We provide expert legal advice and representation to tenants whose landlords have not properly repaired or maintained their home. There are a high number of rented properties in England and Wales and, when a landlord rents a property to a tenant, they are legally obliged to ensure that certain parts are repaired and maintained.
Landlords have various responsibilities under three main pieces of legislation:
Most of a landlord’s obligations to repair and maintain a property let to a tenant are found within Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
The information below is intended to serve as a guide only and is not a finite list of disrepair that falls within a landlord’s obligations or potential obligations. If you rent a home and the issue is not listed below it may still be your landlord’s responsibility to repair it and we recommend you contact a member of our specialist housing disrepair team for free and confidential advice.
In some instances, landlords agree to accept further repairing obligations beyond the statutory minimum, but this is becoming increasingly rare. For these to be binding on your landlord, they should be stated in the tenancy agreement or a relevant supporting document. It is always prudent to check your tenancy agreement to see if your landlord has taken on any further repairing obligations. Alternatively, a member of our expert housing disrepair team can do this for you.
This includes the obvious structural external items such as the foundations, brickwork, pointing and roof, but it also includes the drains, guttering and pipes as well as things like any path or steps to and from the property.
Internally, a landlord must ensure that the plaster, floorboards, skirtings, doors and windows are repaired and maintained to a reasonable standard. Anything added onto this structural shell for decorative purposes, such as paint, wallpaper, carpet or hard flooring is the responsibility of the tenant. If, however, the décor is damaged as a result of a problem that falls under the landlord’s responsibility, such as if a carpet is damaged by a water leak, the landlord would be required to make the décor good.
The installations at the property and service media are terms used to describe the pipes or cables that take water, electricity, waste and gas to or from the property. This also includes any baths, sinks, basins, showers or other such sanitary conveniences, but not any other fixtures or fittings such as a washing machine or dishwasher.
Landlords are also responsible for ensuring that any boiler or other such item used for heating and providing hot water and or heating is kept in a good working order.
Landlords also have a duty of care to ensure that anyone who could reasonably be affected by disrepair at a property are safe from personal injury or damage to their possessions or property. This is contained within Section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 (‘DPA’).
This duty is owed to the tenant, anyone else living at or visiting the property. It requires landlords to ensure that nothing they are responsible for keeping in a state of repair poses such a threat due to being allowed to fall into disrepair. As an example, a ripped carpet that posed a tripping hazard would not fall under a landlord’s repairing obligations under the LTA and so if a visitor to the tenant’s home tripped and injured themselves the landlord is unlikely to have had a duty of care towards that visitor. If, however, a visitor tripped over disrepair to the front path such as a significant pothole, this is considered to fall under the landlord’s repairing obligations under Section 11 and so that visitor was owed a duty of care by the landlord and could have a valid claim for personal injury.
Likewise, if there was a leak of water coming from a pipe and this destroyed or damaged the tenant’s personal property such as a carpet, the landlord would be responsible for the cost of replacing it under both Section 11 of the LTA and the Section 4 of the DPA.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (‘the Homes Act’) requires landlords to ensure that the homes they let to tenants do not pose a threat to their health and safety or the health and safety of other residents or visitors to the property. This differs from the duty of care under the Defective Premises Act 1972 as to make a claim under the Homes Act, the tenant need only to prove that the issue is causing potential harm and there does not need to be an item of disrepair posing a potential risk.
For example, if poor design of a bathroom was causing black mould to form and the installation of an extractor fan would resolve the problem, the landlord would not be obliged under Section 11 of the LTA or Section 4 of the DPA to install the fan. This is because the installation of a new fan would be considered an improvement and not a repair.
As black mould is one of the prescribed hazards provided for by the Homes Act, if the tenant can produce evidence to prove that it poses a threat to their health and safety, the landlord can be required to install the fan to ensure that the tenant’s health and safety is not at risk.
Claims under the Homes Act can also be brought if the issues prevent a tenant from making full use of their home such as if a bedroom is unusable due to damp and mould provided that is caused by one of the prescribed hazards and is also a threat to health and safety.
To bring a claim for compensation, a tenant must prove that their landlord was or should have been aware of the disrepair and failed to fulfil their obligations and repair it within a reasonable time. Landlords often deny having received notice and so it is important that, when you make complaints, you keep clear records. These should include:
You should also continue to report the problem at regular intervals even if your landlord refuses to carry out the works. If they do not complete the repairs within a reasonable time, you should contact us and we will be able to advise you on how to proceed and whether you have a valid claim for compensation.
How long is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the circumstances. If you are without hot water and washing facilities, we would expect your landlord to inspect the property as an emergency and complete the repairs or works urgently. If you had an issue that did not pose a threat to your health an safety, we normally advise that an inspection should take place within around a week and that the repairs should be complete within around a month. Every case is different and so, if you believe you have endured unreasonable delays, please contact us to discuss a potential claim.
With any housing disrepair, the primary objective is to require your landlord to complete the repairs that fall within their repairing obligations, known as specific performance. Where it can be proven that the landlord had knowledge of the disrepair and failed to complete the works within a reasonable time, tenants are also entitled to compensation, known as damages.
There are two types of damages in housing disrepair claims: general damages and special damages. General damages in housing disrepair claims are normally calculated as a percentage rent reduction for the period of disrepair. Special damages are your out of pocket expenses. This includes lost wages, any relevant medical expenses, the cost of cleaning and the cost of repairing or replacing damaged items. To recover these costs a tenant must prove that they were incurred due to the landlord’s failure to comply with their repairing obligations.
Provided the landlord is a council, housing association or other such social landlord, we always work on a no win no fee basis. If your landlord is a private landlord, we may be able to assist you on a no win no fee basis depending on the specifics of the case.
If you believe you may have a claim for housing disrepair, we would be delighted to help you. Complete your details using our contact form, call 01253 858231 or e-mail Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org to start your claim today.