Disrepair - what are the landlord's responsibilities?
If you rent your home from a social housing landlord, they're responsible for dealing with most repair problems.
This page explains how the landlord's duty to do repairs comes from the tenancy agreement and other areas of law.
The tenancy agreement
If you're renting from a private landlord and have an assured shorthold tenancy, read our advice about what repairs your landlord has to do.
Your tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord. You both have certain rights and responsibilities under that contract.
Express terms on repairs in your tenancy agreement
If you have a written tenancy agreement, it may set out the landlord's obligations to do repairs, this type of term is called an express term. If you don’t have a written tenancy agreement, whatever you and your landlord have agreed orally will apply, although sometimes this can be difficult to prove.
Your landlord can't include an express term in your tenancy agreement that would reduce their legal obligations or pass on any of their responsibilities to you. For example, a term that said you were responsible for repairs to the roof wouldn't have any force in law because roof repairs are your landlord’s responsibility.
Implied terms on repairs in your tenancy agreement
An implied term is a term that can be read into a tenancy agreement even though it hasn't been stated.
The law, that is, section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, implies a term into your tenancy agreement. It's the most important of your landlord's obligations to carry out basic repairs. The implied term applies whether your tenancy agreement is in writing or has been agreed orally.
What does section 11 cover?
Generally, it means that your landlord is responsible for keeping in repair:
- the structure and exterior of your home, for example, the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors
- basins, sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework
- water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters.
These repair responsibilities can't be cancelled out by anything your tenancy agreement says. Also, your landlord isn't allowed to pass on the cost of any repair work to you which is their responsibility.
For tenancies that began on or after 15 January 1989, these repair responsibilities extend to the common parts of a building too, for example, entrance halls, stairs and lifts.
Responsibilities for common parts where a tenancy began before this date are not set out in law, but landlords still have responsibilities under the common law. Common law is law that is developed by judges over many years through the decisions of courts.
Telling your landlord about the repairs
Your landlord's responsibility under section 11 is dependent on them knowing about the repair. In most cases, this will be by you telling them about it.
Landlord's legal responsibilities outside of the tenancy agreement
As well as the repair responsibilities that come from your tenancy agreement, your landlord has obligations that come from other areas of the law.
Negligence is generally about your landlord not causing you injury or damage as a result of their careless or negligent behaviour.
For example, your landlord may be negligent if they didn’t do the repair work needed in your home after you told them about it, and as a result you injured yourself or your belongings were damaged. They could also be negligent if they did do the repair work, but did it carelessly or dangerously.
A private nuisance happens when something in another property or in a common part of a building which is owned by your landlord, affects the use and enjoyment of your home. For example, if your landlord didn't maintain pipes in the roof space of your block of flats and water leaked into your home causing damage. In this instance, you could take action against the landlord based on nuisance.
Your landlord mustn't cause a statutory nuisance. A statutory nuisance happens when your home is in such a state as to be harmful to your health or is a nuisance.
Disrepair that's harmful to your health could include dampness and mould growth.
Local authorities generally take action against landlords where there's a statutory nuisance.
The Defective Premises Act 1972
Your landlord owes you certain duties of care that are set out in this Act. They include a duty to prevent personal injury or damage to property caused by defects in your home. This duty is owed to you, members of your family, and also to visitors to your home.
The duty is owed where your landlord is under an obligation to repair or maintain your home, or has a right to enter the property to carry out maintenance or repairs.
The duty is owed if the landlord knows or ought to have known about the repair, even if you haven't told your landlord.
Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)
If you live in a HMO, your landlord has extra legal responsibilities on fire and general safety, water supply and drainage, gas and electricity, waste disposal, and general upkeep of the HMO.
A HMO generally covers houses divided into bedsitting rooms with shared facilities, shared houses and flats, hostels and bed and breakfast hotels that accommodate more than one household.
Some HMOs may also need a licence.
Safety in your home
Your landlord has specific responsibilities for gas and electrical safety, furnishings and asbestos.
Making adjustments if you're disabled
If you're disabled, your landlord may have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if you ask for them. However, your landlord doesn’t have to do anything that would involve the removal or alteration of physical features.