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Baths, sinks and sanitary equipment - Repair of rented properties

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last updated: 26 May 2016 report a problem


How does the law regard the repairs to sanitation facilities

One of the most important features of any home built in the last two centuries is sanitation. The human society could not have reached its progress without our sanitary culture. It’s directly and proportionately tied with our health and life expectancy.

That said, it’s absolutely unacceptable to live in a home that doesn’t offer the basic sanitation facilities.

The Landlord and Tenant Act from 1985, requires property owners to:

“to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences) but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity”

The landlord has to provide you with running water and sanitation facilities to use it. You need to have a working toilet and a shower or a bathroom. You need to have at least one sink where you can do dishes and wash up. These facilities can come in unconventional interior layout, but they must be present or your landlord breaks the law.

Keep in mind that the Landlord and Tenant act is the official legislation of the United Kingdom. As such it overrules any tenancy agreement you might have signed with your landlord. These obligations are bestowed by the government and the landlord cannot delegate them to another person. Letting agents might be responsible for arranging the repairs, but the landlord holds the ultimate responsibility for the property.

Note that the law doesn’t require the landlord to make improvements to the facilities, only to provide working ones. And they have no obligation to provide you with additional fixtures and fittings to use the water supply.

Tenants responsibilities to the repairs to sanitation facilities

Often repairs related to drains and sanitary fittings are due bad exploitation. Tenants have to take care of daily maintenance and properly use their rented property to receive the best experience.

One of the most frequent problems you’ll encounter is blocked drains and toilets. This is almost always a tenant-caused malfunction, so you will be expected to try your hardest to fix the problem yourself. Luckily it’s not the most difficult repair, so the common methods should be just enough. If the problem persists, you need to seek assistance from your landlord. However, expect to be asked for some compensation towards the repairs.

Another problem might appear with the shower head. Hard water can accumulate a layer of limescale and overtime it can block the nozzles, causing your shower to not work properly. This is not your fault, as a tenant, but it falls in your responsibilities as daily maintenance. You can easily fix the problem by removing the shower head and soaking it overnight in a vinegar solution.

Leaking faucets are among the most common problems. Constant leaking can bloat your water bill and it’s annoying if the faucets cannot be closed or opened properly. You need to ask your landlord to change the battery. This is mostly a trivial issue, so don’t expect landlords to be running for a handyman. The good news is handy tenants can replace their faucets easily. New faucets are cheap at the hardware store and you only need a wrench to replace them.

For plumbing problems like leaking pipes or water shortages, you need to contact your landlord immediately. Bad plumbing can result in a burst and flooding. This can ruin the entire property easily.

What to look for in the viewing stage

Bad plumbing or maintenance of the sanitation facilities is a problem that often persists until a major overhaul of the entire property. The Tenants Voice advises tenants to be really careful in the viewing stage and look for relevant signs.

Watch out for the following signs:

  • Leaky taps
  • Water taps not fully closing or opening
  • Water running thin even if the taps are open
  • Visible cracks on the sink and toilet
  • Mould under and around the sanitation fixtures
  • Mildew over the metal parts and plumbing
  • Showerhead with blocked nozzles
  • Toilet not flushing completely or taking a lot of time to drain out
  • Sinks draining slow or not at all
  • Rust on the plumbing
  • Water droplets on the exterior of the plumbing
  • Water leaking from the main valve

All of these are signs there might be problems with the water supply, plumbing or fixtures. If you have suspicions, discuss them with the landlord or letting agent right away. If too many of these factors are present on the viewing, it means that the landlord probably doesn’t have intentions to renovate and improve the property. In such a case, consider if you can live with the current status of the property, since you will probably be stuck with them.

Where to go for help

For small issues like leaking taps, cracks and mildew, you will have to accept and deal with them yourself. However, lack of running water is a serious problem and your landlord must deal with the problem in very short terms. It’s highly unreasonable for your landlord to leave you without running water for more than 48 hours and that accounts for severe problems outside the boundaries in the property. Also, the landlord should not cut your water supply for any other reason than needed repairs in the plumbing or water fittings. Certainly, they cannot use this as a punishment for not paying rent or lack of other expected behaviour.

If you have no water in the property, and your landlord fails to remove the problem and adequately inform you why it’s taking so long, you need to seek help from your local council.

If you still have questions about the repair duties regarding your sanitation equipment, head over to our forums and ask our experts.

This article is provided as a guide. The Tenants’ Voice is NOT a legal advice specialist site and our content authors are NOT housing law specialists.

The Tenants’ Voice advises that Tenants act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to a tenancy but if you suspect you are experiencing an infringement of your rights that you seek advice and support from a regulated professional. The Tenants’ Voice recommends Shelter 0808 800 4444