In the main private landlords are helpful when it comes to repairs, from their point of view they not only want the property to maintain its value but also guarantee they can continue to rent it out if you decide to leave. However, if your landlord is refusing to do vital repairs there is a procedure for tenants to follow. Vital repairs are generally those that affect your quality of life, leave your home insecure and/or are causing health problems. For example your front door may not lock properly, your gas central heating is malfunctioning and you can’t heat your home or there is excessive damp.
Put it in writing
A landlord cannot be responsible for repairs they do not know about so the first step is to inform them exactly what repairs are needed and how this is affecting your quality of life. It’s important to give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to get the repairs done as depending on the problem they may need to get quotes and organise the repairs. 21 days is the usual benchmark. If the repairs are minor and don’t cost too much money, suggest that you can pay for them to be done if the expense can be taken off of your rent. If this is agreed get it in writing and ensure you keep a copy of all quotes and receipts.
Write to your landlord again
If you have not received a response from your landlord, write to them again repeating the repairs that are needed and why, and warn them that if the work is not carried in 21 days you will have no option but to take further action.
Gather evidence about the repairs needed
If your landlord does not respond to a second letter you will need to prove that there are issues at the property:
- Photographic evidence of what needs to be repaired
- Copies of letters/emails you have send to your landlord
- Receipts if you have had to pay for damaged items caused by the disrepair (i.e. furniture, clothing, carpets)
- A letter from your GP if the disrepair is causing you or anyone in the household health problems
- Professional reports and receipts if for example you have had to pay for a pest control expert or a surveyor to confirm damp.
Inform your landlord you are contacting the council
If your landlord is still refusing to do repairs or has not responded at all, write to them once more and inform them that you are contacting your local authority so they can check whether your home is safe to live in. This may be enough to inspire your landlord to carry out repairs since when the council inspect the property, they will not only inspect the problems you have complained about but also look for other problems that you haven’t noticed.
Request help from the council to do the repairs
Your local council (Tenants Relations Officer) has the legal power to inspect your home under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, which looks at whether housing is safe for occupation. If a risk assessment to your home discovers too many potential dangers, the council may be able to take action. They will also give your landlord a deadline to carry out the repairs meaning that they can take them to court if they do not comply. If communication between you and your landlord is fraught, they may also be able to negotiate on your behalf. Do be aware that the council may not think there is a health and safety issue and may not be able to help. If this is the case find a local advice centre (i.e. Citizens Advice, or your local housing charity such as Shelter)
Take legal action
This really should only be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted as there is a risk of eviction and you may not be able to get Legal Aid. If your landlord still refuses to get the repairs done, taking legal action to force them to do the repairs is a choice tenants have. Call the Community Legal Service helpline on 0845 345 4 345 for free initial advice.
For more information on the various ways you can get your landlord to do repairs or make your own repairs visit The Tenants’ Voice Repairs page