In this article:
- 1 Introduction
- 2 What repairs you can do on your own
- 3 When to request repairs from your landlord
- 4 How to request repairs from your landlord
- 5 What to do if landlord refuses to do repairs
- 6 Where to go for help
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Repairs of your rented property depend on the cooperation of landlords and tenants. Landlords are responsible for executing or arranging the actual repairs. As a tenant, it is your responsibility to report damages and breakages to the letting agent/landlord. Effective communication is key to achieving the best and fastest results. Remember that your landlord can only fix what they know is broken, for which they rely almost entirely on you.
Continuing to use something when it is broken or not reporting a problem is negligent. You could be held responsible for the cost of repairs, especially if the problem escalates.
TTV believes the basis of a good landlord and tenant relationship should be trust, honesty and integrity. The better you get on with your landlord the more comfortable your life will be. So, using a little common sense as far as repairs are concerned will assist greatly in maintaining a good relationship with your landlord.
What repairs you can do on your own
When we say “report to the landlord”, this obviously doesn’t mean to send you on an email frenzy. There are appropriate times to call your landlord for repairs. General maintenance jobs such as changing a light bulb, fuse, or tightening the screws on a door hinge are responsibility of the tenant. Renters should be able to handle them on their own, as part of their daily maintenance of the property.
Bleeding the radiators
If your heating is not working as well as it should you don’t have to call the landlord. Heating is often not as effective if there is air trapped in the system. Before calling your landlord or letting agent you should first attempt to bleed the radiators, a task that most people are able to do if they know how.
While this isn’t a hard thing to do, please follow these instructions with caution. However, If you don’t feel confident about what you’re doing, stop and get advice from a qualified heating engineer.
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Unblocking the sink
If you blocked the sink it is your responsibility to unblock it and there are a number of ways that you can do it:
Pour half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of white vinegar down the plughole and then pour hot water down.
Pour one cup of baking soda and half a cup of salt down the plughole, leave to soak overnight and then pour two cups of hot water down.
Reshape a metal coat hanger so that you have a long straight piece of wire, form a hook at the bottom and then place into the plughole. You should be able to hook whatever is blocking the sink.
Use the good old fashioned plunger, but make sure that all the other plug-holes in the house are blocked either with a plug or some wet cloths because you need to create a vacuum when you start to plunge.
The best way to avoid blocking the sink is not to pour grease and fat down the drain.
Smoke alarm batteries
Before calling the landlord that the alarms are not working, check the batteries. You will feel pretty foolish if the landlord turns up only to find that the batteries have run out. It is your responsibility to replace the batteries in smoke alarms and regularly test the alarms.
Other repairs you can do include:
- Changing light bulbs
- Changing fuses
- Tightening screws
- Lubricating door hinges
- Replacing water faucets
Tenants cannot be held responsible for large repair jobs. These are responsibility of the landlord, unless they are caused by the tenant’s negligence to the property or their own fault.
However, if you are a qualified plumber, builder, electrician or other skilled tradesperson you could offer your services to your landlord. They may appreciate someone with your skills being on site and you can either negotiate a reduction in your rent or agree payment for your services. If you are particularly handy and something minor occurs which you can repair, help you landlord out and do it. But make sure you’ve gained authorization from your landlord. Regardless of whether you’re qualified for the job, you need the landlord’s permission to do it. Otherwise, you can fall into a nasty dispute with a particularly cheeky landlord.
When to request repairs from your landlord
If you cannot handle daily maintenance, as described above, you have no choice but to contact your landlord. There are many reasons why you cannot manage to fix something by yourself, even if it falls under your responsibilities. It’s important to know where your limits are and to not push them over. Any damage you cause, regardless of your intent, will come out of your pocket, or your tenancy deposit. At such times, it’s better to call the landlord and be a little annoying than to create a real problem out of a simple task.
You should also avoid a series of individual petty requests that cause little or no inconvenience. You can wait until several minor things are in need of attention or something more important crops up, so you save your landlord the hassle of making 10 minute runs to your property.
On the other hand, don’t be worried about contacting the landlord or letting agent to fix items that are genuinely the landlord’s responsibility. The landlord is providing repairs as a service, which is paid for with your monthly rent. You shouldn’t be shy to request that service when it is needed.
As soon as something ceases to function correctly you should request a repair. For example, if you have a wash and dry machine and the washer still works but the dryer doesn’t, there may be a general problem with the machine that could cause the washer to fail at any time. Hence it’s not recommended to continue to use the washing machine until a technician has looked at it.
If you have a leaking pipe but it is only a small leak, pretty soon it will become worse, so report it and request a repair. If the hot water is working but the heating isn’t, bleed the radiators to see if it fixes the problem. If not, report it as it is your landlord’s responsibility to maintain.
If you see damp and mould on the wall, and you know it’s not caused by bad ventilation and heating, then it’s likely water is getting through the roof or the external walls. This issue will become very serious and costly to remove over time. It’s best to treat the problem while it’s manageable. Report it to the landlord immediately. While you’re waiting for repairs, you should do whatever you can to control the spread of mould.
In an emergency situation, it’s recommended, if not mandatory, to take measures for removing the hazard and securing your safety before calling your landlord.
Such emergencies are:
- Gas leaks
- Electrical shocks
- Structural collapses
- Natural disasters
- Criminal activity
In such a case, you always need to react towards the hazard and secure your safety first. Call the relevant agencies that deal with each of the listed emergencies. Then call your landlord and get them on the spot to assist and provide the required authority for the repairs to begin.
