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What Can I Do If My Landlord Won’t Do Repairs?

When starting your rental journey the rose tinted memories of the idyllic rental property can quickly fade upon the discovery of damp, mould and other health and safety hazards throughout the let. Of course, repairs can sometimes be simple but that doesn’t always guarantee they will be done!

Knowing what to do if your landlord refuses to do repairs can help tenants avoid taking recourse that could put them on a fast track to eviction. But, can a landlord refuse to do repairs? Well, some certainly try.

What Can You Ask Your Landlord to Fix?

As can be expected, one of the most common communications between landlords and their tenants regards repairs. Whilst a landlord is not responsible for attending to every broken appliance and issue that arises throughout the tenancy, it is fair to say they are liable for most issues with the property. The duty of each party in regards to the maintenance of the rental property and its contents is often a point of confusion; however, section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 clearly details these obligations.  The act demands that the structure and the exterior of a rental property, including the drains, gutters and other external pipes, must be kept ‘in repair’ by the landlord. Additionally, the property owner is required to ‘keep in repair’ the various installations, appliances that both supply and consume the rentals water, gas and electricity. Alongside this, section 11 of the act dedicates that landlords must also ensure that the installations for heating the property and supplying heated water to the rental must also be kept in working order.

With this in mind, once the tenant has moved into the rental property, if they find fault with things such as radiators, fuses or floorboards, ect; these issues can be raised with the landlord. However, these requests must be reasonable, with the distinction between repair work and improvements being often cited by property owners. This is because whilst landlords are obligated to maintain he habitability of a property, they can only be compelled to make improvements if a health and safety risk has been found in the rental, or if a tenant with a disability needs certain things accommodating for.

If the occupants of the rental decide to implement changes, or carry out work for intended improvements without first gaining permission from the landlord the repercussions could be severe; seeing the residents be charged for any costs associated with amending the change, there is a significant risk of the full tenancy deposit amount not being returned, and the landlord may also have ground to evict based on a breach of the tenancy agreement.

How Do You Let Your Landlord Know Something Is Broken?

It goes without saying that a landlord can’t be expected to conduct repairs that they are unaware of, and in most cases the property owner’s liability to address such issues with the rental won’t begin until they have been informed by the tenant.  With this in mind, it is imperative that as a tenant you inform the landlord of any necessary repair work as soon as they are seen. This is more than etiquette, as the responsibility for a tenant to reveal any needed repairs to a landlord is usually clearly stipulated in the tenancy agreement. Understandably, if the nature of the damage seems rather small or insignificant an occupant may forgo informing the landlord. However, this damage could be assign indicative or a larger problem, or if left unattended could exponentially worsen, making the sums spent to remedy the situation far higher.

Whilst informing the landlord of any needed repairs can be as simple as a phone call, it is always best to have this communication properly documented.  To this end contacting your landlord through an email or even in writing is the recommended method. This precaution will prove to be invaluable if the landlord neglects to address any issues you are trying to bring to their attention. If a dispute also arises regarding the condition of the property at the close of the tenancy period, definitely revealing a line of attempted communication will prove the landlord was aware of the damage. If the repair work is reported to the landlord verbally, it is advised to then confirm the details of the resolution again in writing.

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Who Do I Contact if My Landlord Won’t Fix Anything?

If the landlord continually fails to address any issues regarding the state of the rental property, tenants are able to report them to the local authority’s private renting team. Providing sufficient evidence is provided by the tenant, the council may warrant an inspection by their environmental health team. Upon their inspection, if they find the property to be in violation of the current standards the landlord can be ordered to conduct the appropriate repair work. If the property is considered unfit for habitation, the local authority will assist the tenants in finding temporary accommodation.

Can You Withhold Rent if Repairs Aren’t Done?

Rather understandably, after giving the landlord a, sometimes, lofty tenancy deposit, tenants rightfully expect the rental property to be in a safe, habitable state throughout the duration of the tenancy period. Some residents resort to withholding rent from their landlord because repairs are not being done, however this can empower the landlord to simply make the outcome worse for the tenants.

Essentially, when a tenant signs the tenancy agreement they are legally obliged to pay the landlord the expected amount in rent at the agreed upon frequency; if the tenant stops paying rent as retaliation for outstanding repairs this will be considered a breach of the tenancy agreement. With this I mind the landlord will be well within their rights to issue the tenant with a possession order and evict them from the property.

