How to claim against your landlord for disrepair

If your rented property is in disrepair it's your landlord's responsibility to carry out repairs. But how can you complain if you need to? Follow our guide.

1 Minor repair jobs

When it comes to repairs, you’ll usually be responsible for minor repair jobs, unless they’re caused by disrepair or damp (which would be your landlord's responsibility), or are due to normal wear and tear.

2 Write to your landlord

Complaining verbally to your landlord or letting agent that the property is in disrepair should be enough. 

But you might want to notify the landlord or letting agent in writing. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence.

If you need to claim compensation it could be important to show that your landlord was aware of the disrepair, so it's always a good idea to get the complaint in writing.

Once your landlord or agent is aware that the property is in disrepair, then remedial action should be taken as quickly as possible.

Normally a tenancy agreement will give a right for the landlord to re-enter the premises to inspect its condition and carry out maintenance, provided the landlord gives you at least 24 hours notice in writing.

In summary

  • You're responsible for any minor repair jobs that are due to normal wear and tear
  • Once the landlord or letting agent is notified, remedial action should be carried out as soon as possible
  • If the disrepair is causing you ill health, contact your local environmental health department
  • If your personal property is damaged due to the disrepair, you can claim compensation
  • To back up your claim, take photographs of the damage and keep receipts for anything you've had to replace

3 Repair and improvement

There’s a significant difference between repair and improvement. Under your landlord’s statutory repairing obligations, he is liable to put your property into repair in certain circumstances, but he is under no obligation to carry out improvements.

It’s sometimes difficult to say exactly where to draw the line. An obvious example is windows.

If your property has rotting window frames then this is something the landlord should put right. 

However, he's under no obligation to install double glazing. That would clearly be seen as an improvement to the property 

If your landlord refuses to carry out repairs that are his responsibility, then you have various options which are open to you.

4 Environmental health department

If the disrepair is causing you ill health then you could ask the council’s environmental health department to inspect the dwelling.

If the disrepair is serious enough, the council will serve your landlord with a legal notice to carry out the repairs.

Non-compliance may lead to criminal prosecution.

To back up your claim ensure you have the following:

  • Photographs of the problems and any damage
  • Receipts for anything you've had to replace (keep the damaged items as they are evidence)  
  • Medical reports, if the disrepair has damaged your health
  • A report from the council’s environmental health department

5 Claiming compensation

If your personal property is damaged or destroyed because of your landlord's failure to carry out repairs, you can claim compensation.

You may want to claim compensation for clothing, bedding or curtains that have been spoilt by damp or mould. 

Or your carpets and furniture may have been damaged by water leaking from burst pipes which your landlord hasn't fixed.

You can also claim compensation for property damaged while repair work was being carried out.

The amount of compensation you can claim will depend on the circumstances so it's advisable to take legal advice on your specific claim before starting any action.

If you're claiming for damages to your health you'll have to prove that the disrepair and your health problem are linked. 

This is known as causation. The disrepair doesn't have to be the only cause of the health problems, but it must be a contributing factor. 

You'll need to take legal advice before making such a claim though as there is a personal injury protocol that must be followed. 

6 Claim for abatement

If you haven't been able to use part or all of your rented property because of disrepair, you should be entitled to an a reduction or refund of your rent, known as abatement.

How much of the rent is abated will depend on how much of your home is uninhabitable.

If no part of the house is habitable, 100% of the rent may be abated, if only part of the house is unusable then the rent will be reduced proportionally.

Depending on the circumstances you may also be able to claim compensation for the inconvenience.

7 Renting guide

The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a How to Rent guide, which includes some useful tips for both landlords and tenants. 

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