Due to the high cost of buying property in the UK, renting has been on a steady rise in the last decade. Estimates indicate that there are more than 26 million home renters and that two out of every five households rent their homes, from private landlords or as social housing. Despite this large number, many are not familiar with how much responsibility falls on them as tenants.
You might be wondering, ‘Am I, as a tenant, responsible for repairs?’
Well, according to the law, the responsibility of making house repairs falls on the landlord. Tenants have the right to file for a disrepair claim if a landlord blatantly refuses to make repairs to their dwellings.
If you find yourself facing a situation where your home (or another type of rented accommodation) has become uncomfortable, unsafe, or unhealthy due to damages that your landlord refuses to have fixed, you could claim compensation.
In this guide you’ll find out:
What you and the landlord are legally required to do when it comes to repairs. What is covered under the house disrepair law, when you can claim compensation for housing disrepair and the key steps you should take a to make a successful housing disrepair claim.
What Are The Duties Of A Landlord?
The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 outlines all duties of a landlord (private or otherwise). In the case of repair obligations, a landlord is responsible for:
- Fixing any wear and tear related damage to all external structures of the building (roof, walls, windows, chimney, and other external fittings/pipes)
- Maintaining and repairing drains including all sanitary appliances such as sinks, toilets, & bathrooms
- Repairing and keeping all house installations for the supply of electricity, gas, and water (including water heating system) in proper working order.
- Keeping communal areas such as stairways in a block of flats, terraces, gates, fences, etc., in good condition
Do Tenants Have Any Maintenance Responsibilities?
While you may not be the owner of the house you are renting, some responsibilities do fall within your domain as an occupant of that property. These include:
- Keeping the interior in a clean, neat, and presentable condition
- Preventing damage to the property
- Covering the cost for minor maintenance tasks such as changing light bulbs, or replacing worn-out fuses, toilet seats, door handles or locks, as well as stoppers/chains for baths and sinks etc
- Using all house fixtures and fittings in their proper form
When Can You Make A House Disrepair Claim?
Given that a landlord is responsible for making repairs in and around the house, refusing to do so is a direct violation of your rights and a breach of their legal obligations.
In the event of such a situation, you may have the right to pursue legal action and seek compensation through a disrepair claim. With that said, being guilty of the following will eliminate your chances of bringing forth a successful claim.
1) Failure To Inform Your Landlord
The whole basis of a housing disrepair claim is to show that your landlord refused to provide necessary repairs. Therefore, you cannot make a successful claim if you never told your landlord about the situation in the first place! In addition, the law also requires that you give your landlord ample time to make the needed repairs before filing a disrepair claim.
2) Handling Repairs Yourself
Attempting home repairs on your own when living in a rented house is risky. If things go wrong (e.g. if an attempt to fix a slow draining sink results in a burst water pipe), you will be held liable for the damage and therefore have to shoulder the cost of having the necessary repair work done.
3) Being Directly Responsible For The Disrepair
As much as landlords have the legal obligation of repairing damages, tenants are also charged with the responsibility of caring for the rented property. So, if what needs fixing occurred as a result of negligence or reckless behaviour on your part, you will likely not qualify for a disrepair claim.
What Is Compensated In A Housing Disrepair Claim?
Housing disrepair claims often fall into the following categories.
1) Damage To Building Structure
Visible damage to the structure of a building that the landlord refuses to correct may create grounds for a disrepair claim.
For example, this can include a leak in the roof, the presence of mould or damp, vermin infestation in the walls, and even minor issues such as a dislocated floorboard or broken step on the staircase.
2) Damage To Personal Items
Compensation for personal belongings damaged because of disrepair can be claimed under housing disrepair. For example, a burst bathroom pipe that ends up flooding your clothes or other personal belongings, or a fault with electrical wiring that leads to breakdowns of your washing machine or damage to your TV.
3) Personal Injury
You will have a strong case for a disrepair claim if the lack of timely repairs leads to health issues or physical harm. In this case, your lawyer may also decide to file for additional compensation via a personal injury claim against your landlord.
What Steps Should A Tenant Take In The Event Of Damage?
A court will only consider or award disrepair compensation if there is proof you tried to negotiate the matter with your landlord first.
