Repairs

This page is about repairs in private rented housing. For help with repairs in University owned and partnership properties, click here. For help with repairs in council homes in Sheffield, click here.

Landlords and repairs

The law on repairs is complicated. This section covers the most important laws on landlords and repairs but is not an exhaustive list.

Section 11 of the landlord and tenant act 1985

This is the starting point for dealing with many repair problems. It makes the landlord responsible for repairs to the structure and exterior of the building. It also makes the landlord responsible for maintaining things like water and gas pipes, fixed electrical wiring, heating and hot water systems and bathroom fittings such as baths and toilets.

Section 11 is mentioned in most housing contracts. If it is not mentioned in your contract, or you do not have a written contract, you are still covered by it.

Although most housing contracts allow landlords to carry out routine inspections during which repair problems can be identified and discussed, under Section 11 you have to tell your landlord when a repair is needed - you cannot assume that he or she will just know or that previous tenants will already have reported the problem.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System sets out 29 housing-related hazards. These include things like excess cold, risk of entry by intruders, noise and fire. Serious hazards are classed as Category 1 hazards. If the council inspects and finds a Category 1 hazard it will order the landlord to deal with it. For more information, click here.

Other responsibilities

Landlords are also required to ensure that any electrical appliances are safe and that any upholstered furniture satisfies fire safety regulations. For more information on furniture, click here.

There are also special rules on fire and gas safety and Houses in Multiple Occupation.

Tenants and repairs

As a tenant you are required to take reasonable care of the property. It can be difficult to agree on what this means but it probably includes:

  • keeping the property clean
  • making sure you (and any guests) don’t cause damage
  • dealing with minor repairs such as replacing light bulbs

You are also required to allow the landlord to enter the property to carry out inspections and repairs, provided the landlord gives 24 hours advance notice (not required in an emergency).

Taking reasonable care of the property and allowing the landlord access apply even if they are not mentioned in a written contract.

Reporting repair problems

Before you complain

Most people who rent from private landlords have fixed term assured shorthold contracts. In nearly every case, someone with this type of contract cannot be forced to leave while the contract is still running unless he or she breaks the contract and the landlord gets a court order. Asking the landlord to carry out repairs does not count as breaking the contract.

Unfortunately, not everyone has this level of protection from eviction. Some contracts allow the landlord to get a court order without the tenant breaking the contract first, while people who live with resident landlords can often be evicted without a court order.

While worries about housing status should not prevent anyone from exercising their rights, it is an important consideration. If you are unsure about your status contact the Student Advice Centre. Alternatively, you can check it on the Shelter Tenancy Checker.

Tell the landlord

Report problems in writing and keep a copy of your letter or email. In an emergency phone the landlord and send a letter or email later.

There are no set rules on how long a repair should take. Lots of different factors need to be taken into account. The most important consideration is any potential adverse impact on the health or safety of the tenants but other factors (such as bad weather and genuine difficulty in obtaining materials or spare parts) can mean that repairs sometimes seem to take a long time.

Time limits can be imposed by the council when it serves a notice, or by court order. Some voluntary schemes such as the University registration scheme also include guideline time limits.

TOP TIP:

If the problem is no heating during cold weather, ask your landlord to lend you portable heaters and to contribute to any associated extra energy costs.

Where to go for help with repair problems

If you cannot get your landlord to deal with repair problems there are lots of places you can go for help.

The Student Advice Centre

propertywithUS

Repair problems in University registered properties are dealt with by propertywithUS. Emailpropertywithus@sheffield.ac.uk or call 0114 222 6058.

Solicitors

The easiest way to find a solicitor is via the Find Legal Advice search facility on the Ministry of Justice website. If you opt to use a solicitor but do not qualify for legal aid you may have to pay. To find if you qualify for legal aid, click here.

The council

Sheffield City Council has extensive powers to take action against landlords who fail to deal with repair problems. For more information, click here.

Self-help solutions to repair problems

Contact the Student Advice Centre for more information on the following.

Rejecting the contract because the property is unfit

It is sometimes possible to get out of a contract if the property is in very poor condition on the day the contract starts. This only applies if the property is furnished and the conditions are so bad that it could be classed as unfit to live in. This probably means that the property is in such poor condition that the health of anyone living there would be at risk. It is unlikely to apply where the property only needs cleaning, decorating or minor repairs.

You can also use this argument if you move in and unfitness comes to light later.

Rejecting the contract because of other repair problems

You cannot normally reject a contract because of other repair problems, even if the problems are severe and the landlord refuses to do anything about them. In this situation, there are other legal remedies available such as taking action to make the landlord do the work and claiming damages.

Using rent to pay for repairs

Some tenants give up waiting for landlords to deal with repairs and pay for the work themselves then recover the money by deducting it from their rent. If you are thinking of trying this, get advice first. Your landlord might argue that you are in rent arrears and try to make you leave.

Refusing to pay rent

Many students contact the Student Advice Centre to ask if they can refuse to pay their rent (withhold rent) as a way of making landlords take repair problems seriously or in protest at their failure to do so. Although this may seem an attractive option, tenants who withhold rent run the risk of being made to leave for rent arrears.

TOP TIP

If you are thinking about signing a contract for a property which is going to be refurbished before you move in, try to get the following points included in the contract:

  • full details of all the work to be done
  • an agreed completion date
  • appropriate compensation (such as a reduction in rent until the work is completed) for any delay.

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