The general principle of ‘caveat emptor’ also known as ‘buyer beware’ has changed over time in the housing sector with statute and regulations intervening to protect vulnerable tenants from their social and private landlords. It was once the case that “Fraud apart, there is no law against letting a tumble-down house”. However, now with statutory and regulatory intervention this has all changed.
However, the law isn’t straightforward and tenants are often not aware of who is responsible for what in repairing their home. There are a couple of misconceptions that we hear often from tenants about repairing responsibilities and what they can do to make the landlord carry out repairs.
Misconception 1: “My Landlord has a duty to fix all the repair problems in my Property.”
Your landlord’s duty to repair any problems in your Property do not extend beyond what is written in your tenancy agreement and what has been implied by statue. The starting point is checking your written agreement to see what repairing obligations your landlord has agreed to. If your tenancy agreement does not provide and written repairing obligations, then you can rely on the implied terms under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Section 11 requires your landlord to:
(a)to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
(b)to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and 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), and
(c)to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
Your landlord’s repairing obligations to repair any problems in your Property only arise once your landlord has been put on notice. This means that you or someone on your behalf should have called, emailed, written and/or gone in to the housing office to report the problems to your landlord. If no notice has been given, then your landlord can only be held responsible in very limited circumstances. Once the problems, have been reported your landlord will have a reasonable period to fix the problems. What a reasonable period is will depend on the type of problem reported, so something like a flood from a water pipe should be addressed inn a very short time, but replacing the whole roof may reasonably take much longer.
Your landlord is only liable ‘to keep in repair’ and does not have an obligation to make improvements to the Property. For example, an improvement would consist of providing your Property with a damp proof course that did not previously exist in your Property to stop condensation problems.
Your landlord is also responsible for ensuring that your Property is free from any relevant defects arising from or continuing because of an act or omission by the landlord which would constitute a failure by him to carry out his obligations under section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972. The section provides that where premises are let as a tenancy, your landlord is under an obligation to maintain or repair the premises. Your landlord owes a duty to all persons who might reasonably be affected by defects in the premises and is required to take reasonable care in all the circumstance to ensure that the premises are safe from personal injury or damage to their property. The duty extends to any visitors, sharers and/or lodgers living with the landlord and arises when your landlord has been notified by someone or ought to have known because of duties arising in connection with other obligations that your landlord may have.
Your landlord is under further obligations under Regulation 36 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to ensure that any gas appliances owned by the landlord are:
- Gas fittings or flues serving the fitting are maintained and in a safe condition as to prevent the risk of injury to any person in lawful occupation of the relevant premises.
- Safety checks are carried on the appliance and flue out every 12 months
- Records of checks are kept for 2 years from the date of the check being made and contains certain information specified under (3)(i) -(ix) of Regulation 36 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
- Work carried out to the gas fittings and/or flues is carried out by a Health and Safety Executive approved person
- Gas safety reports are provided to existing and new tenants within 28 days of the annual check
Your landlord is also under an obligation to ensure that the electrical wiring and any electrical goods provided are safe to use. Your landlord does not have an obligation to carry out regular electrical safety checks unless you are living in a house in multiple occupation. Licensed HMO’s are required to have electrical safety checks every 5 years.
From the 1st October 2015, your landlord is also under an obligation in accordance with the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 to ensure that each occupied floor of any premises is equipped with a smoke alarm and that a carbon monoxide alarm is provided in an occupied room that contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance. Your landlord is also required to undertake checks that the alarms are in working order for any new tenancies after 1st October 2015.
Misconception 2 – “My Landlord is not carrying out repairs so I am going to withhold my rent to force my landlord to do the work”
It is common for tenants to withhold their rent in a desperate attempt to get their landlord to carry out outstanding repair works. The problem with this is that under the terms of your tenancy agreement your landlord is entitled to bring court possession proceedings against you if you do not pay your rent. Your landlord may need to satisfy the Court on why it would be reasonable to evict you depending on the type of tenancy you hold or alternatively your landlord may get a possession order without the need to satisfy this requirement. Either way you are at risk of losing your home and potentially becoming intentionally homeless. You may possibly be able to put in a counterclaim for any disrepair issues but you would need to convince the judge on why no attempt had been made to resolve these issues previously. You are also likely to face paying your landlords costs if you are unsuccessful in any counterclaim.
Instead of withholding your rent on the assumption that the landlord will carry out works, it is usually better to pay your rent, report the issues to your landlord in writing and keeping a log. If repairs are still not carried out then seek professional advice from one of our solicitors who may be able to assist you.