmental health officer must decide if further action is necessary. They can do one of the following:
- have an informal discussion with the landlord, pointing out what needs to be done. This may happen in less serious cases, or where the landlord is likely to take action, for example where it is a housing association.
- serve notice on the landlord. There are different types of notice that can be served.
- Hazard Awareness Notice – advising the landlord of the hazard, but leaving it to the landlord to decide what to do.
- Improvement Notice – making the landlord carry out works by a certain time.
- Prohibition Order – which stops a certain use of the property (eg storing inflammable materials), or any use of part or all of it until works are done (eg closing a hostel).
- Emergency notices – stating that the council will take emergency action at the landlord’s cost. There may be an Emergency Prohibition Order until the action has been taken.
A landlord can appeal against an improvement notice or prohibition order. There is no restriction on the grounds of appeal but the main grounds for appeal are likely to be that :
- The deficiency referred to in the notice does not amount to a hazard;
- Someone else is responsible for carrying out work at the property and the notice should be served on that person; and/or
- The works required in the notice are unreasonable/excessive etc. and alternative works should be considered
What happens if the landlord doesn’t carry out the work?
The council can prosecute the landlord, and/or carry out the work itself and charge costs to the landlord. You could also take your landlord to court for breach of contract, but we would recommend that you get advice about this as court action is generally considered as a last resort because it can be costly and time consuming.
You also have rights to take court action under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation Act) which came into force on the 20th March 2019.
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation Act)
Your landlord must make sure that your home is ’fit for human habitation’, which means that it’s safe, healthy and free from things that could cause you or anyone else in your household serious harm. For example, if your house or flat is too cold and you can’t heat it, this can affect your health. Most landlords provide a good standard of property and do repairs promptly, but some landlords do not, and this means that some tenants live in dangerous or unhealthy conditions. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, will help these tenants and make sure irresponsible landlords improve their properties or leave the business.
If rented houses and flats are not ‘fit for human habitation’, tenants can take their landlords to court. The court can make the landlord carry out repairs or put right health and safety problems. The court can also make the landlord pay compensation to the tenant.
You can use the Homes Act immediately if you signed your tenancy agreement contract on or after 20 March 2019, whether or not this meant you moved into a new property. If you signed your contract before 20 March 2019, you will have to wait until 20 March 2020 before you can use the Homes Act (unless you sign a new tenancy or your tenancy becomes a monthly rolling contract).
We would strongly advise you to get advice before making a claim as not all types of tenancy are covered by the act, and some types of disrepair may not be covered. There is also a process that must have been followed before any action can be started. For more information about the act, and the process involved in making a claim see: Guide for Tenants: Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018