Help with landlord claims
Talk to Which? Legal for affordable advice on how to deal with the problems you're having with your home, and what you might be able to do to get the issues fixed.
1 Identify the type of repair
If you’re renting from a private landlord, you’ll usually be responsible for minor repair jobs. For example, it’ll be down to you to change a broken light bulb.
The landlord is responsible for major repair jobs, which includes things like fixing structural issues, mending faulty pipes or sorting out a broken toilet.
Repair vs improvement
There’s a significant difference between a repair and an improvement.
- Repair: a fix to an existing fixture or fitting, which makes it work or safe to use again. Your landlord is obligated to carry out this kind of task.
- Improvement: a new feature, fixture or fitting that replaces what was there before and could be regarded as an upgrade. Your landlord is not obligated to make improvements to the property.
It’s sometimes difficult to say exactly where to draw the line.
One example is windows: if your window frames are rotting then this needs a repair and is something the landlord has to put right.
However, the landlord is under no obligation to install double glazing, which would be an improvement to the property
If your landlord refuses to carry out repairs that are their responsibility, various options are open to you:
2 Collect evidence of disrepair
Send photos of the damage when you complain to the landlord, particularly if they’re not taking action and the problem is getting worse.
Keep copies of all correspondence, including texts, emails, letters or notes.
If you’ve had to replace damaged items yourself, keep the receipts. If the problem is making you ill, keep any letters from your GP proving this to be the case.
What counts as disrepair?
A gas leak, mould, damp, a broken step or a mice infestation are all examples of disrepair.
The safety of gas installations and appliances are the landlord’s responsibility.
The landlord must arrange and pay for safety checks and any necessary work to be carried out on appliances at least once every twelve months.
Landlords also have responsibility for ensuring that any electrical appliances supplied with the accommodation are safe.
This includes heaters, cookers, kettles, and any other electrical goods.
If an electric appliance, like a washing machine, breaks down your landlord should repair or replace it within a reasonable period of time.
3 Contact your landlord
A landlord is not responsible for fixing a problem until they are told about it.
Contact your landlord as soon as you come across a problem, particularly if it’s a big one that could cause long-lasting damage to you, your possessions or the landlord’s property.
Complaining verbally to your landlord or letting agent should be enough, but it's sensible to notify them in writing as well.
Get a written record
An email is enough to make sure you have a record to refer back to what happened and when.
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 have 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.
Repair work timelines
Normally, tenancy agreements give landlords the right to enter the premises to inspect its condition and carry out maintenance, provided they give the tenants at least 24 hours notice in writing.
How quickly the landlord should attend to the disrepair depends on the type of problem. For example, a burst water pipe will need attention more quickly than a radiator that’s not warming up.
Key information when dealing with disrepair
- You're responsible for 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
- Your landlord can’t make you leave your home just for asking for repairs to be done. They have to follow a proper eviction process if they want you to leave.
4 Contact the environmental health department
If the disrepair is causing you ill health or is making your home unsafe to live in, tell the landlord first.
If your health issues are urgent or the landlord isn’t acting on your complaint, contact the environmental health department of your local council to carry out an inspection of your home and provide a report.
A gas leak, mould, damp, a broken step or a mice infestation are all examples of disrepair that you can discuss with your local environmental health department.
If the report confirms that your accommodation is dangerous to your health, the council will either notify the landlord or they can carry out emergency repairs and charge the landlord.
There are a variety of notices available depending on what they find in their inspection.
Damp and mould in your rented property?
Damp and mould are common problems in rented properties. Whether you or the landlord is responsible for fixing mould or damp problems depends on the type of damp it is and what caused it.
Check your tenancy agreement and speak to your landlord before you make significant steps to tackle the damp.
Keep a record of improvements you’ve made and save your receipts. If it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix, they should reimburse you.
Damp or mould making you ill?
If the disrepair is causing you ill health or is unsafe for you to live in, go to your GP.
Make sure they confirm that your ill health is being caused by damp or mould and keep a written record of this report as evidence.
Your next step is to contact your council’s environmental health department to inspect your home.
If the disrepair is serious enough, the council will serve your landlord with a legal notice to carry out the repairs.
Remember that a landlord is not allowed to make you leave your home without following a formal eviction process.
But if your home is found to be unfit for you to live in, you may need to find a new place to live.
If your landlord does not comply, it may lead to criminal prosecution.
Collect evidence for a claim
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 too, as they are evidence)
- Medical reports if the disrepair has damaged your health
- A report from the council’s environmental health department
You can find your local council by entering your postcode on the GOV.UK website.
5 Try a mediation service
Going to court should always be viewed as a last resort. It's important to consider an alternative dispute resolution before this.
If you do end up in court, the courts will take into account how willing both you and the landlord were in trying to solve the problem up to this point.
- For private tenants: try a mediation service to resolve the problem.
- For council tenants: ask to see the local authority’s repairs, complaints and/or arbitration process
- For housing association tenants: speak to your landlord about any complaints procedure they operate
6 Go to court
If your landlord still refuses to carry out the necessary repairs, you could take your landlord to court.
You’re more likely to win if you’ve got strong evidence to show that the landlord has not taken their responsibility seriously and that you have done all you can to remedy the disagreement.
The court could order the landlord to:
- Do the repairs
- Pay you compensation for damage to your personal property or health as a result of the continuing disrepair
- Pay part or all of your legal costs for going to court.
7 Claim compensation
If your personal property is damaged or destroyed because of your landlord's failure to carry out repairs, you can claim compensation.
Property damage claims
For example, you may want to claim compensation for clothing, bedding or curtains that have been spoilt by damp or mould.
Or you may wish to claim for damage to your furniture caused by water leaking from burst pipes that 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 we'd suggest you take legal advice on your specific claim before starting any action.
Health damage claims
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.
8 Claiming for abatement and inconvenience
If you haven't been able to use part or all of your rented property because of disrepair, in most cases you will be entitled to an a reduction or refund of your rent.
This is known as abatement.
How much of the rent is abated depends on how much of your home is – or was – 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 can be reduced proportionally.
Depending on the circumstances, you may also be able to claim compensation for the inconvenience.
How much compensation you get depends on the level of disrepair and inconvenience you’ve suffered.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a How to Rent guide, which includes some useful tips for both landlords and tenants.