Can I Deduct the Cost of Repairs From My Rent?

If the landlord is becoming insistent on not carrying out any remedial work the property needs, you may consider simply doing the repairs yourself. In some instances, tenants are able to do so, deducting the associated costs of repair from their next rental payments. Whilst on face value this may seem like more hassle, the incentives for doing so are undeniable, allowing the tenant and landlord to not only avoid a lengthy legal process and fees, but often have the issue addressed much faster.

However, if you want to pursue this route the correct procedure must be adhered to in order to ensure protection from any eviction proceedings the landlord may commence in response to rental arrears.

Firstly the tenant is required to inform the property owner of any repairs that are needed whilst also giving a reasonable time frame for the work to be carried out.  If despite this notice the landlord fails to take any action to address the necessary work, the tenant should contact the landlord notifying them that they intend to do the repairs independently, unless the landlord complies with their duty.

Following this the tenant should allow the landlord more time in which to respond, and conduct the needed remedial work. If in this period the landlord continues to neglect their obligations, the tenant should search for qualified parties to carry out the repairs, sending at least three quotes to the landlord. When the quotes are sent to the landlord, once again remind them they are required to address these issues, giving them one final period in which do take charge of the repair process; with the alternative being that the costs of the work are deducted from future rental payments.

If the landlord is still silent on the matter the tenant should have the contractor that provided the cheapest quote conduct the repairs, with a copy of the invoice then being sent to the rental property owner alongside a request that the cover the enclosed costs, as per their responsibility as a landlord. Providing they further neglect to pay for the remedial work, the tenant should then reduce the amount of rent they pay in the future accordingly.

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Can You Sue Your Landlord for Not Fixing Things?

Typically considered as a last resort for tenants seeking recourse against a landlord that refuses to conduct repairs, renters are able to take their landlord to court if they neglect their obligations. If the work the tenant is requesting the landlord deals with would cost less than £1000, or the tenant is asking for under £1000 in compensation, they will be required to take the case to small claims court. In this instance, whilst the tenant would be required to represent themselves, the associated legal costs are far lower, and if the ruling is in favour of the property owner the tenant will not be obliged to cover their legal fees.  

It is important to remember that before any legal proceedings can commence the tenant must first issue the landlord with a ‘letter of claim’. This document, sometimes referred to as a letter before action” outlines the problems with the rental property that the landlord has failed to address, the time frame in which the landlord could have responded to notice of such problems, the tenants request for repairs and compensation, alongside a warning that legal action will commence imminently if the situation is not rectified.

However, if the case requires the tenant to present the claim to court the tenant will need to present documentation detailing all the communication they have had, or lack off, with the landlord regarding the issue. The occupants will also be required to produce photos of the poor conditions inside the rental property, alongside any receipts, invoices and quotes they receives through arranging the remedial works to be carried out themselves. If the tenant took the necessary steps to highlight the property with the local Environmental Health department, they will also be able to issue the tenant with a comprehensive report detailing the various hazards found in the rental.  

If the court ruling is found in favour of the tenant, the rental property owner can be forced to carry out the appropriate repairs, whilst also paying compensation to the tenant. Dependent on the severity of the landlord’s health and safety violations within the property a banning order may also be issued by the local authority.

What Are Tenant’s Responsibilities for Repairs?

Whilst the landlords themselves typically arrange or conduct repairs to the rental property, this doesn’t mean that the tenants don’t have their role to play. It goes without saying that the tenants are not expected to be conducting any remedial work themselves, however once the tenancy agreement has been signed they are liable for certain aspects of the rental property’s upkeep. Tenants are expected to carry out minor aspects of maintenance, such as changing light bulbs, batteries in alarms and cleaning the interior of the rental. Alongside this the occupants of the rental property are also required to conduct themselves in what is regarded as a ‘tenant like manner’ throughout the duration of the tenancy agreement. Whilst the can be seen as a rather vague criteria, the term was introduced of a court judgement from Lord Denning; stating “the tenant must take proper care of the place… must do the little jobs around the place which a reasonable tenant would do …must not, of course, damage he house wilfully or negligently.”

However, Lord Denning Does go on to explain that , “if the house falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time or for any reason not cause by him (the occupants), the tenant is not liable to repair it.”

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