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Can a residential tenant force a landlord to carry out repairs?


Where a landlord has an obligation to repair a property but has failed to do so, there are steps that the tenant can take to address the outstanding repairs.

The starting point will be to look at the Lease or Tenancy Agreement to see what repair obligations are covered by it. In addition there may be breaches of statutory obligations which may form the basis for claiming against the landlord.

In tenancies of less than 7 years the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 says that the landlord is required to keep the structure and exterior of the property and ‘installations for the supply of essential services’ in repair. This means that the landlord must keep the roof, external walls and windows in repair as well as keeping in repair and proper working order installations for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation such as basins, sinks, baths and toilets.

The landlord may also have an obligation to repair under the Defective Premises Act 1972 under which a landlord has a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that the tenant is reasonably safe from personal injury or damage to property caused by any defect in the state of the premises.

If a tenant wishes to make a disrepair claim, the first step will be to gather together as much evidence as possible both of the defects complained about and any losses suffered, such as damage to personal possessions. This exercise may include getting specialist advice for example from a building surveyor. The landlord should then be given notice in writing and given the opportunity to carry out any remedial work.

A landlord receiving written notice of a defect should acknowledge it promptly giving a timescale for any action. If the landlord fails to respond constructively or at all then the tenant may consider carrying out the repairs itself and then seeking to recover the costs from the landlord; there are risks attached to doing this but if the situation is urgent it may be unavoidable although advice should be taken before proceeding. A more cautious approach is to threaten legal action and ultimately apply to the court for an order forcing the landlord to carry out the work and for financial compensation for the losses suffered.

If the property is in a poor state of repair, a tenant may also report this to the Local Housing Authority who may take enforcement action against the landlord by service of an improvement or an emergency remedial action notice. Not only may this result in the landlord being forced to carry out the remedial work it may also restrict him from recovering possession of the property under the new retaliatory eviction rules.

Certain tenants will qualify under the right to manage regime or may have the right to compulsory purchase of the freehold or to enfranchisement; a poor performing landlord may be one good reason for obtaining professional advice on these and other available options.

If there are any issues within this article that you would like further clarification on, please contact Johanne Spittle.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.


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