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CAB advice for private tenants seeking repairs

4 July 2011

National charity Citizens Advice has issued new advice for private tenants whose homes are in need of repair, ahead of tonight’s ‘Dispatches’ programme (Channel 4 TV) on Landlords from Hell.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Last year Citizens Advice Bureaux helped with almost 500,000 housing problems, up 14% from the year before. Everyone should have the right to live in a safe and decent home, but we see a lot of private tenants who are too scared to complain about terrible conditions for fear of eviction. We want to make sure people have the right information about their legal rights and can get the advice they need in this complex area of law.”

Top tips for private tenants:

  • As a tenant, you have the right to have the structure of your home kept in good repair by your landlord. Heating and hot water systems must also be kept in working order.. Details about repair responsibilities are usually set out in a written tenancy agreement.
  • If you are living in private rented property which is in an unsatisfactory condition, there may be several ways of getting repairs or improvements done. BUT you should always check your housing status before you complain about housing conditions, as your landlord may try to evict you if you ask for repairs to be carried out. If in doubt, get advice from an experienced adviser at your local housing aid centre, law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau (see
  • The first step is usually to talk to your landlord. It may be worth trying to negotiate amicably with your landlord, even if they do not have a legal duty to carry out a repair. Put your request in writing and keep a copy.
  • If this doesn’t work, DON’T just stop paying your rent, You don't have the right to withhold rent and you shouldn't do this to try to force your landlord to do repairs. Your landlord could take legal action against you for rent arrears and you could lose your home.
  • If you think that the condition of the property is either affecting your health or causing a nuisance to others, you should complain to the Environmental Health Department of your local council. They should investigate and they have the power to order your landlord to do the necessary repairs. Local councils also have a duty to take action against a landlord if they consider that housing conditions are not acceptable for people to live in.

In June 2007 Citizens Advice published a report The tenant’s dilemma on the practice known as retaliatory eviction, highlighting the dilemma faced by thousands of tenants - whether to put up with poor housing or exercise their rights to have repairs carried out and risk eviction as a result.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.