What can I do if my landlord is refusing to carry out repairs?
|Published: 22nd September 2020 19:11|
As a tenant you are expected to treat the property you are renting with respect, pay your rent on time and follow the guidelines of the tenancy agreement. It can be frustrating therefore, if you keep to your side of the bargain but the landlord neglects their responsibilities.
Property repairs are the responsibility of the landlord, but sometimes these can be neglected.
Your landlord's responsibility
Your landlord is responsible for most of the repairs in your home. This includes repairs to your roof, walls, guttering, drains, electrical wiring, external doors, water pipes, heating systems, and sanitation items such as toilets, baths, and sinks.
Any structural repairs that are required are the responsibility of the landlord, unless they were caused by the tenant. If any repair work caused damage to internal decoration, the landlord is responsible for putting it right.
As a tenant you are responsible for small maintenance jobs in the property, such as repairing bathroom sealant and changing light bulbs and fuses. You will be responsible for any damage that you cause to the property. The cost of repairing this damage is usually taken from your deposit at the end of your tenancy, but this shouldn't normally include wear and tear. You are responsible for your own furniture and appliances.
Your written tenancy agreement should outline who is responsible for which repairs. However, your landlord has a number of legal responsibilities for the maintenance of the property, whatever is written in the tenancy agreement.
Central Heating & Gas Safety
Landlords must ensure that gas boilers and appliances are checked every year by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer. If you are a private tenant, your landlord must install a carbon monoxide detector. A smoke alarm must also be installed on each floor.
Your landlord is responsible for keeping the electrical wires in safe working order. They are also responsible for maintaining any electrical appliances that have been provided in the property.
Roof & Gutters
Your landlord is responsible for ensuring that gutters are kept clear. Drains, pipes and chimneys must be kept safe and in a state of decent repair. Chimneys should be kept clean, and ventilation maintained.
Damp can cause health problems, so it needs to be identified and dealt with. If a tenant finds damp in the property, they should inform the landlord. The landlord should then conduct an inspection of the property and ensure that remedial work is carried out.
Reporting problems to your landlord
You should report any damage to the property to your landlord or letting agency as soon as possible. This is often a condition of your tenancy agreement.
Repair versus improvement
While your landlord is responsible for keeping the property in a good state of repair, they do not have to undertake any improvements to the property.
It can sometimes be difficult to ascertain what is a repair and what might constitute an improvement.
- Repair: this is a fix to an existing fitting or fixture, which makes it work or safe to use again.
- Improvement: this is a new fixture or fitting that replaces an old one that was still safe, or in working order.
You can see these definitions allow for some potential wriggle room. If you are living in a rented property with a rotten wooden window frame, your landlord would be responsible for repairing the window frame. They would not be compelled to replace that window frame with modern double glazing.
What if your landlord refuses to repair your property?
If the property you're renting needs repairing and you've established that your landlord is responsible, you have a legal right to expect those repairs to be carried out.
What if the repair work isn't undertaken? If you've reported the problem, explored other options to resolve the issue but are still not getting anywhere, then it may be possible to take the issue to court.
This should always be a last resort, and you will need to ensure you have sufficient evidence, but it can offer a means to get redress, particularly when the neglected repair work has resulted in injury or ill health.
What can the court do?
The court can force the landlord to undertake the repair work by making:
- a specific performance order
- a mandatory injunction
The court also has the power to declare that the tenant can do the repairs themselves, with the costs being deducted from future rent.
If your landlord still refuses to carry out the work that's subject to the order or injunction they may face or fine or imprisonment. There is usually a time limit of 6 years for a tenant to seek redress through the courts.
The court can also award damages if:
- you've been injured or made ill by your landlord's failure to carry out repairs
- your belongings have been damaged or destroyed
- you've been unable to use your home in the normal way
What evidence will you need?
Before you take action, you will need to ensure that you have the necessary evidence to support your case. This includes:
- a copy of your tenancy agreement
- copies of any correspondence between you and your landlord
- photographs of what needs repairing
- a list, or photographs of any belongings that have been damaged and copies of receipts if you've had to replace damaged items
- copies of medical reports if you were made ill
- any expert evidence you might have, such as from an Environmental Health Officer or a surveyor
Before you can take court action you have to follow a procedure called the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases. This is sometimes called 'The Disrepair Protocol'.
This sets out specific procedures and timetables that need to be followed when you start a claim. It aims to help you and your landlord resolve the issue before it reaches court. The Disrepair Protocol suggests that you and your landlord should consider mediation before going to court. Under the protocol, you are required to send your landlord an early notification letter that warns them of possible court action. This is alongside having already reported the problem to your landlord and having allowed them ample time to carry out the repairs. A separate protocol needs to be followed if you sustained injuries because of a failure to carry out repairs.