How to request repairs from your landlord
The Tenants’ Voice advises you report all issues in writing, or via email, otherwise you will fail to meet the legal obligations of your tenancy agreement.
If you’re using email to communicate with your landlord, it’s always a good idea to add a photograph of the issue in question. Include the date and an outline of the problem. It is a good idea to follow this up with a polite phone call to make sure the message has been received.
In some cases, the letting agent will contact a trades-person and ask them to call you to arrange a suitable time to inspect the property. In this first visit, they may ascertain what work needs to be done and provide a quote to the landlord. Once approved, another visit must be arranged to the work to commence.
In other cases, you may be given the contact details of the landlord’s preferred tradespeople and be asked to contact them directly. If you were not given any contact details of who to call when repairs are needed, it would be a good idea to request some in cases of an emergency when the letting agent or landlord cannot be reached.
Sometimes, the landlord may decide to repair things personally. In any case, the repair cannot be done if you do not report it.
You must try to be responsive and flexible about allowing access for the workers that will complete the repairs. If you are difficult about visit hours and available dates, the repairs are going to take longer.
How long should repairs take?
After you have made a written request for repairs your landlord should tell you who is responsible for the work, what will be done to fix the problem and approximately how long this will take. Usually, you should receive a quick response that the landlord acknowledges the problem. The actual repair will take more time depending on the severity of the problem.
For routine repairs, such as a loose roof tile, your landlord should reply quickly to your request, but repair the issue after a month or even two. Many landlords wait until at least a couple of these problems pile up, so they can fix them all at the same time. Also, if it doesn’t disrupt your daily life in the property, it’s alright if they wait for the right moment.
If the request is urgent then the landlord should reply quickly and make arrangements for the repairs to be done as soon as possible. For example, if there is no power or water supply or there is a hole in the roof letting rain water in. Tenants shouldn’t be left with such severe problems for more than a day. They can make the property uninhabitable, and if so, the landlord is breaching the tenancy agreement. They have to make the most effort to remove the damage or provide you with alternative accommodation until that happens.
What to do if landlord refuses to do repairs
Once you have written a request for repairs to the letting agent or landlord, you need to allow “reasonable time” to act. Whether the issue is urgent or not, you can expect to have to wait as long as any homeowner for arrangements to be made for the repairs to take place.
However, if you have not had a response to your request or as little as an update on progress, then there are steps you can take. If the issue is harmful to your health or causing a nuisance, then you will need to be persistent and follow through.
Letter number two
Write a follow up letter to the landlord, referring to your initial request for repairs. It may be the case that your landlord has been busy, or is waiting for their preferred tradesman to be available to do the work. A response with an update on progress would be required at this point. However, if there is still no reply, then move on to step two.
Keep detailed records
Gather information about all of your efforts to get the repairs done, as well as any impact the issue is causing. Ensure to keep detailed records including dates in case you need to make a formal complaint further down the line.
- Photographs of what needs repairing
- Photographs of further damage caused if applicable
- Copies of letters or emails you have written to the landlord/letting agent
- Receipts for any items you have had to purchase or replace due to the issue, such as clothing or a humidifier
- Receipts for any hotels or B&B’s you’ve had to stay with because the property was uninhabitable
- Doctor’s notes if the damage has caused you or someone else in the household health issues
- Other professional bills or reports such as paying for pest control
- Copy of the tenancy agreement
- Copy of the inventory report
- Testimonials of people who can confirm and testify for the nature and cause of the damage
You want to prepare every piece of information or documents that might prove useful evidence to support your claim. You need to also gather all of your utility bill receipts and your rent receipts to prove you have no outstanding debt and have been a regular payer.
Letter number three
If a reasonable amount of time has passed and the work has not begun, or it is taking too long to get the work done, then you will need to write another letter. Remember, patience and persistence is the key.
In this third letter, you should make a final request for the repairs to be carried out, and inform your landlord that if they do not comply then you will be contacting the council’s environmental health department to check if the property is safe to live in. In most instances, the landlord will not want the council to visit, and will act on the request. If not then you need to get in touch with the council.
Where to go for help
Your local council has an environmental health department. They can help you in case your landlord is being unresponsive about repairs. Only contact them after you’ve gone through the above efforts to get hold of your landlord. Otherwise, they will just tell you to go back and try your landlord a few more times.
The EHD at your local council can inspect if the property is safe to live in. Afterwards, they will serve your landlord with an improvement notice. If your landlord ignores this notice, they will suffer serious penalties and the property will become officially hazardous and illegal for renting.
Environmental health can help tenants with the repairs or temporary accommodation if it’s dangerous for them to stay in the facility. For more information, visit our dedicated guide on the Environmental Health Department.
For more information regarding repairs to your rented property, please visit our Repairs and Maintenance Guide. There you can learn about you’re landlord’s specific responsibilities regarding the repairs and maintenance of your home.
If you feel your property is hazardous and harmful to your health, check out our dedicated guide – Health Hazards is Rented Properties.
Some landlords may try to force you out of the property because you’re being inconvenient. In this case, the eviction is illegal and your landlord has no right to do it. This is a serious breach of the tenancy agreement and a criminal act against you. If you’re afraid about your landlord trying to evict you as a result of requesting repairs to be made, read our related guide – Introduction to Evictions for Assured Shorthold Tenancies.
For more information, see our related articles below.
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 tenants to act courteously and reasonably in all communications with landlords and letting agents 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 https://www.shelter.org.uk/ 0808 800 4444
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