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Renters: Your rights to ask for repairs

Published 12 November 2016 by

If you’re a renter in a private property, it can be infuriating when something goes wrong in your property. Whether the heating’s off, the water’s not working or there’s damage to a wall, you might not be sure whether to you or your landlord has to fix it.

Repairs in a privately rented property can either be the landlord or the tenant’s responsibility – it depends on what’s needs fixing. Let’s take a look at your right to repair if you’re renting and what you can do if your landlord doesn’t do what they should.

What’s broken?

For private tenancies, your landlord legally has to maintain certain things in your property. You get this protection thanks to section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which states your landlord has to carry out basic repairs on your flat or house. They should sort out any repairs in a reasonable time.

But your landlord only has to fix or look after certain things – anything that relates to the structure of the building. This includes the basics like your walls, windows, foundations, guttering, roof and any external doors. It’s also any fixed features like your sinks, baths, toilets and any pipework. Any electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators or fitted heaters are also your landlord’s responsibility to maintain.

You should let your landlord or letting agent know about the problem by calling them and follow this up with a letter if possible. That way, if you’re waiting a long time for the work, you’ve got evidence of this.

Your landlord might want to come over to see what needs doing or send someone over to do the work. They should give you 24 hours’ notice that they’re coming over – they shouldn’t just turn up on your doorstep. And your landlord should never access the property while you’re not there.

What you have to repair

But your landlord doesn’t have to fix everything in the property – it’s your responsibility to look after certain things. You’ll have to do any little repair jobs yourself like changing light bulbs or fuses. You’ve also got to look after your home properly – this includes keeping it clean and not damaging anything.

If you or any of your visitors break something in the property, you should tell your landlord about this. They might do the work for you but charge you for this or they might let you sort it out yourself. And if any of your appliances break – like a washing machine or fridge you bought – it’s up to you to fix them or buy new ones.

Your tenancy agreement might say you have to take care of some other repairs, like painting any walls yourself – make sure you check this to be sure.

What if they won’t do it?

Most landlords will stick to their responsibilities and carry out repairs as needed. But if they won’t, there are a few things you can do.

You should always try to get any problems sorted out with your landlord first so make sure you follow up your first letter with a second, and try calling them to see if they’re getting through. But if they still don’t respond or won’t do the work, you can take further action.

Get in touch with the environmental health team at your local council and tell them about the problems. They can speak to your landlord and force them to do the work. If this doesn’t work, you might be able to apply to a court for compensation. This will only be the case if the damage to the property has affected your belongings, made you ill or caused you any other inconvenience.

Generally, you won’t have to go to these extremes to get work done and it might even be the case that if you tell your landlord you’re speaking to the council, this encourages them to carry out the repairs.

If you’re a local authority tenant, the rules are a bit different. Check out our blog to see what the Right to Repair scheme means for you.

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