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99% of Renters Unaware of Who Should Fix Their Home!

Recent research carried out by housing claim management company Veriwise has revealed that a dismal 0.06% of renters are aware of their rights and responsibilities surrounding maintenance of a rental property and their landlord’s obligation to conduct repairs on their home.

Rather worryingly this means that only one in every 1,700 tenants who which party of the rental agreement is responsible for repairing damages that occur within the rental’s grounds; totalling around 5,968 tenants  across the UK’s 10,400,000 rental properties.

These figures distressingly suggest that around 99.94% of people that choose to rent a home within the UK are not fully aware of which repairs they are liable for within the rental property, and when they are able to turn to their landlord or letting agent to arrange for the appropriate remedial work to be conducted.  This means that many tenants across the UK during a time of financial uncertainty, and predictions of a homelessness epidemic, are potentially covering costs for faulty appliances, poor wiring, broken furnishings and defective structures and even pest problems, all typically dealt with by the owner of the property. Most don't know how long an EPC lasts!

The findings further reveal that approximately 23% of private rental properties within the UK have fallen short of adhering to the minimum standards of health and safety, with almost 1 million rental homes being affected by damp.

 “Evidence suggests conditions in rented homes have nose-dived during Covid-19, as demonstrated in recent reports by Channel 4 News and ITV,” comments the founding member of online claims management service Veriswise, Ajay Jagota. “But it’s clear that across the country completely reasonable and legally necessary requests to landlords to improve living conditions in their properties are falling on deaf ears.”

“As these figures show, that problem is made much worse by the simple fact that so few renters know whose is responsible for repairing their property, and are left living with no heating, dangerous electrics, damp and mould, crumbling walls and even rats because their landlord won’t fix things”, Ajay continues; “or even paying for it themselves.”

“Renters don’t seem to realise they can use the courts to force their landlords to put things right, and that they could even be in line for compensation.”

Taking Landlord to Court Over a Lack of Repairs

Outlined in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act, landlords must ensure that the interior and exterior structure of the rental property, its installations, appliances and fixtures and maintained and repaired when appropriate, with each of these aspects of the rental being inspected over the course of the tenancy. Not only must the landlord, letting agent and their representatives be afforded a reasonable amount of time to carry out any necessary remedial work, but the tenant will also hold the legal responsibility of ensuring that they report any issued that will need the attention of workman to the landlord so the damage to the property can be addressed.

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As can be expected if the occupants of a rental property have reported repairs to a landlord and they have neglected to make any progressing in addressing the highlighted issues, the tenants may wish to take legal action. If order for the residents to take their landlord to court in response to a lack of repairs being carried out, they must ensure that they have first reported such safety issues or concerns with the rental to the landlord, with the owner of the rental property undoubtedly being responsible for the repairs that are being claimed for.

Providing that the tenants are successful with their claims the court is able to legally compel the landlord to carry out the repairs through either a specific performance, or by serving them with an injunction called a mandatory injunction. If the owner of the rental property is served with an injunction or order and still defy their duties by continuing to neglect the rental property and its repairs, they could face a significant fine and even imprisonment. It may also be possible for the occupants of the rental property to claim compensation from their landlord through the court awarding the tenants damages. Most commonly tenants will be awarded such damages if the lack of repairs to the rental property has made then ill, or caused injury, damaged or destroyed a tenants belongings, or inconvenienced the occupants by preventing them from using he property in a normal way.

Typically if a tenant wishes to take legal action against their landlord that must do so within six years. If the court proceedings specifically regard the landlord failing to adhere to the terms laid out within the tenancy agreement then this will be considered a breach of contract, meaning the six year period begins once the landlord become aware of the repairs, and proceeded to ignore their responsibility.

Can I Stop Paying Rent Because My Landlord Wont Do Repairs?

Naturally, when moving into a rental property the tenant can expect the accommodation to be safe to occupy, and will not place them in any risk during day to day use. Whilst the obligation is on the tenant to see to it that the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms found throughout the rental property are functional, alongside other, smaller aspects of maintenance such as cleaning and changing light bulbs when appropriate.

However, the more significant repairs that would regard the structure of the rental property or its appliances and furnishings will reside with the landlord or letting agent to arrange for an appropriate time for the repairs to be carried out.  With this being said, not all landlords will adhere to this responsibility and leave their tenants living with a deteriorating property that could pose a significant risk to their safety. 

In such circumstance some tenants will turn to withholding their rental payments from the landlord to ensure that the repairs are conducted, however this is poor advice that will often make the situation far worse for the occupants of the property. As mentioned, upon the signing of the tenancy agreement the landlord is held accountable the repair of the property, similarly tenants must pay the landlord the agreed upon amount of rent in exchange for possession and use of the rental until the end of the fixed term, With this in mind if the occupants of the property neglect to pay their rent, even if the landlord is dismissive of any repair requests from the tenants, it will be treated as a breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement. This will allow the landlord to serve the tenants with an eviction notice in an effort to reclaim possession of the rental property, alongside leaving the tenants with rent arrears to pay.

However, it is possible for the occupants of a rental property to essentially deduct the cost of any needed repairs from the amount of rent that they will be paying to the landlord.  The tenants must first contact the landlord detailing the area of the property that is need of remedial work, along with a description of the damage, requesting that the landlord carries out the needed repairs. If no response is given to the tenants after a reasonable amount of time they should once again contact the owner of the rental property reminding them that the repairs urgently need attending to, alongside reminding them of their obligation to attend to such matters.  It is important to note that such early communication with the landlord or letting agent should be in writing, commonly through an email, this allows for the correspondence to be later relied upon by the tenants to show the landlord’s reluctance to address the matter properly.

If after further time the owner of the rental property has still failed to contact the tenants in regards to their numerous requests for repairs to be carried out, the occupants of the rental should contact the appropriate parties to obtain three estimates as to how much the repair work will cost.  Each of these estimates should then be set to the landlord or letting agent alongside notification that if they continue to neglect their responsibilities to maintain the condition of the rental accommodation the tenants will proceed to have the work completed in the owner’s stead. This communication should also clearly detail that if the landlord fails to respond the tenants will deduct the associated costs of repairs from their future rental payments, whilst providing the landlord a deadline by which to respond, typically around two weeks.  If the owner of the rental property fails to provide the tenants with a response by the deadline then the work can proceed. The occupants of the rental are commonly advised to arrange for the workmen that offered most cost effective quote to carry out the work.  

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After the appropriate works have been carried out, the occupants of the rental property must provide the landlord with the receipt for the works. Alongside this tenants must also give the rental owner another chance to cover the costs of the work being carried out before it will affect the amount of rent they receive. If no further response is given from the landlord then the occupants of the property will pay a reduced rent, in accordance with the notice previously sent to the landlord, stating the total costs of the repairs, and how much of a deduction will be made to future rent payments to recoup this cost.

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