Some wear and tear is inevitable in a property over time, but you will be expected to look after your new home as best as you can. Check your tenancy agreement for the small print on things like whether you can redecorate or put up pictures, and ask your landlord if you’re unsure.
When it comes to repairs, it’s best not to attempt to fix things yourself (unless the tenancy agreement says you can), but to call your landlord instead. The tenancy agreement will also outline the process for reporting faults.
Your Landlords Responsibility
Your landlord has a duty to carry out repairs within a reasonable period of time (which depends on the type of repair). For example, if your toilet is not flushing then your landlord should make arrangements for this to be completed quickly. Don’t stop paying your rent while waiting for repairs to be done, as this would put you in breach of your tenancy agreement and could give your landlord the right to evict you.
Ask your landlord to keep in touch with you about dates for starting repair work, and ask for a rough idea of how long the work might take.
Your landlord has responsibility for maintaining your home, in particular:
- The property’s structure and exterior
- Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains
- Heating and hot water
- Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- Electrical wiring
- Making good any damage they cause by attempting repairs
- Your landlord or their representative is also usually responsible for repairing common areas, like staircases in blocks of flats.
As a tenant, you are responsible for:
- Looking after internal decorations, furniture and equipment. If the carpet becomes a little thin, it’s fair wear and tear; if you burn a hole in it, you’ll probably have to pay for it
- Not using appliances that you think might be unsafe
- Reporting any repairs needed or other problems that you are aware of
- Minor maintenance (such as checking smoke alarms are working, changing light bulbs)
If repairs aren’t carried out
You should contact your landlord first, keep a record of the contact you have made and the lack of response. If you’ve exhausted all options with your landlord, contact the local council’s environmental health department. You also have the right to carry them out and deduct the cost of the works from any future rent payments. However, you must give your landlord notice of your intention, obtain three estimates for the job, and go with the lowest of the three.
If repairs are significant, your landlord needs to explain what needs doing, how long it might take and what level of disruption it will cause. It may be that some of your home will be inaccessible while the repairs are taking place, in which case you may be able to get some of your rent back (‘rent abatement’) from your landlord. If you have to move out, the landlord may have to find you alternative accommodation. If you refuse, the landlord could obtain a court order to evict you temporarily while the works are carried out, or permanently. If you move out, make sure you have it in writing that you can move back in again afterwards.
Documenting the need for repairs
It’s a good idea to keep a record of the impact of any damage, and the need for repairs:
- Take photographs of the things that need repairing
- Keep belongings that have been affected (such as clothes damaged by dampness), or take photographs of them. Work out how much they are worth
- Get an expert (such as an environmental health officer from the council) to inspect your home
- Keep copies of any doctor’s notes or hospital reports, which show that your health has been affected by poor maintenance
- Keep receipts for any money you need to spend because of a problem (for example, if you have to replace clothes or furnishings because of mould, or if you have to pay for pest control or a damp survey)
- Keep copies of all correspondence between you and your landlord about the repairs