Because of this, there is a due process to follow before filing the claim. Missing any one of the following steps can result in the court throwing out your case and worse, ordering you to reimburse your landlord the amount they spent going to court.
1) Inform Your Landlord
Most tenants go for an informal verbal notification when there is damage to the property. However, it is better to deliver the complaint in writing and keep a record of all correspondence between you and your landlord.
It leaves the door open for a disrepair claim in case your landlord refuses to carry out timely repairs or executes low-standard repairs. Sending photos or videos of the damage when notifying your landlord will also work to help your case if it goes that far.
2) Wait For The Legal Allocated Time To Pass
By law, landlords have 21-days from the date of knowing about the property damage to fix anything brought to their attention. For severe problems, though, the legally permitted wait time is 2-weeks. The law also allows your landlord to come into your home to assess the damage. However, they must provide a 24-hour notice to the tenant before showing up.
In the event of significant damage that puts your safety or health at risk, and the landlord is refusing to act, you can pay a professional to have it fixed and then sue for compensation.
3) Make Another Attempt
Once the 21 days have passed, you can proceed to take legal action against your landlord. However, keep in mind that going to court can be time-consuming and costly. So, it would not hurt to make a second attempt and write to your landlord again. You can even put more pressure on your landlord by indicating you will have no option but to take further action if no help is forthcoming.
There is also the option of turning to your local council, which has more legal authority over your landlord and can intercede on your behalf.
4) Take Legal Action
When everything else fails, you can then pursue your right to file for a disrepair claim. A qualified legal professional will be able to help you with all the legal matters, the collection of necessary evidence, as well as the computation of how much compensation to request. You are welcome to contact an experienced claims advisor here for a no-obligation chat, if you wish, or speak to your solicitor to review your case.
Housing Disrepair Claims: FAQ
1) My Landlord Is Refusing To Do Repairs – What Should I Do?
All landlords have a responsibility to ensure their tenants are living in a safe and well-maintained property. This applies to private rentals and to those in social housing.
You must give your landlord the opportunity to assess and fix the repairs by notifying them in writing of the problem, but if they refuse to answer or carry out the necessary repairs, you may be able to claim compensation.
This could help you get the repairs you need and financial compensation for a breach of contract.
2) Can I Claim Compensation For Damp And Mould?
Yes. If the damp and mould in your rented property has caused you health problems or to be financially out of pocket due to damaged goods, you may be able to claim compensation.
All landlords must ensure their rental property is habitable, safe and well-maintained. This applies to both private and social housing tenants.
3) Can I Start A Disrepair Claim Against A Private Landlord?
Yes, you can. All landlords have a responsibility to ensure their rented property is well maintained and safe for their tenants.
If they fail in this duty and refuse to carry out necessary repairs, you may be eligible to claim compensation.
4) My Landlord Is Not Fixing The Hot Water – Can I Claim Compensation?
Yes, dependant on the circumstances. The landlord is responsible for ensuring tenants have access to hot water and heating (providing the tenant has not damaged the boiler).
You should let them know straight away if there is a problem and give them the chance to fix it. However, if the landlord refuses to answer or take action within a reasonable timeframe, you may be able to seek compensation.
5) How Long Can A Landlord Leave You Without A Boiler?
Whilst there is no fixed timescale, a reasonable landlord would be expected to treat a boiler breakdown as an emergency issue and get a qualified engineer to check the appliance within 24-48 hours of being notified of the problem.
Then any necessary repairs or replacement carried out in a matter of days. If they refuse and you are left without hot water or heating for a long period, you may be able to claim compensation.
6) My Landlord Is Not Fixing The Heating – Do I Have To Fix It?
No. If you live in a rented property, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix any problem with the heating. They have a duty to make sure their tenants live in a safe, habitable and well-maintained property.
You should notify them in writing of any issue and give them time to respond and take action, but if they do not answer or refuse to fix the heating, you may be eligible for compensation for breach of contract.
7) How Long Do Landlords Have To Fix Problems?
Whilst there is not usually a set timeframe in which a landlord must fix a problem, they are required to respond to a written repair request from a tenant within 14 days.
