Housing disrepair and private landlords

If you’re renting a council-owned property, trying to ensure it’s kept in good condition is fairly simple. And if you can’t ensure that the state will keep it up for you, you can claim is necessary. But what do you do if you live under a private landlord. They can be very different, bad to good, easy or hard to contact. So just what are your rights?


What are landlords responsibilities?

Firstly, anything stated in the tenancy agreement. Aside from that, they have a responsibility to keep the following things in good condition:

The structure of the house (this includes things like wall integrity, drains, windows and door amongst others)

Amenities (heaters, boilers, radiators etc. and all the pipes and wires that support them)

Plumbing (basins, toilets etc. and all the piper and plumbing that maintain them)

On top of this, your landlord is responsible for most of the major repairs when they need to be made. This applies mostly to the above list. Small repairs, however, are up to the renter. This is things like toilet roll, new lightbulbs, or superficial damage. Anything that you have actively damaged you will of course be expected to be in charge of. However, if damage was caused by someone else, or prior to your tenancy, this is not for you to replace.


How do I know my house is considered to be in disrepair?

Your house may get to the point of being what is known as ‘unfit for human habitation’. If this happens, your house is not considered to be fit to live in. Some of the things that may cause this labelling would be:

– An unsafe water supply.

– Not enough warmth for it to be liveable.

– Too many people living there.

– Infested with pests like mice or cockroaches.


Your landlord has to make sure your property is fit for human living if;

– You started your tenancy on or after 20th March 2019 or

– You had a fixed term agreement that ended on or after this date, but you’re still in the property.

If it was you that caused the property to become unliveable, that is not the landlord’s fault. It doesn’t matter when you’re tenancy agreement started in this case.


What if my landlord won’t accept their responsibility?

The best thing to do when you notice problems, is to contact your landlord. It’s better to do this in writing (letters/emails) as evidence if something goes wrong. If your landlord become difficult to contact or won’t accept responsibility when they are at fault, you’ll need other options. Be as prepared as you can be:

Record evidence – Photographs, receipts, screenshots, timestamps, anything relevant to your situation.

Self-repair – If you believe work needs to be done or you cant live in the situation you’re in as it is, you’re entitled to make necessary repairs. You can do this if you feels repairs aren’t being done in a timely manner. Record what it is you have done and keep any receipts for the cost. You cannot charge back for lost time or earnings. But the work that you do do, if considered necessary, can be deducted from the rent you pay.

Social Care Ombudsman – You can contact them after contacting the council and not hearing back. Read here to see what they can do for you.

Council/environmental health– The issues in your property may affect your health, such as pest infestations or widespread mould. You can report your landlord to the Environment health department of your local council. If you are seen to be correct, the agency will order your landlord to do repairs. Failing to do so can carry fines or other penalties.

Eviction protection – As a private landlord, they may be inclined to evict you if you make a complaint. There were further layers of protection introduced in 2015 for a short-hold tenancy. If you are evicted as a result of an issue like this, you’ll want advice and help on what to do next. There are plenty of outlets that can help you in this regard.



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