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Your housing association or council is responsible for carrying out repairs to the property’s structure and exterior, utilities fixtures and sanitary fittings. Your housing association or council must carry out these repairs to an acceptable standard, and complete the repairs within a reasonable amount of time.
Housing association responsibilities
To find out if your housing association or council has breached their legal responsibilities, contact us for a free initial enquiry. We represent tenants across England and Wales, including tenants renting from councils and housing associations.
Repair responsibilities – what does the law say?
There are lots of legal requirements that housing associations and councils need to meet. When it comes to repairs, the relevant pieces of legislation are:
- Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; and
- The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
Section 11 of the Landlord of Tenant Act 1985 states that housing associations and councils have a legal obligation to:
- Keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling, including drains, gutters and external pipes; and
- Keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, 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
- Keep in repair and proper working order the installation in the dwelling for space heating and heating water.
Put simply, the law makes it your housing association’s or council’s responsibility to fix:
- 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
- Any damage they cause by attempting repairs
These responsibilities are set out in law. Your housing association or council cannot try to transfer these responsibilities on to you, be it informally or by including them in the tenancy agreement. The exception is where the property has fallen into a state of disrepair because of your actions. For example, it could be that you have not looked after the property, or you have done something unreasonable. If so, then your housing association or council cannot be held responsible for the repair.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
Since 20 March 2019, housing associations and councils also have a legal duty to ensure that a rental property is ‘fit for human habitation’. This is set out under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. It places the burden on housing associations and councils to make sure a property is ‘safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm’.
The Homes Act lists 29 different problems that may mean the property is unfit for human habitation. They are:
- Damp and mould growth
- Excess cold
- Excess heat
- Asbestos and manufactured metal fibres
- Biocides (chemicals that treat mould)
- Carbon monoxide
- Radiation (from radon gas, which is airborne or in water)
- Uncombusted fuel gas (leaks in gas appliances)
- Volatile organic compounds (chemicals that are gases at room temperature)
- Crowding and space
- Entry by intruders (such as not having a lock on your front door)
- Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse (including inadequate provision for disposal of waste water and household waste)
- Food safety
- Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
- Water supply
- Falls associated with bath or shower
- Falls associated with stairs and steps
- Falls on the level (danger of falling on a flat surface)
- Falls between levels (danger of falling from one level to another, for example, falls out of windows)
- Electrical hazards
- Fire and fire safety
- Hot surfaces and materials
- Collision and entrapment
- Physical strain associated with operating amenities (i.e. very heavy doors)
- Structural collapse and falling elements
What is a housing association or council not responsible for?
However, housing associations and councils are not responsible for every single repair in a rental property. A tenant also has obligations, as set out under law. This includes:
- Keeping the property clean
- Not damaging the property
- Carrying out general maintenance, like changing light bulbs
- Acting responsibility and in a ‘tenant-like’ manner
- Reporting disrepairs
Repairs within a reasonable amount of time
Not only are housing associations and councils responsible for certain repairs, but they are legally obliged to carry out these repairs within a reasonable amount of time. There is no set definition of ‘reasonable’, as it is dependent on the circumstances. A boiler that breaks in winter should be repaired as a matter of urgency, while a leaky tap might be left for a few weeks. If the repair remains unfixed for any longer than two to three months, then a housing association or council will have breached their repair obligations.
It is worth noting that a housing association/council only becomes responsible for a repair once they become aware of the problem (or should have become aware of the problem). This means it is up to the tenant to report the disrepair as soon as possible.
Repairs to an acceptable standard
Furthermore, housing associations and councils must complete the repair to a reasonable standard. It is not enough to do a ‘bodge job’ and say they have fixed the problem. The repair must meet regulations, be safe and rectify the issue.
How do I know if my housing association or council is responsible for a repair?
It can be very hard for a tenant to know who is responsible for what repairs. Often a housing association or council will try to offload their responsibilities onto a tenant. The tenant is then left wondering whether the repair is really their burden to bear, or whether the housing association or council is trying to avoid the cost (and hassle) of fixing a defect. What are my responsibilities as a tenant ?
That is where we can help. We know landlord and tenant laws inside out. We can discuss the circumstances with you, advising whether your housing association or council is responsible for the repair – and whether an unreasonable amount of time has passed since you first reported the problem. If so, you could be eligible to make a housing disrepair claim.