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A tenant is responsible for minor repairs, such as fixing light bulbs. Tenants must also take good care of the property and report any disrepairs to the housing association or council as soon as possible.
Speak to our housing disrepair solicitors – England and Wales
A housing association or council is responsible for most repairs. If your housing association or council is refusing to comply with their repair obligations, contact us at Ashmans Solicitors for free legal advice. You could be entitled to make a housing disrepair claim.
What are a tenant’s responsibilities for repairs?
A tenant has various responsibilities. In the context of property maintenance, the tenant must:
- Take good care of the property
- Carry out minor repairs
- Repair or pay for any damage caused by them, their family or their friends
- Tell the housing association or council about repairs that are needed
- Allow the housing association or council access to the property so repairs can be carried out
Take good care of the property
Tenants must use rental accommodation in a ‘tenant-like way’. This terminology is fairly vague and does not precisely determine what a tenant should and should not do. Really, it means treating the property with respect and taking care to prevent any damage. This means doing things like:
- Keeping the property reasonably clean
- Not flushing items down the toilet that might cause a blockage
- Using the extractor fan when having a shower or bath
- Keeping the property well ventilated
- Treating appliances with care
- Ensuring your guests do not cause any damage
- Acting with common sense – e.g., not leaving a burning candle unattended
Carry out minor repairs
Tenants are responsible for minor repairs in the property. This includes ‘little jobs around the place’, as Lord Denning once put it in the case of Warren v Keen. This includes things like changing light bulbs and fuses, and unblocking sinks that are caused by their own waste.
Repair or pay for damage caused by them, family or friends
Tenants are responsible for repairing anything that has been caused by their ‘un-tenant-like’ behaviour. They are also responsible for their guests, be it their friends or family. Should a guest damage the property, then the tenant can be asked to cover the cost.
Tell the housing association or council about repairs that are needed
A tenant is responsible for reporting disrepairs to the housing association or council in a timely fashion. The housing association or council cannot be expected to know about a disrepair if they do not live at the property themselves. If the tenant does not tell the housing association or council about a disrepair, then the delay may exacerbate the problem. The tenant could be considered at fault for this.
Allow the housing association or council access to the property for repairs
A tenant should allow the housing association or council they rent from access to the property so that repairs can be carried out. Normally, a tenant must be given 24 hours notice. The visit should also take place at a reasonable time. However, if it is an emergency, then the housing association or council can request immediate access or even break their way into the property. This might be required for anything that poses a serious health and safety risk, or is causing significant damage to the property/someone else’s property. This includes a burst pipe that is leaking water into the flat below.
What is a tenant not responsible for?
A tenant is not responsible for:
- Carrying out repairs that are the housing association’s or council’s responsibility
- Repairing damage caused by the housing association or council
Carrying our repairs that are the housing association’s responsibility
Housing associations or councils are responsible for any repairs relating to:
- The property’s structure and exterior
- Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
- Heating and hot water
- Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- Electrical wiring
Your housing association or council cannot shift this responsibility onto their tenants. In other words, they cannot demand that a tenant carries out the repairs, when legally, the housing association or council is obliged to do the work. Even if the tenancy agreement states that a tenant is responsible for the above repairs, this clause will be deemed invalid. A housing association’s repair responsibilities are set out in law and override the terms of a tenancy agreement.
Repairing damage caused by the housing association or council
If damage occurs because of the housing association’s actions, then the housing association is responsible for completing these repairs and covering the cost.
Is my housing association or council responsible for my housing disrepair?
If you are reading this article, then it is likely that you have a housing disrepair and you are trying to work out who is responsible: is it you, or is it your housing association or council? This can be a common source of dispute between housing associations and tenants, as each party may say that the other is responsible.
In truth, it can be very hard to know for certain, especially as a tenant. If you feel like your housing association/council is shirking their repair responsibilities, you should contact Citizens Advice for confirmation. If the housing disrepair is having a negative impact on your health, then you could also report the issue to the Environmental Health Department.
If either organisation suggests that your housing association or council is responsible for the repair – but still no repair is carried out – then contact us for legal advice. We can discuss your next steps with you.
What if my housing association or council is refusing to carry out a repair?
If your housing association or council is refusing to carry out a repair – even though the repair is their responsibility – then you could have grounds for a housing disrepair claim. To make a claim, you must have:
- Reported the disrepair to your housing association or council; and
- Waited a reasonable amount of time for the housing association or council to complete the repair
A reasonable amount of time depends on the urgency of the situation. If you have been left without hot water, heating or there is a serious water leak, then you should not have to wait long. For more minor repairs, a reasonable amount of time might be up to three months.
The good thing about making a housing disrepair claim is that the court can order your housing association or council to carry out a repair. You can also recover a percentage of your rent as compensation, along with damages for your financial losses.
How do I start a housing disrepair claim?
The first thing to do is to report the disrepair to your housing association or council in writing, such as via email or text message. If a repair is not carried out, you simply need to contact the housing disrepair solicitors here at Ashmans. We can take it from there. Our first task is to complete a free assessment of your claim. We will determine whether you are eligible to pursue a housing disrepair claim and your chances of success. If we advise that you can sue your housing association or council and you want to proceed, we will handle everything on your behalf.
We run our housing disrepair claims on a no win, no fee basis. This protects you financially, as you only pay our legal fees if your claim succeeds.