However, some issues are more urgent than others so, for example, a broken boiler should be assessed within 24-48 hours from notification to the landlord wherever possible.
If a landlord refuses to reply or carry out repairs, you may be eligible to seek financial compensation.
8) My Rented Property Is Uninhabitable – How Do I Prove It?
The key is to have as much photographic and recorded evidence as possible. If the state of the property has led to or exacerbated any chronic health issues, ensure your GP is aware, so that your medical records will document the likely cause.
All landlords must make sure their rental property is safe, habitable and well-maintained. If they fail to do so, you may wish to consider claiming compensation.
9) My Rented Property Is Unsafe What Are My Options?
Number one is to make the landlord aware of your concerns in writing, requesting the necessary repairs. Be clear on what the problems are and why you believe the property is unsafe.
Tenants have the right to live in a safe and habitable home and it is the landlord’s duty to ensure the rental property meets those standards. If they refuse to reply or carry out the required repairs, you may be able to claim compensation.
In extreme cases, the landlord may have to provide you with alternative accommodation whilst making the property safe again.
10) What Makes A House Legally Uninhabitable In The UK?
Several factors could label a rented property ‘uninhabitable’.
Issues such as extensive damp, lack of natural light and ventilation, poor stability of the property, no water supply, or drainage and sanitary problems, are all conditions that could be considered uninhabitable.
Dwellings should also have access to hot water and heating, facilities for the preparation & cooking of food, and for the safe disposal of waste water.
Landlords should ensure all necessary repairs are carried out in a timely manner or they could be sued for compensation by their tenants.
11) What Are Tenants’ Rights If A Property Is Uninhabitable In The UK
The first thing is to make your landlord aware of the problems and clearly state in writing why you believe the current condition of the property makes it uninhabitable.
There are certain defined problems, including drainage or sanitary issues, no water supply, or extensive damp for example, that qualify under this term.
Remember, landlords should also ensure you have access to hot water and heating and carry out any necessary repairs in a timely manner. If they do not engage with you to solve the issues, you may be able to claim compensation.
12) How Long Can A Landlord Leave You Without Water In The UK?
If you have no water supply at all, this is an emergency situation that your landlord must resolve immediately, as this comes under the banner of ‘uninhabitable’ living conditions.
Similarly, if you are without hot water because of a broken boiler, a reasonable landlord should seek to get the problem assessed within 24-48 hours of being notified and repaired within a few days wherever possible.
If you are without water for a long period or your landlord will not fix the problem, you could be eligible for compensation.
13) How Long Can A Landlord Leave You Without Heating In The UK?
Whilst there is no specific timescale, a reasonable landlord would be expected to acknowledge your call or letter and arrange for a qualified engineer to assess the boiler within 24-48 hours and arrange for the repair or boiler replacement within a matter of days.
If this happens in winter or you have young children, your landlord should consider it an emergency and act appropriately. If they will not engage or fix it for you, then you may be able to claim compensation.
How Much Can I Get From A Disrepair Claim?
Generally, the compensation you could receive will depend on the type of damage (i.e. what it will cost to repair) and any financial losses brought on by the disrepair.
Additional compensation for any inconvenience brought on by the long state of disrepair may also factor into the overall amount awarded.
Inconvenience, in this case, is based on a loss of enjoyment in your tenancy experience. For example, this can include something like being forced to go without a TV for months, due to an electrical fault, or having to take cold showers because of a broken heating system. Multiplying the number of months spent in disrepair by monthly rent is the formula for determining the compensation amount owed due to inconvenience.
To Sum Up: Housing Disrepair Claims
A home is a home, whether rented or owned. You should not have to accept living in a rented accommodation that is poorly maintained by your landlord. A valid request for repair should not be ignored or denied, as tenants are entitled to live in a safe, healthy and comfortable environment.
If you believe you have a valid claim for housing disrepair, get in touch with a claims advisor or qualified solicitor to get your case evaluated.
Even if you feel partially responsible for the damage or have not completely followed the due process needed to file a disrepair claim, talking to a solicitor may still be worthwhile. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you on what to do next, to maximize the chances of winning a claim or possibly find a way to avoid the hassle of going to court.