On my blog I cover most areas of consumer rights. However there are some topics where I ask a specialist to give expert advice.
I have asked Christian Weaver, barrister and author of The Law in 60 Seconds: A Pocket Guide to Your Rights* – to explain your rights when it comes to problems with renting. This is the fourth in the series. The first was
Basic tenancy rights
You have the right to live in a home that is ‘fit for human habitation’ (note – this, strictly speaking, applies in relation to England only, While homes being fit for human habitation features in the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, at the time of writing, this is not in force). A home will be deemed ‘unfit for human habitation’ if conditions are so bad that the home is unsuitable for you to live in while in that condition. Examples include fire safety issues, security issues (e.g. not having a lock on your front door), hygiene or sanitation issues (e.g. not having a working toilet), and infestations (e.g. cockroaches or mice).
It is your landlord’s responsibility to carry out basic repairs. If the problem in your home is not quite one that makes it unfit to live in, then your best option may involve looking into the ‘Repairing obligations’ provisions from the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Regardless of what is in your tenancy agreement, your landlord has a general responsibility to ‘keep in repair’ the following:
- the structure and exterior of your house; for example, the drains, gutters and external pipes
- basins, sinks, baths and toilets
- boilers, heaters and their associated pipes and wiring
If your landlord stated additional things in your tenancy agreement that they would do in terms of repair obligations, they must stick to these. Another reason to read the tenancy agreement carefully.
If issues like those detailed above arise in your house, you should tell your landlord as soon as possible. It is best to do this in writing (letter, email or text) and keep a copy as evidence. If you are particularly concerned, you may also wish to tell the local council, as it has legal powers it can use to get repairs done very quickly.
Once your landlord is aware of the problem, they have a duty to repair it within a reasonable amount of time. Exactly what the problem is and its severity will have a bearing on what will be classed as a reasonable amount of time.
What to do if your landlord doesn’t do the property repairs
If this does not happen, it can be a good idea to write to your landlord again, stating:
- what the problem is
- the history of your communication (i.e. when you reported it and what you were told – highlighting that this hasn’t happened)
- the impact this is having, being sure to detail any inconvenience and potential implications for your health
Follow the Tips for complaining effectively
If all else fails, you may wish to consider legal action. In some circumstances, a court can order that your landlord pay you compensation and/or carry out the necessary repairs. Court should be a last resort: it can be much quicker to negotiate and come to an agreement with your landlord. Before going to court, it is a good idea to speak to your local Citizens Advice or a housing lawyer for advice.
About the author
Christian is a barrister at a leading human rights chambers, where he regularly represents clients whose rights are at risk.
He previously worked at INQUEST and volunteered at Liberty and Nottingham Law School’s Legal Advice Clinic.
In 2018, concerned about the increasing number of people he knew being stopped and searched, he created the YouTube series ‘The Law in 60 Seconds’ to inform people of their rights and make the law accessible; those videos have now been viewed thousands of times, and been featured on BBC News, in the Guardian and the i Paper. The concept has since been turned into a book.
Further help with complaining effectively
More tips, advice, template letters and all the details on consumer laws you need GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! too!
Note that did not cover lettings – you need Christian’s information see his book for that!
101 Habits of an Effective Complainer has been designed to improve the way you look at and make complaints. Each page gives you a complaining habit to consider and an example of how and why it empowers you to become more effective in getting the results you want.
Purchase downloadable templates to gain redress and use a ready made template to make your complaint. Just fill in your details.