If you have a residential lease not exceeding seven years, certain repair obligations are imposed on the landlord by virtue of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. These are:
- To keep in repair the structure and exterior of the building, including gutters and drains;
- To keep in repair and proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation, including basins, sinks and baths;
- To keep in repair and proper working order the installations for space heating and heating water.
These obligations cannot be excluded by your landlord, however, there are some important qualifications. Your landlord will generally not be responsible for repairs arising from damage that you should have insurance in place to cover, or if the damage was your fault. You must also use the property in a ‘tenant-like manner’. This means that your landlord may refuse to carry out repairs if, for example, you do not unblock drains or change batteries in smoke detectors.
Responsibility for repair for the remainder of the property will normally be set out in your lease. Disputes often arise in residential leases about whether the repairs in question are covered under the Landlord and Tenant Act. Ensure you carefully check the wording of your lease to see who is responsible for any works not set out in the Act. If the lease provides that the landlord is responsible, they will usually have to carry out the work within a reasonable time.
If you believe your landlord is responsible for the repairs, the first step is to notify them of the problem. Check your lease for any notification provisions: if there is such a provision and if you do not inform them, your landlord may argue that you are in breach of the lease for not informing them of the repairs. Likewise, if your landlord does not know about the problem, they will not be able to resolve the issue.
You should write to your landlord to notify them of the problem. Ensure you are able to provide evidence, such as photographs or receipts for replacing damaged items. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter. If your landlord does not respond, write to them again. Before proceeding with further action, ensure you warn them of this and give them a reasonable chance to respond. If the repair works are urgent, you may be able to take action yourself and reclaim the costs, however, you must follow the correct procedure.
Do not resort to withholding rent pending a response from the landlord as you may be at risk of eviction. If you are considering carrying out the work yourself or withholding rent, you should seek legal advice first. Ensure you have carefully checked your rights and obligations under the lease and the Act before pursuing the matter.
By Danielle Watts, graduate paralegal in the dispute resolution department
Our specialist team of advisors in the housing law department can advise you if you can force your landlord to carry out works.