The cold weather is definitely coming, which means that you can start to see signs of damp and disrepair in your student houses. It can be confusing to know just what you are responsible for and what falls to your Landlord. So, we’re hoping to clear some of this up for you in this article written by our Guild Advice Team.
Firstly, what are your responsibilities?
You are generally responsible for:
- minor repairs, such as changing light bulbs, unblocking sinks for minor blockages due to minor wear and tear
- fixing anything you’ve damaged
- acting in a responsible, “tenant-like” manner
- Identifying and notifying your landlord (best done in writing) of any disrepair issues as soon as reasonably possible. This is because, if an issue later escalated you could be deemed responsible.
Your landlord doesn’t have to make sure your home’s fit for human habitation if you caused the problem by not looking after your home properly (e.g. not using extractor fans after a shower) or by doing something unreasonable (e.g. leaving candles burning when you go out).
Next up, what are Landlords responsible for?
In instances of disrepair, this may not be expressly written within your tenancy agreement/contract as most occupiers are protected under legislation, e.g. Section 11 of landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
However, to summarise, under this legislation landlords are responsible for:
- Looking after the structure and exterior of your house, which includes drains, gutters and external pipes
- They must also ensure that instillations within your property are in good working order and are repaired where necessary. This can include radiators, boilers and electric showers, but fridges aren’t covered unless expressly noted in your contract.
- Third party damage is also included, for example, if a random person smashed a window – this would be the landlord’s responsibility. The only time that this wouldn’t be the case were if the tenant induced the breakage.
But it’s important to remember that Landlords aren’t responsible for home improvements such as decorating or installing central heating.
Safety of the home
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is an implied term of a residential tenancy agreement, which outlines what is considered unfit for habitation.
Some examples of unfitness for habitation could include if your home:
- has a serious problem with damp or mould
- gets much too hot or cold
- has too many people living in it
- is infested with pests like rats or cockroaches
- doesn’t have a safe water supply
If there has been a breach or disrepair, the tenant can report their conditions to their local authority and/or take their landlord to court for breach of contract.
What to do when things go wrong:
We hope this doesn’t happen, but should anything go wrong there are a few things you can do:
- Firstly, check your tenancy and license agreement, as different occupiers have different rights.
- Get in touch with Guild Advice for your next best steps
- Make sure you know whether you're at risk of eviction before acting. In some cases, a private landlord may decide to evict a tenant rather than do repair work. Check your tenancy agreement and seek advice if you suspect retaliatory eviction (eviction because you’ve asked for repairs).
- Act as soon as reasonably possible as you could be held responsible if the problem worsens.
- Serve notice of the defect to your landlord – a landlord doesn’t have to do anything until they’re notified of the defect. This could be yourself or someone acting on your behalf (e.g. environmental health or a solicitor).
- When serving your landlord notice of a defect, concentrate on what is seen and how you have been impacted – not why you think it has happened or what you want to happen. It is best to leave it to your landlord to make a proposal.
- Keep an evidence trail – it is best to have your correspondence in writing as otherwise it can be difficult to establish what has been said. Take photos as objective evidence and ensure emails/texts/letters are kept. Keep receipts and GP letters if you have become ill, if appropriate.
- Before escalating your concerns, be open to negotiation in the first instance, litigation can be costly and lengthy; be willing to work with your landlord to put things right.
- If the problem is affecting your health or safety, you can report your landlord to the Environmental Health department at your local council. You can find your local council’s contact details on GOV.UK.