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Private and Local Authority: What are a Landlord's Repair Responsibilities?

Blog29 September 2020

Renting a property as a private or local authority tenant in the UK? It pays to be aware of the repair responsibilities of your landlord or housing authority. Whether your boiler needs replacing, repairing or just requires a service, these issues should be sorted out sooner rather than later.

In this blog we’ll break down the key areas that landlords have a duty to repair, as well as the legislation that gives them these responsibilities. 

We’ll also look at what you can do if your landlord fails to complete repairs to the property in a reasonable amount of time.

Understanding Your Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is basically a contract between you and your landlord, which may be verbal or put down in writing. It will generally contain details such as how much rent you need to pay your landlord and how often, which in return gives you the right to accommodation in the property where you live.

This agreement should also include any information you need about the obligations of your landlord to make repairs to the property. It’s always worth taking another look through this document, just to check what you and your landlord agreed when you signed it. 

You have certain guaranteed rights under the law, but the details of your tenancy agreement may actually give you some additional benefits. 

Informing Your Landlord of Problems

Your landlord can only make repairs to your rented property if you make them aware of the issue. It’s part of your responsibility as a tenant to let them know there’s a problem, especially if it’s something that could get worse over time. 

In return, your landlord has a legal responsibility to make repairs to anything that they agreed to fix in your tenancy agreement, as well as those issues they’re bound to fix by law. The only possible issue that could arise is if you or one of your guests have caused the damage directly.

Your Rights as a Tenant

Let’s get down to the details of keeping the home you’re renting in a good state of repair. Tenants of both private landlords and local authorities need to be aware of who’s responsible for which repairs and safety issues in their home.

Tenants of Private Landlords

Citizens Advice notes that private landlords are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of areas including:

  • The building’s structure and exterior, including but not limited to the walls, roof, and foundations of your home.

  • Everything related to plumbing and water in the building, including sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework.

  • Heating appliances and all gas or electrical systems, which must meet safety standards in a rented house, including broken boilers, water tanks, fires and radiators.

  • Any damage landlords cause when trying to make repairs to the property.

Tenants of Local Authorities

For council and housing authorities, Shelter has shared the following list of areas that your landlord is responsible for:

  • Gas appliances, heating and hot water.

  • Toilets, baths, pipes and sinks.

  • Electrical wiring and any appliances powered by electricity.

  • Communal areas including lifts and building entrances.

  • The building’s structure and exterior, including the roof, walls and windows.

It’s worth noting that your landlord is not obliged to repair any damage that has been caused by you as a tenant or one of your guests. If your landlord does make repairs to damage you have caused, it’s possible they’ll pass on the costs to you.

Keeping on Top of Safety Checks

Don’t forget that essential safety checks like having your boiler serviced also need to be carried out in a timely manner.  If any of these responsibilities aren’t mentioned in your tenancy agreement, don’t worry — a landlord’s legal obligations don’t vanish just because they aren’t featured in a written or verbal agreement.

As an example, your central heating system may have broken down, but this isn’t listed in your tenancy agreement under jobs your landlord needs to cover. Under current UK government legislation, they still need to keep it in good working order.

Legislation for Landlords’ Responsibilities

Follow these links for more details depending on whether you rent privately in England and WalesScotland or Northern Ireland.

This page from the Health & Safety Executive contains more details on the responsibilities of local authorities as social housing landlords.

The Impact of Covid-19 on Repairs to Rented Properties

If your landlord wants to pay you a visit for example to carry out a repair, they’re required to give you 24 hours’ notice. You also have the right to stay in the property while they’re visiting for an inspection or repair. 

In the current pandemic, there are also a number of other factors to consider. Guidance published by the government states that extra care needs to be taken for inspections and repairs if clinically vulnerable people are living there. It’s recommended that in these circumstances, landlords should follow all of the latest guidance on social distancing.

Because the situation around Covid-19 remains fluid, it makes sense to stay aware of details of local lockdown in your area. Depending on the situation where you live, there may be stricter rules around visiting other households, which could restrict repairs to only emergency jobs.

What if My Landlord Refuses to Make Repairs?

So what are your next steps if you’ve contacted your landlord and asked them to make improvements or repairs, given them a reasonable amount of time and nothing has been done? 

Repairs by Private Landlords

Your first step is to contact your local authority, explain your problem and make clear how it could be a risk to your health and safety. 

If the authority agrees that further action needs to be taken, they may use the The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This means they have the authority to identify, measure and protect against health and safety issues that could be caused by faults or problems.

In most cases, this will hopefully prompt your landlord to agree to make the needed repairs. However, if they still decline to take action, they may be liable to be fined or prosecuted and lose the right to let out properties. In addition, your local authority actually has the power to carry out any necessary work themselves, then send your landlord the bill. 

Repairs by Local Authorities

Things are a little more complicated if your landlord is a council or local authority. If you get in touch with the Environmental Health department, they may be able to help. However, because they’re part of the local authority, it’s likely they'll only be able to make an informal approach to the relevant department. 

If your local authority landlord’s refusal to carry out repairs is having a negative impact on your health or is causing a nuisance, you may need to take up the issue in the magistrates’ court. You can find out more about taking this action by visiting the Citizens Advice website.

Do you have additional questions about the landlords’ repair responsibilities? Get in touch with us on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook and we will point you in the right direction for more help and information on this important topic.